May 19, 2014 00:00 By Chularat Saengpassa
Education body's chief says relevance of its work will become more apparent in the future
The Office for National Education Standards and Quality Assessment (ONESQA) commenced operation in late 2000 with the mission of ensuring the quality of educational institutes via external evaluations.
But some critics doubt the public organisation is making a difference.
Does anyone really care about the ONESQA assessment results? Why did ONESQA push for use of the controversial University Educational Test (U-Net) and more?
Some critics have even suggested the body is not needed. In the face of these questions, we asked ONESQA director Prof Channarong Pornrungroj what he had to say.
Has ONESQA ever assessed itself to determine the level of acceptance it has won?
There are mixed reactions. On the one hand, some see ONESQA assessments as a burden, while some see the assessments as a driver for efficiency and quality. We have heard some lecturers complaining they have to spend time compiling reports for ONESQA. But in fact, information for the reports is what they have already had in hand. It’s simply about what they have taught in class. On the other hand, we have heard people expressing support for us. Our supporters believe with the right indicators, the country’s educational performance will improve.
When you hear an outcry against ONESQA, do you check where it comes from? Is it from educational institutes that fail to pass our assessments?
In my opinion, ONESQA has won greater acceptance from schools, vocational colleges, and universities. This is because the educational institutes have started to realise the benefits of our assessments.
Beyond Thailand, we have been a part of the Asean Quality Assurance Network. We are now working on the Asean QA Framework. When universities in various Asean nations take up the same framework, it is going to be easier to arrange student/lecturer exchange programmes and allow academic credit transfers. We expect the Asean QA Framework to take effect before the formal establishment of the Asean Economic Community.
Have you consulted Thailand’s Office of Higher Education Commission (Ohec)?
No. We are working at the Asean level.
Is ONESQA a necessity in Thailand?
Of course. We are needed. The need for our presence will grow as time passes by too. We don’t use much budget either. Our annual budget is just around Bt800 million.
What are the main problems ONESQA runs into? Have your assessment results been used?
We have drawn much criticism. But we see this as a sign that people have paid attention to our assessments. We have also found that students and university students have researched information on our assessment results. Some educational institutes now have banners telling the public that they have passed our assessments too. I trust that students have started using information provided by ONESQA. This is because many students have come to us to report that some famous universities have opened off-campus classes without proper facilities and that no prominent figures have really taught there despite their names appearing on the list of lecturers.
Has ONESQA stepped into the jurisdiction of Ohec?
No. I would like to explain that there are two types of assessments: internal and external. The internal assessments have two parts. The first part has each educational institute evaluating itself. The second part is done by the Ohec. As the supervising agency, Ohec is in charge of evaluating higher-educational institutes once every three years. The external assessments must be done once every five years. This is where ONESQA plays a role.
We have also tried to integrate our work. For example, we have tried to use universities’ and Ohec’s indicators in determining the standard of each educational programme.
Have you got swift and strong reactions against your plan to use U-Net?
Yes. But in fact, we have good intentions. We simply wish to determine the quality of graduates based on the scores of U-Net that the National Institute of Educational Testing Service plans to hold. We didn’t initiate U-Net. We only thought about using it as an indicator for the Thailand Qualifications Framework (TQF).
U-Net has already been cancelled, so what indicator will ONESQA use then?
We will raise the issue at our board meetings. We will have to decide on whether we will stick with the TQF. If our board decides the TQF should still be the guideline, we will determine if we should conduct our assessments based on the universities’ internal assessment results or other indicators. We should be able to conclude on the matter by June.
You are going to introduce the fourth round of external assessments in 2016. What additional indicators will come into play?
Our fourth round of external assessments will cover one new aspect, the quality of students. We think we will assess the quality of students based on seven indicators such as the students’ virtues, their abilities, as opposed to the TQF, their academic papers, and their contributions to their alma mater in the post-graduation period.
How do you assess students’ virtues?
Our plan to assess the students’ virtues has generated widespread debate. Many people wonder how we are going to measure the level of virtue in a person. But we believe we can develop a process to determine students’ virtues. We will check their discipline, patience and their ability to work with others. For example, if they work during school breaks, that shows to an extent that the student has some responsibility, patience, and discipline. For students who are from well-to-do families, we may ask them to do 50 hours of activities each year.
On the alumni’s contributions to their alma mater, we may measure their levels of contributions via the financial or resource support they give to their old institutes. We wish to establish a new culture, encouraging graduates to come back and help their old schools.