Strategic benchmarks in education quality assurance

ZHUMAGULOVA A.B.,
Ph.D. in Law, Director of
IAAR

The formation of a national education quality assurance framework is a new and priority area for Kazakhstan. In the globalization era, education is seen as a strategically important area of human development. The formation of the nation’s intelligence depends on the quality of education and its competitiveness and the development of human capital are largely determined by education. In this regard, it is necessary to ensure high and guaranteed quality of educational services. That is why, in Kazakhstan, the formation of international and national systems for the education quality assurance is given the highest priority.

The topical issues of the education quality assurance include the dissemination of best practices in the field of:

– strategic planning, design and monitoring of study programs;

– formation of a professional community for external evaluation of learning services;

– quality assurance of education under the European standards;

– conceptual and normative approaches to the development, implementation and monitoring strategies of educational organizations;

– development of international cooperation and academic mobility in the countries of Central Asia;

– increasing the responsibility of educational organizations for the quality of educational services provided in the context of expanding the academic freedom.

The Kazakhstan’s system for the education quality assurance has entered a new stage of development, whereby the main role is given to the international accreditation procedure. International accreditation provides a real mechanism for achieving the level of global educational standards. The statutory and regulatory enactments of the Republic of Kazakhstan reflect the unity and interaction of the European and national levels in the development of education, which is a step-by-step forward advancement [1].

The Independent Agency for Accreditation and Rating (hereinafter – IAAR) fully meets these requirements and successfully operates in the field of accreditation. Its well-deserved recognition at the European and international levels is one of the most important strategic tasks of the agency.

The IAAR’s development strategy aims to improve the quality and competitiveness of education in Kazakhstan and advance the quality assurance system for the activities of local education organizations, benchmarking the world standards [2].

On December 16, 2017, another high recognition status of the World Federation of Medical Education (hereinafter – WFME) was conferred to IAAR, already recognized by many world associations of quality assurance (ENQA, EQAR, INQAAHE, CHEA, IREG, AQAAIW, CHEA, CEENQA, APQN), which continues to verify the compliance of IAAR operations with high international standards.

IAAR is the first organization from the CIS countries to receive WFME recognition, which also gives the right to pursue international accreditation of medical organizations and programmes.

The World Federation of Medical Education is an international organization with the mission to improve the quality of medical education across the world through the introduction of high scientific and ethical standards, which include 6 Regional Associations for Medical Education. International activities to improve the quality of medical education began with the 1984 International Programme for the Modernization of Medical Education.

WFME works closely with the World Health Organization, the World Medical Association, UNESCO and UN profile agencies, the Medical Education Associations and medical schools in Europe and other important organizations from different countries, including IAAR, which accessed the organization this year.

Accreditation of medical education organizations by the IAAR under the international standards contributes to reaching the national goal – competitiveness and quality improvement of the medical personnel.

Within the scope of its competence, the IAAR is working intensively to further improve the national education system, develop transparent and objective standards and evaluation procedures that serve not only to ascertain the current situation in the organization of education, but also to determine useful guidelines for the systemic development of the educational policy of HEIs and colleges.

In assessing the quality, the IAAR proceeds from the challenges of overcoming the barriers that have arisen between Kazakhstani education and the world educational space, and consciously fulfills the mission laid by Kazakhstan’s accession to the Bologna and Turin processes and Kazakhstan’s legislation.

IAAR experts play an important role in assuring the quality of education. To date, the database of IAAR experts includes more than 1,500 people, including foreign experts, employers and students. The foreign experts are highly qualified specialists from Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Greece, Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Serbia, Turkey, Denmark, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, USA and others. This allows all stakeholders to be involved in the process of ensuring the quality of education and using their international experience.

