Slovenia - A central committee for quality assurance
TSC Nova Gorica is a publicly-funded centre offering upper secondary VET courses, higher VET courses and adult education. Organised into six units, the school is accredited to provide upper secondary VET programs in the field of metalwork, mechanical engineering, electronics, ICT, mechanics, transportation, wood science and technology, health care, agriculture, horticulture, ecology, food science and technology, catering and other technical subjects. It also provides higher vocational programmes in ICT, mechanics and landscape management. The school organises and provides practical facilitates for in-company training, upper secondary VET programs for adults, short courses for adults, certification of national vocational qualifications as well as being involved in national and international projects (e.g. ESF, PHARE, Leonardo da Vinci, Erasmus etc).
The VET provider’s approach to quality assurance
TŠC Nova Gorica has established a central commission for quality assurance as prescribed by the legislation in 2006. The Commission has 10 members of whom six represent the various units in the school centre. There are also representatives from employers, parents and students. Each of the six units in the school has its own quality assurance group. These groups collect opinions from:
- students on the learning environment;
- company-based trainers on students’ vocational qualifications and competences;
- employers of the readiness of students for work;
- staff on the quality of provision.
In addition, documents are regularly analysed to ensure they are up-to-date and appropriate for learners, peer reviews are undertaken, learning and teaching processes are monitored, in company training is reviewed and the value of individualised learning process learning is promoted. Information from each of the school’s units is considered by the quality assurance committee.
Alongside the regular collection of feedback, the school has participated in various quality assurance projects which support employees and develop the school’s approach to quality assurance. From each project an evaluation has provided clear feedback which is used as a basis for coordinating future work. These evaluations have made use of questionnaires, interviews with the key stakeholders, peer reviews etc.
The current focus of quality assurance is the support of the school’s management system. Having identified that the quality assurance system can be improved through a more effective involvement of the management team, the school is preparing a new strategic approach in cooperation with the Quality Assurance Commission. To support the preparation of this new strategic approach each unit in the school has organises a series of workshops where employees thoroughly review the existing strategy and make suggestions in relation to quality assurance. This helps all the staff to accept the strategy as their own. The final version of the strategy will be sent to the School’s Council for acceptance.
As part of the new quality assurance strategy, there will be a new system of regular evaluation and constant improvement. This is being prepared by the school’s management team and the Quality Assurance Commission. The goal is to rationalise the school’s approach to evaluation, implement more consistent measures of performance as well as regularly assessing performance against the agreed measures of success.
The impact of the changes
TŠC Nova Gorica has developed over the past 12 years through both the merger of independent units and through developing new areas of study. Managing these ongoing changes to the school’s structure has taken place at the same time as quality assurance in VET has been supported by legislation and the introduction of many national projects in quality assurance in VET. The school’s early quality assurance systems were developed in this changing environment. Now that things are more settled, the school has time to analyse and improve its quality assurance systems.
The approach being used to design a new strategy is one that is based on cooperation between all employees. It recognises that everyone has their part to play in implementing the strategy. As such, the school believes that the process of constant improvement can only be realised if everyone participates in the design and implementation of the process. Key to the new approach is the design of indicators and agreement on how to evaluate the effectiveness of self-evaluation (this forms the basis of a separate peer review project).
What challenges were overcome?
At the start of the process, the management team had to be in the lead and decide there was a need to work systematically on quality assurance. This need for constant improvement and the involvement of all employees had to be recognised. Despite pressures on time and finances, the management team and Quality Assurance Commission had to make this a priority. It was also necessary to overcome the view that quality assurance in VET was an unnecessary bureaucratic task.
What were the lessons learnt?
The school’s experience suggests that you need a systematic approach to quality assurance to experience success. While evaluations could help the school to realise what could be improved, it was clear that there was a need to assess achievement against an agreed set of measures. While initially the work of quality assurance should be led by the management team, it needs to be completed in close cooperation with all stakeholders in order to ensure improvements are made.