The concept of Total Quality Management (TQM) was developed by an American, W. Edwards Deming, after World War II for improving the production quality of goods and services. The concept was not taken seriously by Americans until the Japanese, who adopted it in 1950 to resurrect their postwar business and industry, used it to dominate world markets by 1980. By then most U.S. manufacturers had finally accepted that the nineteenth century assembly line factory model was outdated for the modern global economic markets.
The concept of TQM is applicable to academics. Many educators believe that the Deming’s concept of TQM provides guiding principles for needed educational reform. In his article, “The Quality Revolution in Education,” John Jay Bonstingl outlines the TQM principles he believes are most salient to education reform. He calls them the “Four Pillars of Total Quality Management.”
Principle #1: Synergistic Relationships
According to this principle, an organization must focus, first and foremost, on its suppliers and customers. In a TQM organization, everyone is both a customer and supplier; this confusing concept emphasizes “the systematic nature of the work in which all are involved”. In other words, teamwork and collaboration are essential. Traditionally, education has been prone to individual and departmental isolation. However, according to Bonstingl, this outdated practice no longer serves us: “When I close the classroom door, those kids are mine!” is a notion too narrow to survive in a world in which teamwork and collaboration result in high-quality benefits for the greatest number of people. The very application of the first pillar of TQM to education emphasizes the synergistic relationship between the “suppliers” and “customers”. The concept of synergy suggests that performance and production is enhanced by pooling the talent and experience of individuals.
In a classroom, teacher-student teams are the equivalent of industry’s front-line workers. The product of their successful work together is the development of the student’s capabilities, interests, and character. In one sense, the student is the teacher’s customer, as the recipient of educational services provided for the student’s growth and improvement. Viewed in this way, the teacher and the school are suppliers of effective learning tools, environments, and systems to the student, who is the school’s primary customer. The school is responsible for providing for the long-term educational welfare of students by teaching them how to learn and communicate in high-quality ways, how to access quality in their own work and in that of others, and how to invest in their own lifelong and life-wide learning processes by maximizing opportunities for growth in every aspect of daily life. In another sense, the student is also a worker, whose product is essentially his or her own continuous improvement and personal growth.
Principle #2: Continuous Improvement and Self Evaluation
The second pillar of TQM applied to education is the total dedication to continuous improvement, personally and collectively. Within a Total Quality school setting, administrators work collaboratively with their customers: teachers. Gone are the vestiges of “Scientific management”… whose watchwords were compliance, control and command. The foundations for this system were fear, intimidation, and an adversarial approach to problem-solving. Today it is in our best interest to encourage everyone’s potential by dedicating ourselves to the continual improvement of our own abilities and those of the people with whom we work and live. Total Quality is, essentially, a win-win approach which works to everyone’s ultimate advantage.
According to Deming, no human being should ever evaluate another human being. Therefore, TQM emphasizes self-evaluation as part of a continuous improvement process. In addition, this principle also laminates to the focusing on students’ strengths, individual learning styles, and different types of intelligences.
Principle #3: A System of Ongoing Process
The third pillar of TQM as applied in academics is the recognition of the organization as a system and the work done within the organization must be seen as an ongoing process. The primary implication of this principle is that individual students and teachers are less to blame for failure than the system in which they work. Quality speaks to working on the system, which must be examined to identify and eliminate the flawed processes that allow its participants to fail. Since systems are made up of processes, the improvements made in the quality of those processes largely determine the quality of the resulting product. In the new paradigm of learning, continual improvement of learning processes based on learning outcomes replaces the outdated “teach and test” mode.
Principle #4: Leadership
The fourth TQM principle applied to education is that the success of TQM is the responsibility of top management. The school teachers must establish the context in which students can best achieve their potential through the continuous improvement that results from teachers and students working together. Teachers who emphasize content area literacy and principle-centered teaching provide the leadership, framework, and tools necessary for continuous improvement in the learning process.
According to the practical evidences, the TQM principles help the schools in following clauses:
(a). Redefine the role, purpose and responsibilities of schools.
(b). Improve schools as a “way of life.”
(c). Plan comprehensive leadership training for educators at all levels.
(d). Create staff development that addresses the attitudes and beliefs of school staff.
(e). Use research and practice-based information to guide both policy and practice.
(f). Design comprehensive child-development initiatives that cut across a variety of agencies and institutions.
In order to achieve the above as opportunities to the academic scenario, in addition to patience, participatory management among well-trained and educated partners is crucial to the success of TQM in education; everyone involved must understand and believe in principles. Some personnel who are committed to the principles can facilitate success with TQM. Their vision and skills in leadership, management, interpersonal communication, problem solving and creative cooperation are important qualities for successful implementation of TQM.
Quality Circle Co-ordinator, at City Montessori School, Lucknow, India.