Tuesday 6 November 2012

Of Factory and Products

Some people view economics activities in the world could be divided into goods, services and agriculture. Between these classifications there could be a range of the in-betweens which consist of some elements of these categories mixed together.

To attain quality products, many manufacturing companies apply various approaches. ISO certification is one of them. This is an attempt to ensure the manufactured products are produced with the pre-determined quality in a consistent manner. However, this on its own does not guarantee the products will be accepted in the marketplace. If the products produced by an ISO-certified factory does not have the features and functions which serve the needs of customers, they won't be saleable despite the certification.

In a world that is complex, people tend to address the complexity through simplifying things. Whether or not the simplified ways really address the actual problems may be secondary especially when those making the decisions are insulated by the consequences of their decisions. For example, many education institutions are rushing to get their institutions ISO certified. First, which part of the process are certified? Second, does the certification result in graduates which are acceptable to the market? Does the transportation of management techniques for factories work for institutions of higher learning where the "machines and products" are people?

In the above situation, having certification would enable the management of the institutions to have some sort of bragging rights. It may even provide prospective students will some sense of comfort that some elements of the institution has processes which are consistently executed. However, students may not necessarily be responding to the process in the manner that was planned. They come form different backgrounds and carry different world views. They have different capacity to internalise and externalise knowledge. Given that people are themselves complex, having systems and processes which are consistent may not necessarily result in the desired outcomes.

Sometimes institutions of higher learnings are imposed with these sort of policies from "above". By people who sit somewhere with enough cloud and power to make such calls. Interestingly, they may not be called to be accountable if the policies decided by them do not work. The education institutions will face the full brant of public anger as they are the ones facing the customers directly. However, the Brahmins (please pardon me for using this expression) may be the first group to claim credit if something works! The insulation of the policymakers from the risks of their decisions has created a system where they need not necessarily be smart to occupy their chairs but need to be connected enough at the right level.

Given education is an important component of nation building, this issue should not be neglected or taken lightly. Not only huge sums of money are invested, particularly to build infrastructure as these sort of things are visible,  any unnecessary cost may cost the society a lot particularly when the investment and value generated do not correlate. We need to demand for more accountability from those who are calling the shorts, their faces should be made public and made accountable if the make blunders. How many of them are brave enough to admit their accountability? How many of us care about this issue?

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