Scholarly Technical Education Publication Series (STEPS) Vol. 3

Role of APACC for Total Quality Management (TQM) in TVET


    Ramhari Lamichhane
    Director General, CPSC &
    President, APACC


National Qualification Framework states the level and expected competencies of graduates. Graduates are the focal point for organizational purpose and achievement. Quality in the product/service is impossible without quality in the process. Quality in the process is impossible without the right organization. The right organization is meaningless without proper leadership. Strong, bottom up commitment is the support pillar for all the rest. Each pillar depends upon the other four, and if one is weak, all are.

The paper tackles the relevance of Total Quality Management Systems and taking the Asia Pacific Accreditation and Certification Commission (APACC) as an example, it intends to further elaborate its significance in the improvement of TVET delivery in the region.


Quality principles, concepts and initiatives as drivers for improving services and products have proven to be very valuable to individuals, groups of people and organizations. Many organizations have also discovered a strong relationship between quality, profitability and productivity.

Quality as value for the money paid has emerged as the managerial imperative of the decade. The slogans such as ‘quality counts’, ‘do it right first time’, ‘TQM’, ‘zero defect’, ‘customer satisfaction’, ‘quality awards’, and ‘commitment to quality are talk of the street in production and service circles. Leaders could point to improved internal efficiencies resulting from their quality improvement efforts and assign cost savings to those efficiencies. They could point to process improvements that resulted in shorter development cycles and faster delivery that they intuitively knew contributed to increased customer satisfaction. Business results in terms of enhanced sale and profitability are improved.

Riding on the wagon for change/ improvement in quality of products and services has resulted in subscribing to a variety of systems and frameworks i.e. Total Quality Management, ISO-9000 quality standards series, National Quality Awards after Malcolm Baldrige quality awards and accreditation and certification frameworks. These systems for quality improvement have been adopted according to the nature of organizations i.e. manufacturing/production units, service organizations, educational institutions etc.

The wave towards quality improvement in TVET activities, projects and programs has been taken with due importance by different TVET systems and has initiated different projects for quality improvement to produce highly employable and globally accepted skilled workforce. These initiatives are producing positive results. However, quality improvement will require a consistent commitment to stay conforming to the satisfaction level of the customers on a dynamic basis.

The Meaning of Quality

Quality is a relative term and it is generally used with reference to die end use of the product. It depends on the die perception of the person in a situation. The situation can be use oriented, cost oriented or supplier oriented. The word “quality” can be taken in the following meanings:

Table 1: Meaning of Quality (Akrani, 2010)

Definition of TQM

Quality is a relative term. For a marketplace definition, Juran (1974) describes it a’ fitness for use.’ The ISO defines quality as the degree to which a set of inherent/embedded characteristics meets the needs, wants and expectations of a given customer. It is evident that quality must be worked at and consciously achieved. Paying attention to the whole transformation process such as suitability of inputs, the manner in which input are processed into the finished product or service and the manner in which the product or service is delivered to the customer’s satisfaction- all these or quality.

Total Quality Management (TQM) is an enhancement to the traditional way of doing business. It is a proven technique to guarantee survival in world-class competition. TQM is for the most part common sense. Analyzing the three words, we have:

Total—Made-up of the whole.

Quality—Degree of Excellence a product or service provides.

Management-- act, art, or manner of handling, controlling, directing etc.

Therefore, TQM is the art of managing the whole to achieve excellence. The Golden Rule is simple but is an effective way to explain it. TQM is defined as both a philosophy and a set of guiding principles that represent the foundation of a continuously improving organization. It is the application of the quantitative methods and the human resources to improve all the processes within an organization and exceed the customer’s needs now and within the future. TQM integrates fundamental management techniques, existing improvement effort and technical tools under a disciplined approach.

