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Are accredited schools better?

Discussion in 'Teaching overseas' started by chiefoyibo, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. Are International Schools which are members of organisations such as COBIS better than those which are not?
    Should prospective overseas applicants choose accredited schools?
     
  2. Are International Schools which are members of organisations such as COBIS better than those which are not?
    Should prospective overseas applicants choose accredited schools?
     
  3. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    Here are some facts to counter Hippo's cynical speculations above.
    To be an accredited member of COBIS, a school must undergo inspection by the British ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate. For details, including hundreds of reports on schools in the UK and abroad, visit their web site, http://www.isi.net/ - but suffice to say here that the process involves a team of trained inspectors spending an intense four days at the school, observing classes, sampling students' work and interviewing just about everybody. I worked on an ISI team earlier this year, and a busy and fruitful time it was, both for the inspectors and the school.
    COBIS makes no additional revenue from accrediting schools. Both member schools and affiliates (schools not accredited by COBIS but perhaps by other bodies) pay an annual fee of €4 per student. More about COBIS here: http://www.cobis.org.uk/
    COBIS accreditation, through ISI inspection, may appeal to those schools particularly anxious to emphasise their adherence to standards and practices in the UK (well, England, before the Celtic exceptionalists start braying).
    Another accrediting body is CIS (Council of International Schools) You can learn about them, and study their process and view a list of successful schools, here: http://www.cois.org/page.cfm?p=1
    CIS go about things in a different manner, but here also, a team of experienced and specifically trained educators occupies the school for a week, and like their counterparts at ISI they produce a lengthy written report, make detailed commendations and recommendations, and assess the school's performance against standards in the following areas: Philosophy & Objectives; Curriculum; Governance & Management; Staff; Student Support Services; Resources and Student & Community Life.
    Naturally both bodies ask schools to prepare a self study before the visit, but the study then becomes the object of critical scrutiny in the light of the facts on the ground. Both ISI and CIS have some strict sine qua non requirements in areas like legal compliance, audited accounts, elf n safety.
    Having firsthand experience of both, I would claim that ISI /COBIS and CIS accreditations are worth the time and expense to schools which are serious about high standards and continuing improvement. I also believe that accreditation by either body offers a genuine guarantee to prospective teachers or parents, that the school under consideration is a serious outfit.
    Were I to contemplate abandoning my present sybaritic and overpaid existence to frolic and gambol in pastures new, I would look only at accredited schools.
    Hippo, you lazy old thing, you putrefying pachyderm! Struggle out of your mud-drenched hollow, have a look at those websites, and imagine, if you will, a world in which not absolutely every effort is made only for money.
     
  4. A school without accreditation might be a good school or it might not be but you know that a school with accreditation has a minimum standard to live up to.
     
  5. the hippo

    the hippo Established commenter Community helper

    Well, perhaps there are some organisations that do indeed take this accreditation business rather seriously and maybe there are some good people who are doing their best to maintain standards in international education. On the other hand, one cannot help wondering whether there are some that do not.
     
  6. moscowbore

    moscowbore Occasional commenter

    I feel moved to come to the aid of hippo.

    Having been through a CIS accreditation process I am not convinced that they are not self-perpetuating money-making exercises.

    The self-evaluation stuff consists of a pre-printed set of questions which is sent to each department head to be discussed in department meetings. Most of the questions are incomprehensible and/or irrelevant. Every department gets the same list of questions in primary and secondary.
    Department heads are asked to rate things like opportunities for teachers to influence school policy, opportunities for whole-school meetings. Senior management asked for the "honest" views of some department heads to be changed or they changed them anyway.
    The CIS definition of a "scheme of work" caused much discussion amongst HODs. Not one HOD agreed with CIS but all created a pointless , lengthy document which no-one will ever look at.
    Apparently the CIS people need to pop back periodically to check that all is well. And collect a fee.
     
