Pressure on the ONESQA after negative external assessment

national November 03, 2014 01:00

By Chularat Saengpassa
The Natio

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Education standards office accused of failing to reflect quality of institutions

After evaluating so many educational institutes in Thailand for a long time, the Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment (ONESQA) now faces a tough time from a recognised external assessment of its performance. 
According to the assessment, the ONESQA has failed to reflect the actual quality of schools and universities it has evaluated.
“It’s time that ONESQA reforms itself,” its former director Prof Somwang Pitiyanuwat said.
Last week, Office of Higher Education Commission (Ohec) secretary general Kamjorn Tatiyakavee revealed the assessment results of the ONESQA performance and said he would report them to Education Minister Narong Pipattanasai in detail. 
The Ohec set up a committee to evaluate the performance of the ONESQA in response to an order from the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which acts on complaints filed jointly by four groups of university presidents including the Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT). 
Srinakharinwirot University’s president Asst Prof Dr Chalermchai Boonyaleepun even suggested that the NCPO should abolish the ONESQA. According to him, discussions among members of the Council of University Presidents of Thailand (CUPT), Rajabhat universities and Rajamangala universities of technology pointed to the fact that ONESQA assessments had caused big burdens to higher-educational institutes. 
“These burdens have become obstacles in delivering educational services,” he said. 
So many university lecturers have complained in recent years that they have had to spend so much time preparing documents for ONESQA assessments – time they believe would be better used preparing their classes. 
Opposition against the ONESQA has been mounting particularly after it unveiled its plan for its fourth round of assessments that is set to be implemented between 2016 and the 2020.
“In the fourth round, we will deduct points of an institute if it is found to have withheld information,” ONESQA Prof Dr director Channarong Pornrungroj said earlier this year. If the ONESQA sticks to its plan, the passing grade will be at 70 per cent. Educational institutes may fail in no more than two of existing indicators. 
Somwang, who now chairs the National Institute of Educational Testing Service, said ONESQA in fact had a commitment to conduct an external assessment based on internal assessments of a university. 
“But it has lately tried to exert its set of indicators over what a university has used in conducting internal assessments,” Somwang pointed out, “On this ground, I can understand that universities will refuse to bow down. Every university has the right to lay down its own quality-assurance system. Every university has the right to decide whether it wants to be a research university or else”. 
Somwang said ONESQA should realise that it had the duty to support and promote universities in their mission. 
“ONESQA is not supposed to force all universities to pass criteria laid down by it,” he said. 
In the wake of latest development, Channarong said his agency was ready to improve and adjust itself based on the results of the Ohec-commissioned assessment. 
“We will try to improve indicators used in our assessments. We welcome opinions from all sides,” he said. 
Channarong also said the ONESQA did not at all ignore the fact one set of indicators could not fit all. 
“We are preparing to categorise universities into different groups based on their nature and identity,” he said. 
Kamjorn said he felt external assessments remained important but whether the ONESQA would continue to take this mission depended on the education minister’s decision. 
Dr Rung Kaewdang, a former deputy education, has said that assessments of educational quality are needed and so are the quality of assessors.
“On procedures used, assessors should ensure that assessments don’t cause any burden,” he said.