Whenever business is booming, quality appears to be working. But, whenever business goes down, the inevitable questions are asked: “why are we spending all this money on quality? Is our quality initiative paying off?” I believe that the reason why people ask these questions is that they do not view ‘quality’ in its totality. Many organizations have made the mistake of taking each element of a total quality initiative, and trying to implement each one as a separate intervention. Whenever an organization looks at total quality as a series of techniques that can be independently introduced, the organization runs the risk of not viewing the organic interconnectedness of the elements of an organization. After all, each intervention that impacts one aspect of the enterprise has a bearing on others as well. What is needed is a holistic approach to quality. Quality Management System (QMS) is a systematic approach to linking quality initiatives to each and every element of the organization and its culture. It is not just the implementation of an ISO 9000 Standard and Certification or just getting an accreditation. The underlying principle of this total quality view and its basic difference from all other concepts is to provide genuine effectiveness. Control must start from the design of the product or service and end only when the product or service has been placed in the hands of a satisfied customer.

TQM Concepts

Quality evolved as the managerial essential and inescapable thing of the times. Almost every professional or trade journal includes an aphorism like “quality counts” or “the key to survival is quality”. Quality was a serious issue even in olden times. The obsession with quality may be explained by the meagerness of resources. Then, starvation became an actuality and handcrafted goods became extremely costly.

TQM therefore involves designing organizations to satisfy customers and it has two strands, namely:

  • Careful design of products or services
  • Ensuring that the organization’s systems can consistently produce the design.

TQM is a new way of thinking about organizations. It is said to be the most significant shift in American management thought and practice. A great deal of attention has been given in recent years to the TQM process as an important quality and productivity improvement strategy. With TQM concepts, companies have learned that quality improvement truly goes beyond the product or service specifications required by the customer (Depew, 1993).

TQM requires a cultural change. The typical quality elements have changed meaning now and are shown on the table (1) given below. Small companies will be able to make the transformation in a much faster time period than large companies.

Table 2: The changing meaning of Quality and TQM

Popular Concepts/Guidelines and Techniques in TQM

Different concepts and framework that are used for quality enhancement is service delivery and production of goods.

  1. The Basics of Quality Management System
  2. TEAMS for TQM
  3. Dr. Deming’s PDCA cycle

The Basics of Quality Management System

Creech (1994) has mentioned about the five pillars of quality that are worth highlighting as it provides a strong foundation for TQ Managed organizations (Figure 2). This can become the focus of improvement in technical education and training in its transformation.

Figure 1: The Five Pillars of TQM

As an explanation of the five pillars, the product (or service) is the focal point for organizational purpose and achievement. Quality in the product (or service) is impossible without quality in the process. Quality in the process is impossible without the right organization. The right organization is meaningless without the proper leadership. Strong, bottom-up commitment is the support for all the rest. Each pillar depends upon the other four, and if one is weak, all are weak.

Besterfield (2003) has suggested the following as key component of any quality management system and.

  1. Leadership: a committed and involved management to provide long-term top to bottom organizational support
  2. Customer satisfaction: an unwavering focus on the customer, both internally and externally
  3. Employee’s Involvement: effective involvement and utilization of the entire workforce
  4. Continuous improvement: continuous improvement of the business and production processes
  5. Supplier Partnership: Treating suppliers as partners
  6. Performance measures: establishing performance measurements for the processes

Some additional information and knowledge management as a component part of the same. These concepts provide an excellent way to run a business. The purpose of TQM is to provide a quality product to the customers, which will in turn increase the productivity and lower the cost. With higher quality product and lower price, competitive position in the market place will be enhanced. This series of objectives will allow the organization to achieve the business objectives of the business profit and growth with greater ease. In addition the workforce will have job security, which will create a satisfying place to work.


Since TQM involve the simultaneous integrated interaction of all the components that make up an organization and drive its functions, there needs to be a teamwork approach toward quality improvement efforts and undertakings to make it successful. Creech (1994) emphasized that organizing by teams helps to make all the other decentralized and TQM system elements work – and work together. Forming the teams is only the beginning The chart that follows highlights the actions that bring the team concept to life:

Table 3: Team Success Points

It spells “TEAMS”. It starts with “Trust” and ends with leadership “Support” enabling the teams to carry out their ownership free of micro-management. This approach helps eliminate the trust gap, the well-recognized contributor to employee apathy and alienation.