  7. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    'Most of the questions are incomprehensible...' ...
    No doubt if they are very hard to understand, the people at CIS could explain them patiently.
    ...and/or irrelevant .'
    No obligation to answer questions which don't fit your circumstances. But some danger of arrogance if you decide that a lot of the questions aren't worth your time.
    'Department heads are asked to rate things like opportunities for teachers to influence school policy, opportunities for whole-school meetings.'
    Anything weird or risible about that?
    'Senior management asked for the "honest" views of some department heads to be changed or they changed them anyway.'
    If management at Qatarsoon's school were dishonest and stupid enough to adulterate the honest views of department heads, of course they would have compromised the process - hardly the fault of CIS. Of course a school can dispatch the document in a grumpy or offhand manner rendering it a waste of time and money, just like a Year Nine boy can slash through his geography homework in five minutes: in both cases it depends on how you approach the task and what you want to get out of it.
    'The CIS definition of a "scheme of work" caused much discussion..'
    What 'definition' was that? Standard 2 in Section B does insist that 'The curriculum shall be comprehensively documented', a stipulation which will offend none but the most resolute anarchist, and which gives each department plenty of leeway.
    The usefulness of the 'pre-printed' material, and the wisdom or otherwise of asking the whole school the same questions, are of course matters of opinion. Let's pass on to matters of fact:
    'I am not convinced that they are not self-perpetuating money-making exercises.'
    CIS do charge a slightly higher annual membership fee to accredited schools. COBIS do not.
    'CIS people need to pop back periodically to check that all is well.'
    A half- truth. The full accreditation visit takes place every ten years. In between, there is a five year visit, usually just one or two visitors. Very rarely, there is some special issue which requires an additional visit, arranged between the school and CIS.
    'And collect a fee'
    Simply untrue. CIS team members' travel and accommodation is paid by the school, but they receive no honorarium whatever, nor does the organisation itself charge a fee for the visits.
    Members of ISI inspection teams do receive an honorarium. I trousered a massive £100 for my week's work in February - but if memory serves, the cheque came from ISI itself, not from the school.
     
  8. moscowbore

    moscowbore Occasional commenter

    Dear smtdude,
    Allow me to retort.

    I am simply stating my experience of going through the process.
    We were simply presented with questions which needed answers which were acceptable to our smt.
    Generally speaking we all played the game, gave them the answers we knew they wanted. Some did not and felt the wrath of our smt.
    The definition of a scheme of work we had to work to included individual lesson plans for every lesson for all courses.
    What most of us already had was a statement of what topics had to be covered, when they were to be covered and how long it should take, accompanied by teaching materials, and assessment material. Apparently this was not what CIS wanted. They wanted INDIVIDUAL lesson plans for every single lesson. None of us really understood how anyone without ESP could plan exactly how long each part of each unit would take over a one or two year course down to the level of individual lessons.
    I am not saying that this is the CIS definition of a scheme of work. I am saying its the one we had to work to.

    As for the pre-printed questions. We had HODs getting together in bars to decide on a common approach to answering questions which no-one understood. As to irrelevance, I am referring to questions which simply did not apply. This isnt arrogance. We just didnt see the point of primary teachers answering questions about IGCSE courses and secondary teachers answering questions about golden time.

    In my honest opinion, any teacher self-evaluates and any department should discuss self-evaluations and then make changes to schemes of work accordingly without the need for CIS. A good department makes the teaching and learning of students its primary concern and creates schemes of work custom built to meet the particular needs of its particular students. Any good smt should ensure that good teachers can access the resources they need to create excellent schemes of work. Why do we need CIS to say we meet their criteria?

    Why does CIS exist? Is it another accreditation to justify higher fees? Is it a real attempt to spread good practice?
     
  9. the hippo

    the hippo Established commenter Community helper

    I feel that I ought to come to qatarsoon's aid. Not so long ago, I used to teach at a certain school in Qatar. (No, Mr Moderator, I am not going to name it, but there have been quite a few negative postings about this particular establishment, both on this forum and on the ISR.) Anyway, I recently found out that it had been "accredited", which naturally made me think that this accreditation business may not be all that it is claimed to be. Perhaps some of the organisations that accredit international schools try to do a good job, but my guesss that it is an uphill struggle. International schools have a significantly higher turnover of principals and teaching staff, so standards at the same school are bound to vary.
    A friend of mine is currently teaching Chemistry. The school's one and only fume cupboard does not work and never has done, which makes it impossible for him to do any practical work for Inorganic Chemistry. Of course it goes without saying that the school has just passed its IB accreditation.
     
  10. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    Sorry, Hippo, but the IB doesn't do accreditations. It authorizes schools to offer one or more of the IB programs. The process and requirements are very different than accreditations, though both have in common a form of self study as a starting point. And neither charge a fee for the visits.
    There are excellent organizations that accreditate schools, like COBIS and CIS. There are others I won't name that are utterly worthless and designed to give sub-par schools a facade of credibility. If you haven't heard of the agency that accreditated a school, check it's website and see what other schools it has accreditated. If you haven't heard of those, or know them to be minor league, you know what you're dealing with.
    Any school can try to fake an accreditation process the way Hippo has mentioned. There are other ways to be sneaky too, and a good visiting team can spot them as well. SMT changing the self study is just stupid, it will be found out the minute the visiting team sits down with each department. I won't say it's impossible to succeed at faking, but ....
    I would only consider accreditated schools if I were looking for a new post, or possibly schools that are in the process of getting accreditated.
     
