16 November 2023

Cultivating the QA Community, AUN-QA IC Agenda 7

Patitin Lertnaikiat
AUN Programme Officer;

To have a successful Quality Assurance (QA) culture, it needs to have the right people backing it up, which means the right community. However, the issue is that it is not easy to find the people in ASEAN that are ready for QA from the get-go. Training is the solution to this problem as it opens up the opportunity for personnel at higher education institutions (HEI) to become well-versed in the intricacies of QA and become more skilled. It is also a crucial step towards cultivating a strong and tightly-knitted QA community that is learning and growing together. To build people to be ready for QA, there needs to be a good training regimen. 

For the 7th agenda of AUN-QA International Conference 2023: “Cultivating QA Human Resources and Institutional Capacities in Universities: Challenges and Good Practices”, two experts shared their recent experiences with capacity building of QA practices in ASEAN.

The two speakers for the 7th agenda were:

  1. Mr. Johnson Ong Chee Bin, Founder and Principal Consultant, Education Quality International.
  2. Ms. Peetra Lechte, Communications Manager, National ELT Accreditation Scheme (NEAS) Australia

This session was moderated by Dr. Michael Fay, Director, ASEAN Focus Group.

AUN-QA’s Approach to Capacity Building - Mr. Johnson Ong Chee Bin

Mr. Johnson.jpg

Capacity building for human resources is a long process that only with the right starting approach will it ever be able to reach the finish line. Mr. Johnson recounted his journey of capacity building for QA human resources starting from 2008, when QA Trainings were still exclusive. Now it is more open with over a decade of 90 workshops and counting with more than 3,000 participants in total. The approach that was taken was split into three phases, starting with the developmental phase, moving on to the collaborative phase, and finishing with the multiplication phase.

  • Developmental Phase

The developmental phase persisted when AUN-QA was still a young network over 10 years ago. The training workshops were exclusive in 2008 with several pioneer assessors on the team at the time, with the first public Tier 1 training conducted in Bangkok, 2011. From this first public training also came the first ever batch of AUN-QA Assessors, the first generation. The first public training for Tier 2 was conducted in 2013 in Manila, with Tier 3 following suit in 2016 in Hanoi. 

In 2019, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world, the training activities had to be suspended for the time being. However, this did not stop the AUN-QA team and the first Self Assessment Report (SAR) training was conducted online in 2020. This opened the doors for the Tier training workshops to return in an online format via Zoom.

Most recently, in 2022 when the pandemic has finally subsided and people could return to seeing each other face to face, all the training programmes and activities returned to its root onsite format.

  • Collaborative Phase

Next, for the collaborative phase, Mr. Johnson proceeded to explain the approach of using the ASEAN map to showcase the landscape and timeline of AUN-QA’s great expansion of collaborative partnerships. 

This aspect of the network’s operation started as early as 2009 up until 2016, with the Japan-ASEAN Integrated Fund (JAIF) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. The next collaborative effort started with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in the Philippines along with the Ministry of Education of Brunei, both in 2016. Then, in 2017, AUN-QA expanded its collaborative reach further to the Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education (MoRTHE) and the Malaysian Higher Education Institutions Quality Assurance Network (MyQAN). 

Now in 2023, the network’s most recent collaboration is with the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training (MOET).

  • Multiplication Phase

Lastly, in the multiplication phase, AUN-QA utilized the multiplication approach in bolstering the multifaceted development and implementation of its system and framework. This approach involves leveraging, implementing and developing the standardized module of AUN-QA  in different multilateral projects across ASEAN and beyond. The rewards from adopting this approach have been the creation of new frameworks, tools and strategies with shared consistency and similarity to the core AUN-QA module. 

The implementation of this approach in the network started with AUN-QA collaboration with the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) project in 2011, resulting in the massive ASEAN-QA project. One of the greatest achievements of this project was the assessment of 31 universities in one go over a period of 2 years. AUN-QA never had such a massive undertaking of assessments at the time, and the results were fantastic with almost all programmes certified. 

The multiplication approach could be observed next in the EU-SHARE project in 2015, with the main highlight being the launch of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework (AQAF), paving the way forward for ASEAN QA. 

The latest and ongoing now is the CLM Community Projects, a collaborative effort since 2018 between AUN and Education Quality International (EQI) with the aim of enhancing universities in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. So far, up to January 2021, this project has contributed a total of 11 workshops about AUN-QA Programme Framework and OBE for 111 Universities and 424 participants, and it is still going strong.

In regards to moving forward and expanding outreach, Mr. Johnson spoke about how important English is as a medium of instruction in capacity and capability building. He also shared an infographic from the ASEAN Information Center demonstrating the levels of English proficiency in ASEAN Member States.

ASEAN English Proficiency.png

Image courtesy of ASEAN Information Center

As seen from the infographic, low English proficiency is a concerning issue in ASEAN as it self-constitutes as a major blocker of progression and collaboration at many levels.The raising of this issue by Mr. Johnson tied in perfectly with the topic of the next speaker.

Strengthening English Capabilities - Ms. Peetra Lechte

Ms. Peetra.jpg

The ASEAN region is home to 10 countries in Southeast Asia with countless HEIs and communities within it that are ready to collaborate with the international stage. However, as seen from the infographic shared by Mr. Johnson, one major factor holding back many universities in ASEAN is their limited English capabilities. Ms. Peetra Lechte, Communications Manager for NEAS, shared how her institution is approaching the ASEAN region to build the capacity of HEI personnels in their English capabilities to reach international standards. 

NEAS has been a major player in enhancing the English capabilities of ASEAN institutions. There are 68 NEAS Endorsed Centers from colleges, universities, to language centers with over 3,000 English Language Teaching (ELT) Professionals online in the ASEAN region. Not only this, but NEAS has also been providing Quality Assurance in the region since 2012. Through the institution’s collaborations with AUN-QA, 40 AUN-QA members have also shown interest in applying for ELT QA services by NEAS as well.

In order to strengthen the bilateral relationship between ASEAN and Australia, then – eventually– the rest of the world, English capabilities need to be improved as the lingua franca. Referring back to the infographic, English proficiency in ASEAN is not up to international standards as over half of the displayed countries have low or very low capabilities. The first place to look at in solving this issue is to take a deeper dive into the sources of English language teaching in ASEAN. Usually, it is the English language centers (ELC) which are the feeders into the region’s universities, higher education and other important pathways. The introduction of new innovation and positive disruption will help refocus the ELT community. In addition, there needs to be more support and guidance provided to these centers. In this regard, NEAS highly encourages institutions to be a part of their membership and go through the journey of enhancing English capabilities in ASEAN higher education together.

Read more about good QA practices and insights that have emerged from the AUN-QA International Conference 2023 at the list below: