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Challenges to Educational Quality*
The debate surrounding education has a growing place in society especially over the past several decades. There has also been a great deal of scientific production focusing on the evaluation and improvement of quality in education. In effect, in both the public and private domains, and by virtue of mass publications, it is possible to see the interest in quality and in the mode in which its conceptualization is interrelated with culture and the practice of the various educational institutions, in particular at the higher and university levels. Thanks to the intellectual movement towards a greater focus on quality in education, today we can affirm that we know more than ever about the mode in which we should promote and sustain reflection regarding the educational experience in general and by consequence, its qualitative improvement.
Among the dimensions that have emerged and are strongly implicated in the processes of qualitative improvement to high education, we find the procedures of self-evaluation and the academic evaluation of study programs; the models, methods and applied techniques for the achievement of efficacy; the importance of continuing education for the professor; the re-conceptualization of criteria for the realization and management of knowledge and the strategy of intervention and innovation based on the incorporation of new technologies.
In the framework of this dynamic tendency, important initiatives can be observed at a global level, from agreements and policies implemented in Australia, to the European Union, Asia and America. Our region has a great deal to contribute, one important part of which is the fruit of collaborative efforts realized by the Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL), Ecuador, which acts as the primary executor of an IDB Project for the creation of the “Virtual Centre for the Development of Quality Standards for Superior Distance Education in Latin America and the Caribbean”. This project also benefits from the active involvement of the Asociación Iberoamericana de Educación Superior a Distancia (AIESAD) and the Consorcio Red de Educación a Distancia (CREAD), together with other various contributions of other institutions in America and Europe, as well as by the OAS. As a follow-up to these activities, on the 17th and 20th of October the UTPL, the first congress of CREAD in the Andean region will take place. The theme will be “Quality and International Accreditation in Superior Distance Education”. In this editorial we applaud and wish to support the maintenance by the UTPL of its work towards creating a starting point in the search for models and interpretations that will allow us to understand, reflect on and better apply forms of Distance Education in the future.
We find ourselves in a time of change, characterized by a generation of great volumes of information and knowledge together with the appearance of opportunities that have never before been available or even imagined. The reality of being able to study in a continuous never-ending manner, without worry for time or distance, has inaugurated a new way of conceiving of the training and educational necessities that we face. Still, paradoxically even, there are very serious problems persisting, including academic failure and inequity, which are several of the most dangerous concerns to the sustenance of efficiency and efficacy of the superior educational system. It is important, therefore, to think and to rethink the mode in which we implement change and more specifically, qualitative change to education.
A wide range of studies have shown that change is a complex phenomenon and that it often it occurs and develops speed outside of an organization before affecting the interior of the organization. The persistence within educational organizations of “doing the same thing in the same way” is a strong force the can delay necessary reactions to external change. It is because of this that being conscious of change and innovation at a personal and institutional level is possibly the most efficient resource to use for developing a project of qualitative improvement.
If Distance Education is currently at its peak, due the extensive academic offerings provided by this educational medium, we now have the opportunity and the possibility of making this into an element for qualitative change to Superior Education in general. This is possible if we can understand and learn from our experience and the way in which we are currently fulfilling the demands of contemporary society. We can do this by: seeking to provide education centered on learning and access to New Technologies, designed to satisfy training needs and continuous upgrading, and that is involved in processes of improvement of quality and focused on the local context of the specific learner.
Dr. Mónica G. Luque
Academic Director, Institute of Advanced Studies for the Americas
*The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily of the OAS nor of its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.