  11. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Occasional commenter

    Correct
    No, 'accredited'.
    'Accreditated' is like 'visitated' or 'organizated'.
    Sorry to be pedantic. (You liar, Mainwaring).
     
  12. catnipbon

    catnipbon New commenter

    Chill out Mainwaring
     
  13. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Occasional commenter

    Living half way up a mountain, I'm so chilled I'm practically refrigerated. Why don't you go and accreditate yourself?
     
  14. the hippo

    the hippo Established commenter Community helper

    So IB authorisation is really much the same thing as accreditation, but it is just not called that. Well, I am so glad that this confusion has now been cleared up.
     
  15. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    Actually, they're fundamentally different. Accreditation requirements are FAR more extensive than IB authorizations. Accreditation includes requirements for governance, finance, health and safety and on and on, things the IB doesn't touch. The IB is interested almost 100% in a school's curricular side, whether they have the plans in place to teach what has to be taught, and whether their philosophy matches the IB philosophy. Where the IB touches anything else, it is only in terms of whether they support teaching the program.
     
  16. the hippo

    the hippo Established commenter Community helper

    Gosh, we live and learn, don't we? Thank you, gulfgolf, for exaplaining the differences between "accreditation" and "authorisation". I am sure that the students, parents and teachers at every IB school all understand these subtle distinctions as well.
     
  17. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Occasional commenter

    They don't, though we old professional sheelbacks are supposed to.
    I had to stand over my Indian IT geeks with a baseball bat to stop them putting stuff like 'accredited to the IBO' on the website. Even after our DP authorization they also wanted to proclaim that we were an 'IB Candidate School' because they thought that meant 'a school which teaches IB candidates'.
     
  18. Mainwaring

    Mainwaring Occasional commenter

    Before anybody asks, a sheelback is a turtle from Tyneside.
     
  19. I would sugges that CIS is worth rather more than COBIS in very many regards...since COBIS is rather too attatched too, and to a degree run by a certain "royal" group pf schools...
    ISI inspection are of varying standard and the views expressed on here show that. Also ISI has a limited view of the true nature of some international schools and the communities they serve. That's not to say that they are "bad" at inspections but OFSTED they more certainly are not in so far as they are not truly independent in my opinion. (though one might argue OFSTED is hardly a shining beacon!)
    there are of course all the American inspection and accreditation regimes (WASC etc) which are of varying degree of importance.
    All in all i would have to say i'm with Hippo on this one and rather cynical of the whole setup. It's very much a boys club with much back slapping in many cases but of all of them i would hold up CIS some way above the others...in my experience of course!
    In terms of IB that's a whole other story :)
     
  20. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    There's no pedantry in distinguishing between the IBO 'authorising' a school to teach its programme and the thorough scrutiny of CIS. And precisely because we went through both processes recently, quite a large number of our students and parents do understand the difference, not a demanding intellectual feat, just one which requires attention to truth and detail..
    As for COBIS, if you peek at its web site (tho' there a some posters who would rather air their mouldy cynicism or mumble conspiracy theories than do such a simple piece of research) you'll see that it is a registered charity managed by an elected executive who are heads or governors at good schools in several countries and give their time gratis. The current chairman is a 'royal', but there is no sense in which that excellent group of schools predominates over an organisation with dozens of members and affiliates who take or ratify the most important decisions at the AGM.
    There is little of the boys' club about an organisation featuring many alpha females including its general secretary. Or perhaps that sneer was more intended to suggest that cameraderie dilutes the rigour of the accreditation, in which case once again it's demonstrably false. If you want a 'club' in that sense, look at certain other regional associations where conviviality definitely takes priority over quality control.
    ISI is aware that it's a British and therefore potentially insular body, and has busily recruited and trained inspectors from COBIS schools so that at least one internationalist is on every visiting team.
    Going back to qatarsoon's thoughtful post, it seems the CIS visit did at least start everyone at that school discussing what constitutes effective planning. No bad thing, surely, to add Schemes of Work to the traditional three Ss of staffroom chatter.
    This is a boring post and will come to an end right now, Unfortunately facts are duller than allegations - but at least I haven't committed a sentence as slack, ugly, weary and flatulent as
    It's very much a boys club with much back slapping in many cases but of all of them i would hold up CIS soe way above the others...in my experience of course!
     

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