Trust and quality education and training

4 HONDE 2Many learning institutions often resist quality assurance of education and training because of the attitude of quality assurance bodies; excessive demands on the time and funds of the universities or colleges; the perception that such bodies violate the academic autonomy and freedom of the learning institutions, fostering a compliance culture; managerial and political intrusion in academic matters as well as fear that quality assurance might damage the good reputation of the university or college. In short, role players in education and training do not trust one another.

I cannot think of a system where the interrelated elements are more tightly linked and interdependent than the issue of trust. Without trust no education and training system can ever deliver quality learning and without quality learning people will not trust one another. Even more, all stakeholders in education and training are equally responsible for ensuring that quality learning takes place and for demonstrating that they can be trusted.

Everybody must work hard and focus on the achievement of the best quality learning results possible. It does not matter where one starts with who is responsible for establishing a culture of trust; the end-result will be the same.

Quality assurance bodies need to demonstrate to learning providers that they can be trusted to play a professional supportive role rather than to adopt a punitive stance or to promote motives other than the promotion and protection of the interests of the students. The role of quality assurance bodies is crucial in improving mutual trust in education and training provision, as they also influence mobility and lifelong learning.

Learning institutions need to demonstrate to quality assurance bodies and the students that they are serious about providing quality education and training. It is only reasonable to expect that quality assurance bodies and students will adopt a trusting attitude to education and training providers who show that they are serious about investing in the youth of the country, who deliver a professional service and who treat their students with integrity.

Students need to show learning institutions and their employers or future employers that they are sincere about gaining knowledge and skills that will prepare them for a future career and lifelong learning.

Employers need to gain the trust of students by supporting them financially and by allowing them time and opportunities to study if they are already employed.

Co-operation is a prerequisite for trust and trust is a prerequisite for co-operation. It is vitally important if we are to establish a healthy quality culture in education and training that the different role players must trust one another. The value of co-operation and trust are lost in a system where quality assurance is regarded as a form of punishment. Even worse, co-operation is not even possible where universities and other learning institutions are misused for the promotion of political agendas.

Setting the example is important for the establishment of a culture of trust. The quality assurance manager, educator, employer or government official who expects students to be trustworthy should set the example by trusting them and by being trustworthy.

Any role player in education and training who does not demonstrate trust creates confusion, uncertainty and fear. All measures to decrease or eliminate fear promote trust. All trust-building measures also prevent or at least reduce fear. Unfortunately it seldom works to expect other role players to demonstrate trust first before you will respond in kind. All role players should act in a manner that instils trust without waiting for anybody else to set the example.

Open communication is a prerequisite for trust. Trust and open communication can only be established if all who are involved in education and training are willing to work hard and to focus on quality education and training.

In closing, trust is the foundation of quality education and training. Trust can be broadly linked to all the other elements of a healthy quality culture and everybody who is involved in education and training, be it as students, educators, quality assurors, employers or government must co-operate in the promotion and protection of the interest of the students.

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