Juan Pineda-Olvera,1 Ana María Lara-Barrón,1 María de los Ángeles Godínez-Rodríguez1
1Facultad de Estudios Superiores Iztacala, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Distrito Federal, México
Correspondence: Juan Pineda-Olvera
Received: December 12th 2013
Judged: July 16th 2014
Accepted: August 6th 2014
Higher education worldwide, faces particularly difficult challenges, such as the training of professionals able not just to adapt to unpredictable changes in society and the technical activities, scientific and social, but to generate and drive these changes; to take on this challenge several strategies have been sought worldwide, one is the accreditation of educational programs to enhance the quality of education through the implementation of screening programs. In the 30 years they have been developing accreditation in Mexico and Latin America have made significant progress in creating a culture to the evaluation, although there are still a number of challenges to overcome in which different actors are committed to involve.
Key words: Evaluation programs; Accreditation; Professional education
Today higher education must face particularly difficult challenges worldwide. One of those challenges is the training of professionals able not just to adapt to unpredictable changes in society and technical, scientific and social activities, but to generate and drive these changes. To carry out this training, we must find increasingly decisive, permanent and effective ways of influencing in all areas of society; also, and increasingly broadly, we must rescue the cultural value of education and overcome the educational economist thinking that reduces education to a mere commodity of production and the human being to a human resource.1
To meet this challenge several strategies have been sought worldwide. One is the accreditation of educational programs to enhance the quality of education through the implementation of evaluation programs.2
The processes of evaluation and accreditation, first in the United States, then in Europe, Latin America, and finally in Mexico, emerged from economic crises and changes in the new economic world order, generated by financial institutions basically using the globalization model, which tends to blur the boundaries between countries, making the people of every nation into potential global citizens who can travel freely and without hindrance to the countries they wish to for various reasons, including: school, health, and work. This model, essentially economic in nature, has produced important changes in different areas of daily life, including: culture, technology, communication, information, health, food, and education. In the case of higher education, the assessment-accreditation processes have impacted the expansion of the systems and fees, institutional differentiation, proliferation and fragmentation of programs, diversification of budgetary sources and management models, transnationalization, overvaluation of professional skills and competencies, changes in the mode of production of knowledge useful to the economy and in the academic ethos. These changes are related to new trends and demands of the economy, driven by advances in new information technologies and the various demands related to the training of professionals. Interrelated complex phenomena of a globalized society promote social awareness of the need to put into action effective and reliable control mechanisms, certification and quality assurance of higher education.3
An interesting aspect that Fernandez raises are the various approaches that are given to quality assessment from the different views and interests of the actors involved in it; he notes that the idea of quality for academics means knowledge; for employers it means skills; for students employability; for society respectable and competent citizens; for the State, according to the conception that it assumes, this can vary from issues related to social and human development to efficiency, to costs and human capital requirements; therefore, the author states that the spirit of the various definitions agree that quality is a conception of collective and gradual construction, which integrates and articulates visions and demands from different actors with the values and purposes of the educational institution and society.
In Latin America, quality seems to be understood as the combination and integration of aspects such as relevance, efficiency and effectiveness; it is a benchmark for institutions; a right for citizens; a continuous and integrated process; a relationship between products (processes); results or merit; an award for excellence; fitness for purposes; as an economic product and as transformation and change.
Starting in the Nineties the globalization model that led to the crisis of the welfare state emerged, which in turn resulted in the field of public education in budget decrease and financial rationalization for universities, combined with the increase in tuition that was not covered by the public universities, which enormously increased the number of private universities, resulting in heterogeneity in the quality levels of education because of their loss of control and regulation. Thus, the number of universities increased from 75 in 1950 to over 2,000 today, most of which are private. The population of higher education registered in private institutions is above 60% compared with the public, and it reaches extreme cases, as in Brazil at 85%. The number of students rose from 276,000 in 1950 to around 17 or 18 million to date; i.e., enrollment increased more than 60 times in 60 years.4
We can see that in recent years a large gap has been outlined in the quality of education between the different educational levels, from one university to another, between those located in rural communities and cities, between public and private, and between one country and another. In the case of Mexico or any other country in Latin America, there are students who may get a very high level of preparation, comparable to the level of a university of the first world, and others whose level would definitely be compared with that of the most behind countries on the planet. This lagging in the quality of middle higher education and its upscaling has resulted in a large number of students being unable to access the public universities of high recognition and having to enter private universities, some of dubious quality; these inequalities have worsened in recent years.
Therefore, the State took a market approach and was forced to assume the role of evaluator, from which emerged which the assessment-accreditation processes in Latin America and Mexico.1
In the case of Mexico, these processes originated in the second half of the Seventies. Institutions of higher education gathered at the Asociación Nacional de Universidades e Instituciones de Educación Superior (ANUIES) sought ways to coordinate planning including evaluation as a key element in improving the institutions and the system as a whole. That's how the Sistema Nacional de Planeación Permanente de la Educación Superior (SINAPPES, 1978) was established. This was an important step in that direction, although in practice the system components at various levels of implementation had no impact on the institutions. However, during the period 1989-1994 the Programa para la Modernización Educativa was launched, which included, under the initiative of the ANUIES, the foundation to promote the quality of higher education through a process of internal and external institutional evaluation, which was finalized after the formation of the Comisión Nacional de Evaluación de la Educación Superior (CONAEVA, 1989), which focused its purposes on building institutional self-assessment.
The aim of boosting external evaluation resulted in the creation, also at the request of the ANUIES, of the Comités Interinstitucionales para la Evaluación de la Educación Superior (CIEES, 1991). These committees were instituted by the Coordinación Nacional de Planeación de la Educación Superior (CONPES), liaison between the representation of public universities and the federal government. According to its original definition, CIEES would be responsible for performing diagnostic assessments and accrediting assessment programs for academics, administrative and management functions, and functions of dissemination and extension of culture in higher education institutions that request it.
In 1997 ANUIES agreed to promote the creation of a non-governmental body to regulate the accreditation processes. This initiative led to the creation, in 2000, the Consejo para la Acreditación de la Educación Superior, A.C. (COPAES) whose main objectives are to support the training of professional accrediting agencies, to authorize them, and to coordinate their work.5
In the 30 years that evaluation-accreditation processes have been developing in Mexico and Latin America, they have made significant progress in creating a culture of evaluation, although there are still a number of challenges to be overcome, in which different actors are committed to the process. Some of these challenges are as follows:2
Although governments have made serious efforts to support education, updating its educational policies, they have not achieved the desired goals, as the process of globalization presents actions that are difficult for all to meet, especially with regards to equal quality and the use of technology in communication and information.
It is important to know the impact that evaluation and accreditation have had, to guide the process from the results.
In the process of evaluation and accreditation a tendency towards the "bureaucratic” prevails. This creates what Porter calls "universities of paper" which refers to when often a university (or department) puts forth in their documents a statement that is not reflected in reality, only on paper.
These processes are meaningless if no progress is made towards a culture of evaluation and the quality of education.