Management and training excellence see schools scoop prestigious ISO award

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 January, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 January, 2001, 12:00am

Six schools have been told that their management procedures have passed a rigorous quality control test normally used to assess commercial firms.

The Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA) has helped the four primary and two secondary schools to achieve the prestigious ISO 9002 certification from the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency in a $880,000 project backed by the Quality Education Fund to enhance school-based management.

To achieve accreditation, the schools have had to redesign their management and quality systems and conduct management and staff training. To maintain the status they must undertake twice-yearly internal and external audits.

HKMA consultant Lee Koon-keung has helped organisations as diverse as factories and homes for the elderly to gain ISO certification, and now a total of seven schools. 'This is a very good way of introducing school-based management,' he said.

ISO is used widely in schools in Britain, although in Hong Kong it is normally associated with the commercial sector. But the system was designed for the management of any organisation, Mr Lee said. 'When training teachers I say this system can even be implemented in a person, to enhance their qualities. Hong Kong people need this attitude of quality, especially teachers,' he said.

Chung Wai-leung, vice-principal of San Wui Commercial Society Secondary School, one of the six new ISO schools, said the experience had helped the school implement its own management and improve its effectiveness. It provided the school with a clear mission and vision, defined staff roles and helped the school take measures to improve, he said.

'But there is not one magic wand that can solve all the problems of management,' he said. One downside of ISO was that it overemphasised the structural aspect of a school. 'It does not pay enough attention to the human side, for example, the attitude of the teacher, the culture of the staff and the value of the school.'

HKMA K S Lo College in Tin Shui Wai was the first school to receive ISO 9002 accreditation in Hong Kong, gaining the status in 1998. David T H Wong, who manages the HKMA's training activities, said that the system involved preparing a quality manual and then following quality assurance procedures. Mr Wong is also principal of the new HKMA David Li Kwok Po College, which is now preparing for ISO.

Teddy Tang Chun-keung, principal of K S Lo College, shared his experience with the six new ISO schools. He said the system was a collection of good management practices. 'ISO is a basis for looking for continual improvement rather than adopting a formula and following that,' he said. Formulae could come neither from ISO nor the Education Department. 'Schools on the front-line have to be responsible for finding solutions,' he said.

'By adopting ISO we have changed our mindset. We accept that the world is not perfect, we accept limitations and we try our best to make improvements within those limitations, with our available resources, to provide the best we can for our students.

'It can enhance the management of teaching materials and how to manage students, but it does not have a direct relationship with the quality of education,' he said. This was because other factors also affected learning outcomes, such as the backgrounds of students. K S Lo College was included in the Education Department's list of 44 most improved schools for the value it added to students' performance, however, and Mr Tang puts this partly down to ISO.

One benefit of ISO was that it helped the college identify the limitations of the textbooks, he said, even leading it to devise its own for Chinese - which it has now implemented for Secondary One and Two. It is now also preparing to introduce its own textbook for English. The system was also useful for helping teachers manage their time more effectively and avoid wasting it on needless bureaucracy, said Mr Tang.

The other schools to have passed ISO accreditation this month are the Shun Tak Fraternal Association's Leung Kit Wah primary and Ho Yat Tung primary (am and pm sessions), Sha Tin Methodist primary and Immanuel Lutheran College.