The PDCA Cycle:

The PDCA cycle stands for PLAN - DO - CHECK - ACT. To reduce the variation in any process, the analyst must PLAN--decide what action might reduce process variation, DO-try out the idea, CHECK-determine WITH DATA that the process variation idea was effective in reducing variation, ACT-implement the idea permanently. Upon conclusion of the cycle, another idea would be tried, and the cycle repeated. This variance reduction process would continue. The repeated application of the PDCA cycle to a process is known as Continuous Quality Improvement. (CQI).

Deming’s contribution to the TQM/CQI philosophy was to expand upon Shewhart’s SPC and PDCA ideas and develop a philosophy of management and management practices that would make this idea work in the real world. We must notice at this point, that the focus of TQM/CQI is on individual processes, one by one, not entire systems. The PDCA cycle has become the hallmark of ISO-standards for measuring organization’s continuous improvement strategy.

Figure 2: PDCA Cycle


TQM started penetrating in education mostly in American universities and schools after 1985. The reasons being that educational institutions in USA were thought and considered to be having many perennial problems for producing quality output such as the following:

  • Inadequate emphasis on academic subjects
  • Lack of standards
  • Poor teaching
  • Absence of teaching staff

In order to resolve these problems, it was realized that quality should be assured to produce the desired output and we need it because of the following reasons:

  • Education needs to respond to the dynamic changing environments.
  • Expectations of stakeholders impress upon education to undergo continual assessment and improvement.
  • Education has to respond to the real fear of career obsolescence and career inadequacy.
  • Financial constraints and cost cutting with cutting quality

In the Asia-Pacific region, the human capital (skilled people) is the region’s most important asset. Being the most productive asset of a country, the people should be given quality skills and competencies in order for them to meaningfully participate in economic and social development. Despite being a fundamental concept (quality and relevance) within the Technical and Vocational Education and Training System, it is only recently that quality concerns have increased within the system in most of the developing countries. Many countries in the region are reviewing the quality of participation, administration and outcomes in TVET system. At present, a heavy emphasis is placed and discussed on the registration and compliance of training requirements under a national and regional recognition framework.

Emphasis is also placed on consistency in the awarding of quality endorsed training programs. Generally it is also observed that a heavy emphasis is placed on ‘front-end’ quality assurance measures such as the endorsement of training packages, registration of training institutions and approval of training arrangements.

Very little emphasis is placed on ongoing monitoring and evaluation of quality and training outcomes of trainees. In managing the system there has been a tendency to react to quality concerns as they arise, rather than taking a strategic quality assurance approach. Audit or assessment is largely limited to compliance assessment of registered training organizations. Assurance of quality of training and accreditation of training institutions and programs are clearly one of the major challenges for the TVET system.

The quality assurance system can be applied at both the system and TVET provider levels and can therefore be used to assess the effectiveness of TVET. It gives a particular emphasis to the improvement and evaluation of the ‘outputs’ and ‘outcomes’ of VET in terms of increasing employability, improving the match between demand and supply, and promoting better access to lifelong training, in particular for disadvantaged people.

The idea that TQM only works in business, industry and private organizations is already an old saying. The changing workplace dynamics have a direct impact on the educational institutions and specially the TVET Institutions. Ideally the TETIs workshops needs to replicate the workplace conditions with all the training technologies and processes to work with. Theory and knowledge accompanying the skills taught is needed to conform to the workplace operations. This will maintain relevance of the TVET pass outs with requirements of the workplace and will ultimately ensure high chances of employability. We can say that more than a discovery, this is now an established understanding that quality assurance measures works well in educational institutions and especially in technical education and training (TVET). Thus, it is being espoused as a new management approach for TVET. According to the recommendations adopted in the World Education Forum at Dakar, Senegal in 2000, is “to improve all aspects of the quality of education…” (Goal 6). The third International congress on TVET at Shanghai (UNESCO, 2012) categorically prioritized relevance and quality in TVET in the first and second recommendations. This is particularly important since quality mainly affects the value and success of education programs. The “education for all” initiative is now embracing the challenge of TVET as well. Therefore there is a need to see the TVET system as a system that applies the principles of TQM aside from a system that merely delivers skills training.

