Twenty-first century quality?

Karen Pontin discusses why principles of Total Quality Management are still so relevant in teaching and learning

05 December 2014 / Jump to comment (2)

If you lived through the introduction of ‘Total Quality Management’ in the UK during the 1980s-90s you will recall that it was based on principles such as:
  • Quality has to be led from the top
  • Where quality thrives, sales will follow
  • All resources – particularly people - need to be engaged in the drive for quality
  • The aim of quality is to efficiently and effectively meet stakeholder needs
  • Managers have to nurture a culture of commitment to ‘continuous improvement’.
The overarching concept may seem a bit ‘old school’ now but the principles have never been repudiated.

Since then we have many times attempted to improve quality in vocational learning in the UK using a range of tools. Have we made progress? Do we have ‘quality’ in FE, WBL, Employer Learning etc? Can we hold up the principles above and say that we have succeeded in implementing any or all of them?

There is no doubt that in the current economic situation it is exceedingly difficult to demonstrate an active commitment to quality in vocational learning. Teachers/trainers report that the prime focus of their organisations seems to be budgets, income generation and cost-cutting. They say that the same learning programmes are now being delivered by less staff and that in effect the predominant culture is one of belt-tightening rather than quality.

However in spite of this seemingly adverse scenario, in many cases the people who actually deliver learning and qualifications remain stubbornly focussed on providing a quality service to their learners. Frequently tutors, trainers, assessors and IQAs work creatively to mitigate the detrimental effect of cuts on learners - they doggedly continue to do everything in their power to develop and support their learners to achieve. 

Maybe that’s what the term ‘total quality’ really means – the refusal to do anything but your best – regardless of culture, targets or pressure. 

Comments 2 Comments

Thomas Mallon

08 January 2015

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit" (Aristotle).

Judy Clarke

01 March 2016

Never mind Aristotle you only have to look at businesses that deliver quality training to experience the results e.g John Lewis/waitrose. We have all experienced what a joy it is to shop in their establishments especially when looking for items. The assistants don't just wave their arms about and say "Over there", they will physically take you to the item in question no matter what else they have to do.

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