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Quality Assurance: Whose Quality and Whose Assurance?

by Marilyn Fleer (University of Canberra) and Anne Kennedy (Monash University)
Published in the NZRECE Journal, Vol. 3, 2000, pp. 13 - 30.

 

Abstract

Government involvement in quality assurance is becoming the trend in many countries, including New Zealand.  What values underpin the systems that evolve in each country, and who has given legitimacy to them?  In the context of the prevailing ideology of early childhood, this paper unpacks quality assurance in Australia and comments on the assumptions, taken for granted premises and values which are implicit within such a process, with a view to providing valuable lessons for others who are considering going down this path.

 

Introduction

There is a predominance of terms such as quality measures, excellence, best practice and benchmarking in the education and care community within English speaking countries. A rationalist discourse has not just stimulated measurement activity, it has also led to calls for accountability. Early childhood education has not escaped these changes (Farquhar, 1999a, b). As such, it is important to unpack not just the accountability processes, but the values underpinning them.

What do we mean by quality assurance? Whose quality are we talking about? In the process of developing quality assurance guidelines and processes, we have distanced ourselves from these issues and as such, we have come to believe
that:

…facts can be split from values, we hope to treat definitions and choices as technical issues and leave them to expert technicians, 
without the need to question how and why they are arrived at. The ‘discourse of quality’ offers us confidence and reassurance
by holding out the prospect that a certain score or just the very use of the word quality means that something is to be trusted, that it really is good (Dahlberg, Moss & Pence, 1999, p. 92).

In the process of developing quality assurance programmes such as the Australian Quality Improvement and Accreditation System (QIAS), not only have we distanced ourselves from the values that underpin the guidelines that become sanctioned, we also view these guidelines as universally relevant.

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