Quality Standards in Education

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Topic Update and Continuing Discussion

A roundtable was held on the creation of quality standards for education on 7 June 2016 at Marlborough House in London, United Kingdom. A background paper was drafted for this roundtable which is available for download and comment. Emanating from the discussion, a draft set of criteria were agreed and are made available for comment. The Ministry of Higher Education of Malaysia refined the draft criteria reached at the roundtable, to further define each criteria. The draft Universal Quality Education Standards are now available for public comment.

We invite ongoing discussion on this document via the comment box at the bottom of this page.

Quality in education is centre stage to SDG4, and is supported by a general global commitment to improving quality in education. Since the start of the millennium, substantial improvements have been made across the Commonwealth and beyond (including for student-teacher ratios, assessment of learning outcomes, and in student learning outcomes themselves), however significant issues persist. 

Quality education is largely dependent on trained facilitators/teachers, a learner-centred approach, good resources and facilities, relevant curricula and material, family and community support, gender-sensitive design, and a safe and conducive learning environment. Education is a complex system, requiring a holistic education system with a national framework that clearly outlines fundamental elements of quality assurance is the bedrock of quality education. Quality standards must be applied to both the public and private sector education, and be backed by a comprehensive regulatory regime.

eDiscussion through the Education Hub Community of Practice

Malaysia MOHE LogoThis discussion which explores quality standards in education was jointly run with the Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia, and moderated by Dr. Siti H TAPSIR, Deputy Director General, Department of Higher Education in the Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia. Prior to her current role, Ms Tapsir was the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Internationalisation) at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

This discussion closed on 30 May 2016.

To participate in the discussion, email eduhub@commonwealth.int.

Contributions to the eDiscussion



Stakeholders worldwide strive to provide quality education from primary to tertiary education levels. Arguably, quality education is not the goal itself but a pre-condition for nation building and good citizenship.

From primary to tertiary levels, education system is built on a national education framework made up of several important input and output components including access, equity, quality of teachers, quality of curriculum, conducive learning environment, sustainability and governance.

Quality education is largely dependent on highly qualified teachers (and academics), learner centred approach and good curriculum, but admittedly, it requires more than these three elements. A holistic education eco-system with a national qualification framework that clearly outlines fundamental elements of quality assurance is the bedrock of quality education. Diagram 1 shows a holistic eco-system in providing quality education.

Diagram 1 Holistic Quality Education Eco-System

Diagram 1 Holistic Quality Education Eco-System


Across the Commonwealth states, national education qualification frameworks vary from one state to another depending on the respective national priority. There is a Transnational Qualifications Framework that was developed as part of the Virtual University For the Small States of the Commonwealth which spans all states that wish to collaborate. Generally, qualification frameworks provide guidelines on the education, training and career pathways by outlining the expected learning and skill outcomes at different levels of studies. The frameworks illustrate how learners may progress from lower to higher qualifications within an education system; as well as links between levels.

In any education system, ensuring access, equity and inclusiveness is fundamental. However, in countries progressing to massification of higher education, providing heavy subsidies to tertiary level education may not be financially sustainable. Countries with limited resources may need to consider the involvement of the private sector to address the national goals of accessibility, equity and inclusiveness of education.

With the presence of private providers, a comprehensive regulatory regime is essential in order to supervise and regulate the education system. The regulatory regime or body must also address the delivery of academic programmes to ensure quality and relevance. This applies not only to private but also to public institutions. Enforcement of regulatory provisions require strong political will, as involvement of both the public and private sectors may require significant financial and physical investments by governments and investors.


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