As a service which is delivered at cost to its customers, education requires that product and process be carefully defined. However, a lack of definition has resulted in a large number of institutions proving inferior services and resulting in poor student performance. This has led a large number or research scholars to look into methodologies which are able to increase passing rates and improve student performance.
In this article, we look at ways in which the Six Sigma methodology can be utilized by educational institutions to help improve students’ performance. Six Sigma makes use of a wide variety of tools and techniques in its implementation, with DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) being one of the most important. As a whole, we examine the methodology in detail under each of the steps of the DMAIC process:
In this phase of Six Sigma implementation, the project is defined. In addition, critical customer needs are identified and then linked to the business requirements. The phase also offers a definition of the business procedures that need to be undertaken as well as the Six Sigma project charter.
For our case, the define phase of Six Sigma seeks to boost the pass rate of students within a school or other educational institution.
For this phase, critical to quality characteristics (CTQs) of the process are identified. At this stage, it is necessary that we establish the factors that contribute to students’ poor performance so that solutions can be found. Studies have concluded that there are many factors that influence the success of students, including availability of academic services, relationship with faculty, financial aid and the curriculum, among others.
Once CTQs have been identified, a combination of interviews and surveys is used to quantify their effect on the students’ pass rate. In this phase, the process is analyzed to find out its present state and to help map out the desired future state.
The analysis phase focuses on undestanding the underlying causes of the problem. At this point, certain actions are created that will close the “gap” that stands between the current work state and the ideal required to achieve the desired goals. Each root cause is scrutinized, with the most critical areas being targeted for improvement.
For the present case, surveys are carried out among the school’s students to collect their opinions on the institution’s processes. This is the most effective way to find out the key critical factors within a learning institution that affect the academic success of the students.
Once analysis has been carried out, the processes can now be improved to remove any defects and variations. The gains made from the improvement phase of the Six Sigma implementation should be both immediate and corrective. Specific problems which have been isolated in the analysis are handled in the improve phase in order to achieve the desired results and goals.
In our education instance, an improvement state is achieved if, in the years following the adoption of Six Sigma methods, the number of students who pass their exams increases.
The final phase, Control, requires that the process conditions are well documented and continuously monitored through the use of statistical control techniques. After the desired Sigma level has been achieved in the cycle, the institution needs to ensure that there is continuous control.
Six Sigma has been widely adopted, even among many of the biggest corporate organizations thanks to its quick, positive and repeatable results. The same results that companies have achieved are also possible for educational institutions. In manufacturing, Six Sigma examines defects in engineered products. In the same way, poor performance of students can be viewed as a defect in the field of education.
Achievement of a higher passing rate and better performance of students has a positive impact on both the educational institution, its students and the community at large.