“Is program and curriculum synonymous?” I asked this naïve question when I was tasked to do the program review as one of my early jobs as a new program director (PD). Curriculum, module, semester, program was different but still confusing when I wanted to define them. I just got smiles on my naivety and no concrete answers. Let me differentiate between curriculum and program before I go to administration part.

My daughter at 1 year old was a fussy eater. Her mom used all the tricks to get the food placed in her mouth to get to the stomach than outside. The content, food, is the curriculum, while the program is all that ensures that the food achieves its objective, the growth, development of a 1-year-old child. The curriculum is designed and aligned to achieve the program objectives. The program objective of a BDS in a dental school is to produce competent dentists. The curriculum provides the content while program provides the methods, opportunities, evaluation to achieve its objectives using the curriculum.

My guide to program administration is the program administration manual that outlines processes for effective management of the program. The effectiveness of the administration is assessed by regular program monitoring of various quality targets while an external review validates the self-assessment.

Curriculum management: The curriculum committee manages the currency and relevance of the curriculum. Curriculum is subjected to a major review every 5 or 6 years while continual monitoring lead to continual improvement. The suggestion for changes comes from various stakeholders, students, alumni, academic staff, support staff, potential employers, government agencies, regulatory agencies, partnering schools. The program director (PD) ensures that all these processes are followed and reported.

Student support: This is an important area in program administration, very critical for student success. Many structures need to be in place for the students to use and support their learning in a conducive environment. The learning environment is evaluated through surveys from the students and areas of concern and opportunities are acted to students’ benefit. Support can range from mentoring, coaching, mental health support, accommodation, security, anything that makes the learning environment effective to reach the program objectives. For example, increase of counselling services can mean that the program is stressful or in a positive explanation, students are more aware when to use counselling.

Program outputs: The objective of producing competent dentists need to be assessed from the program outputs. The popularity of program among prospective students, attrition rate (and its reasons), failure rate, student performance in progression assessments, feedback from external examiners, alumni and employers, provides evidence on the output matching the stated objectives. The knowledge from this exercise leads to improvement in the program delivery including curriculum.

Learning resources review: A detailed review on the use of various learning resources, including library, simulation labs, hospitals, student clinics, patient pool is done to evaluate whether they helped meet the program objectives.

Continual improvement: A program is good if it improves continuously. Improvements come from concerns identified as well as opportunities to make it better. The areas for improvement and its implementation are part of program administration.

There are areas I might have missed that is vital to program administration. Do add it through your comments.

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