The following are the main questions while TQM or quality assurance system may be introduced into a TVET system:

  • What is the main business of TVET institutions?
  • What processes are essential to accomplish the institutional business or functions efficiently and effectively?
  • Who are the customers of the educational institutions?
  • What is the final product of the institutions?

Educational institutions also consider the following as part of their business:

  • Organize continuing education programs for people working in industry.
  • Develop curriculum and design programs.
  • Publish good books and other instructional material such as laboratory manuals, workbooks, video programs, models, CAI packages, multimedia courseware, etc.
  • Provide distance learning courses and offer web-based instructions.
  • Provide consultancy services to other organizations, including industries.
  • Run production centers.

In order to perform these businesses in an effective and efficient manner, the institutions nowadays work like a system which has several organs and components which in turn have several “processes” that receive input, process it and produce the output or product.

The most common objective of all quality assurance systems is to satisfy their customers by ensuring quality of the products or outputs and the processes involved. Process is defined as an activity or operation, which receives inputs and converts them to outputs. Almost all activities and operations involved in making a product or providing a service are processes. For any organization to function, they have to define and manage numerous inter-linked processes. Often, the output from one process will directly affect the input for the next process. The systematic identification and management of the various processes employed within an organization, and particularly the interactions between such processes, may be referred to as the ‘process approach’ to management.

The main processes that can be defined for educational institutions are:

  • Needs Identification
  • Curriculum design and development
  • Student admission and other services
  • Teaching - Learning process
  • Institutional facilities such as classrooms, laboratories, workshops, library, hostels, sports facilities and their maintenance
  • Students Assessment , Examination and Certification
  • Staff recruitment, appraisal, promotion and development
  • Industrial liaison and placement
  • Skill Standards Development
  • Marketing and Publicity of TVET programs
  • Corporate Social Responsibility i.e. extension services to community.
  • Research work i.e. Tracer studies and other innovative activities.

One can define more processes which would depend upon the size and the type of the institutions. After identification of processes that educational institutions may perform they must focus on its customers to understand their current and future needs/, requirements and strive to either come up or to exceed their satisfaction.

The educational institutions can identify more customers according to their functions and services. Of course the final products of the institutions are the skilled graduates and Teaching Learning Resource (TLR) material, among others.

Steps to Install TQM

To start with, there are underlying assumptions and principles of TQM. Schmidt and Finnigan (1993) presents some of these basic concepts:

  • Organizations are made up of complex system of customers and suppliers, with every individual executive, manager and worker functioning as both a supplier and customer.
  • Quality – meeting the customer’s requirements – is the priority goal and is presumed to be the key to organizational survival and growth.
  • Continuous improvement is the guiding principle.
  • Teams and groups are primary vehicles for planning and problem solving.
  • Developing relationships of openness and trust among members of the organization at all levels is the likely key condition for success

The question arose as to how we can start TQM in education. There came many models and suggestions with varied level of success stories. As a result of various researches and deliberations, following 11 steps were suggested to start TQM applications in educational institutions.