To ensure the quality and professional conduct of external experts, IAAR constantly hosts training workshops. Experts are trained and certified in accordance with the developed Regulation on training, retraining and professional development of the IAAR external experts. The external experts that have been trained are included in the agency’s database, which is used in the formation of the External Expert Panel (hereinafter – EEP). Professional behavior of external experts of IAAR is regulated by a set of statutory documents, which define the ethical standards of the expert and his competence in the procedures for external quality assessment. IAAR has developed and approved the Code of Ethics for the experts [3], which is signed prior to the beginning of the accreditation procedure. Important tools for assuring internal quality are annual surveys of educational organizations that have been accredited by the IAAR and of certified external experts, contributing to the continuous improvement of the IAAR activities.

In cooperation with the regional chambers of entrepreneurs «Atameken» on a regular basis, IAAR conducts training workshops for employers. Thus, in 2017 in Almaty, IAAR in collaboration with the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) conducted an International Seminar on professional development of IAAR experts with the certificates issued to all participants. Also, in order to expand the expert base, the IAAR conducted a study seminar «Training of Experts for Institutional and Specialized Accreditation of Medical Institutions of Education» at the premises of the Kazakhstan-Russian Medical University.

The international training seminar «Accreditation of Technical and Vocational Education Organizations as a Factor for the Quality Assurance of the Qualified Personnel Training: International Experience» organized by the IAAR in November, 2017 in Astana attracted more than 150 attendees from different regions of the Republic of Kazakhstan, including representatives of the German Society for international cooperation (GIZ), NU «National Agency for Quality Assurance in Vocational Education» (ANACIP, Moldova), Department of TVE MES RK, National Chamber of Entrepreneurs «Atameken «, LLP «Center of specialists certification «Valknut», Non-profit JSC «Holding» Kasipkor», the Department of Education of Astana, Almaty Association of Colleges and many colleges of Kazakhstan. Within the framework of the panel discussion and the work of the sections, the participants discussed the importance and prospects for accreditation in the organizations of Technical and Vocational Education (hereinafter – TVE). This seminar made it possible to discuss topical issues in the field of vocational education development, improvement of the quality and competitiveness of professional staff in Kazakhstan, and expansion of the horizons of cooperation in the field of training and retraining of personnel, as well as broadening of the accredited colleges’ experiences.

In December, 2017 in Almaty the IAAR conducted the Central Asian Forum on Quality Assurance, dedicated to pressing issues of improving the quality and competitiveness of higher education in Kazakhstan, and taking due consideration of the world standards. Deputies of the Senate and Majilis of the Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan, representatives of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan and subordinate organizations, the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, Kazakhstan and foreign universities, international experts in higher education and science, employers and students took part in the forum. Overall, more than 400 people participated in the forum, including foreign experts from 11 countries (Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Greece, Poland, Russia, Latvia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and representatives of the European Union). The forum allowed to create an international dialogue platform on quality assurance of education and promoted the dissemination of best practices in strategic planning, designing and monitoring of educational programs, academic mobility, the development of cooperation between HEIs, and the formation of a professional external evaluation community.

In continuation, I would also like to specially note the recognition of IAAR as an accreditation body and its inclusion in the National Register of the Kyrgyz Republic under the «Recognition Procedure for Accreditation Agencies in Education» as of April 6, 2017 [4]. The inclusion of the IAAR in the Register of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic is an indicator of the agency’s sustainable development with its substantial regulatory and methodological base, professional expert community and the focus on promotion of a quality culture in the countries of Central Asia.

This recognition opens up new horizons for cooperation in conducting accreditation procedures for HEIs and study programs of Kyrgyzstan being an international transboundary accreditation body. In order to train experts to assess the quality of HEIs and study programs in Kyrgyzstan, the IAAR conducted training seminars in Bishkek and Osh for teachers, administrative and managerial staff of educational organizations. Seminars held by IAAR for representatives of HEIs allowed to create a base of experts for further accreditation.

Thus, the strategic guidelines for education quality assurance elaborated by the IAAR aim to develop accreditation not only within the Republic of Kazakhstan, but also beyond its borders. Owing to this approach, the IAAR contributes to the development of the Kazakhstani education system, which corresponds to the implementation of the basic principles of the Bologna process, and the accreditation system that has been formed serves as an effective mechanism for quality assurance and strengthening the reputation of educational organizations, also fortifying the trust of society and employers.