The Institute for Assessment and Accreditation (IAA) is a critical component of Azim Premji Foundation’s mission to have deep, at-scale and institutionalized impact on the quality of education in India. IAA achieves this by spreading awareness of, and creating demand for, assessment / accreditation-driven quality improvements in the system. IAA’s work entails developing holistic standards of excellence for various institutions involved in the educational system; assessing/accrediting institutions against these standards; and facilitating their ongoing improvement.
Quality of the educational system is directly influenced by the quality of various inter-related institutions at the local, district, state and national levels – that are involved in academic and management aspects of education design and delivery. To achieve holistic and sustainable levels of quality of education, these institutions need to operate at optimal levels of effectiveness individually, and as an aligned inter-dependent system together. For example, while it is imperative for a school to work towards enhancing learning/achievement levels of students -- it must, in parallel, work on evolving itself into a robust institution with an inspiring vision, solid academic base, committed people, vibrant community linkages, coherent culture, strong processes and effective management.
This ‘institution building’ approach ensures an ongoing focus on improvement and innovation. However, schools (like other institutions) do not exist in isolation – their effectiveness is influenced by policies and actions external to their sphere of control. To acknowledge these inter-dependencies and to avoid creating “islands of excellence”, we must simultaneously work on creating robust institutions of Block Resource Centres, District Institute of Educational Training, Teacher Education Institutes, etc. A systemic/holistic perspective, hence, is the need of the hour. Institutional excellence standards – that support institutions in their journey of continuous improvement and innovation -- are important levers of change within this perspective.
In India, while some attempts have been made to define standards of quality/excellence at schools and colleges, there are virtually no standards that cover the vast variety of institutional stakeholders within the government educational system, including - but not limited to – cluster/block resource centres, DIETs, teacher education institutes, state/national councils of educational research & training. In fact, globally, little attention is paid to institutions other than schools/colleges in improving the overall effectiveness of educational systems. Although, accreditation has been around for more than a century, and one can trace its roots to the end of the 19th century, when the first accreditation bodies for higher education were formed in the United States, however, its importance begun to be felt only when the size and variety of higher education institutions grew rapidly.
Even in the US, accreditation had begun to occupy centre-stage in the public discourse on higher education from the early ‘80s. European countries caught up quickly, as the first formal quality assurance schemes were introduced in Europe in 1984. Now, most countries around the world have adopted accreditation or are in the process of doing so. Accreditation of higher education institutions in India that began in the ‘90s based on US-model has not been very successful (to date only about 20% of universities and colleges are accredited). More significantly, India lacks a mass movement of assessment/accreditation-driven quality for institutions at the elementary & secondary education levels.
IAA fills this void by developing frameworks of institutional quality at elementary/secondary levels and assessing institutions against the same. IAA’s assessments are designed and conducted for enabling the institutions to reflect, imbibe best practices and to improve continuously.