  • Obtain commitment to Total Quality from the top management.
  • Recognize your institution as a system with interacting subsystems.
  • Identify all the customers and stakeholders
  • Develop a shared vision and mission
  • Develop goals and objectives
  • Identify processes and study the impact of each major process.
  • Form cross-functional teams to improve processes
  • Training of all teams consistent with their job
  • Implement the system to hold the gains that are made (Sustainability)
  • Document all improvement exercises
  • Repeat steps 1 to 10

TVET is often seen as “last choice education” because of a lack of quality. High-quality TVET, on the other hand, leads to a higher status and improved attractiveness of TVET. Also, high quality TVET program guarantee a strong link between what is learned and the needs of the labor market, with the result that graduates are more likely to find suitable employment. Quality assurance is therefore essential at all levels throughout the TVET system.

The introduction of these “quality-related” elements in TVET can contribute to additional costs. However, the long-term benefits for society and the economy are such that the initial costs related to upgrading of the quality are well-justified. Nevertheless, high-quality TVET might be seen as unaffordable by many governments, enterprises and training providers. It is therefore particularly important that institutions in countries that have already developed and improved certain elements of quality assurance in TVET share their best practices and innovations with other countries.

Many developing partners like UNESCO-UNEVOC, ADB, CPSC, ILO, British Council and others continuously provide technical assistance, share expertise and exchange best practices. This has become a common practice and many TVET systems of the member countries have benefited from it.

Applying the philosophy and concept of TQM in TVET, the following aspects of institutional functioning that are likely to affect the quality of education provided:

  1. Outstanding teachers
  2. Excellent examination results
  3. Specialization
  4. Well-equipped laboratories and workshops with dynamic up gradation for latest technology
  5. Well maintained buildings and other facilities
  6. High moral values
  7. Adequate resources
  8. Support of parents, industry and major stakeholders
  9. Strong and purposeful leadership
  10. Care and concern for students
  11. A well balanced demand driven curricula
  12. Good teamwork
  13. Corporate Social Responsibility
  14. Research and Innovation activities

Asia Pacific Accreditation and Certification Commission (APACC)

The Colombo Plan Staff College, an Inter-governmental, international organization for human resource development based in Manila, Philippines, established the Asia Pacific Accreditation and Certification Commission (APACC) as one of the specific targets in the implementation of the CPSC Corporate Plan 2003-2008. With the support and commitment of member countries to the CPSC Seoul Declaration of 2004 in Seoul, Republic of Korea, APACC ensures that it is able to guide Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions in equipping themselves with internationally-recognized standards and systems. It enables these institutions to produce workforce with great mobility to move across borders and with regionally-competitive qualification skills.

The Seoul Declaration of 2004 was further strengthened by the continued support and commitment to the mission and goals of APACC, as expressed by participating governments through the Manila Resolution 2005 and Cheonan Affirmation of Commitment 2007.

The purpose of the APACC are as follows:

  1. To guide TVET institutions in equipping themselves with internationally-recognized standards and systems
  2. To produce workforce with great mobility to move across borders, with regionally-competitive qualification skills
  3. To harmonize the quality of TVET in the region and facilitate quality improvement programs

APACC accreditation is an internationally recognized sign of quality. Accredited institutions and stakeholders enjoy the following benefits:

  1. Greater workforce mobility and mutual recognition of qualifications in Asia and the Pacific region;
  2. Quality and employable workforce in member countries through APACC coordination among its network of institutions, agencies and other stakeholders;
  3. Employer confidence on the selection of employees coming from accredited institutions. Accreditation status is important to employers when evaluating credentials of job applicants and when deciding to provide support for current employees seeking further education;
  4. International recognition of the institutions’ quality, accountability, and public trust;
  5. Eligibility and reliability of TVET institutions for funding support from donors and other lending agencies;
  6. Part of a regional network of quality institutions that expand schooling and learning opportunities for students; and
  7. Transferability of credits earned by a student among educational institutions. Receiving institutions take note of whether or not the credits a student needs to transfer have been earned from an accredited institution.

Figure Table : APACC Accreditation Criteria

Role of APACC for TQM in TVET

The APACC award has direct link to the quality improvement. The APACC accreditation criteria (figure 8) are always focused on quality improvement.

Governance and Management:

Governance and management criteria focuses on how to governance and management system facilitate to enhance student learning environment and improvement of institutional effectiveness.

Teaching and Learning:

Assessment at this criteria focuses on the quality of the output and outcome of teaching and learning mechanisms and policies of the institution.

Human Resources:

Human resource is one of the key resources which contribute to enhance quality of programs and to enhance learning outcomes of the student. Therefore, assessment through this criteria facilitates the development of human resource policies and plan and human resource management. It indicates the right person in right place, time and with appropriate responsibilities.

Research and Development:

It is one of the tools to enhance creativity and innovation in TVET programs based on market needs. The criteria assesses the link with research and programs development and information management system of TVET institution.

Image and Sustainability:

This criteria mainly focuses on networking and partnership with industries and other relevant organization to enhance the quality of TVET programs. It assesses the involvement of employers before, during and after program implementation.

Other resources:

The criteria focuses on the physical facilities of the institution and covers criteria such as financial capability, buildings and laboratories, available training tools and equipment, library and other related resources. These factors affect the environment and influence the learning outcomes of the students and working environment of the faculty and staff. It tackles not only the availability of resources but also considers factors such as technological advancement, appropriateness, promptness and facility to control or monitor any foreseen or unforeseen challenges.

Support to Students:

This criteria assess the available services related to student development. Factors include the enhancement of student competencies, development of activities that promote their holistic development, and the achievement of a conducive, happy and sound learning environment that will have a positive impact to the students during their stay in the institution.

Keeping in view the aforementioned criteria, it is seen that the APACC standards and its role in developing the TQM culture in the institution seems to be high. It considers 360 degree evaluation approach and continuation of improvement which leads to institutional excellence. It indicates the area of excellence, right direction and need for improvement. Third party evaluation on management system of TVET institution provides eye opening path for them. It ensure the status of institutional quality to achieve learning outcomes of the student.

Who Benefits from a Quality Management System (QMS)?

For Training Institutions, QMS:

  • bestows national quality recognition to providers of training
  • promotes quality and current trends in education/training in the Technical Education and Vocational Training sector
  • enhances credibility and image as a training provider
  • establishes national quality standards among training institutions
  • Promotes a culture of continuous improvement.

For Employers, QMS:

  • ensures the continued supply of competent employees who have been trained at institutions that comply with established quality standards and criteria
  • makes the search for competent employees easier by selecting candidates with qualifications from quality assured training institutions

For Trainees, QMS:

  • provides recognition for entry into institutions, professions and business
  • ensures quality of the training that they have received according to some agreed standards and criteria

For Parents, QMS:

  • is an indication of the standard and quality of training provided
  • Assures them that they are getting value for their investment in the training their children pursue at approved quality assured institutions and programs.

Challenges and Issues for TQM Implementation

The following are major challenges and issues for TQM implementation:

  • Maintaining a quality management system
  • Creating a quality culture
  • Commitment of the employees to quality
  • Leadership support
  • Resources allocation to quality improvement activities
  • Upholding the process based approach i.e. implementing PDCA cycle in Process improvement as routine activity.
  • Document control and management
  • Selection of the suitable certification agency


A successful implementation of TQM implies that all elements of the organization should be committed to quality. TQM is an obligatory way of thinking about organizations. Its primary goal is to meet the end-users’ requirements – quality product or service. It believes in continuous improvement. TQ managed organizations are and should be learning organizations; advocates teamwork and thrives on a high-trust culture. All these are fertile grounds for exploration by TVET Institutions and show great potential for utilization within the TVET system. APACC plays significant role to improve organizational quality and produce globally competent workforce. It is a tool for continuous improvement and a path towards excellence. As an independent third party assessment, APACC highlights the achievements, best practices and opportunities for improvement that the institution can consider for its own development. With limited resources and the mandate to offer high quality TVET to an ever-changing environment and diverse group of learners is a challenge we all have to face in the coming millennium. This is a major task, but this has to be accomplished to sustain the system in this era of globalization and modernization.


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