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Are accredited schools better?

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

  1. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    We hear that...
    105 schools are affiliated to COBIS.
    Of these, 35 are full members accredited by the organisation, meaning that they have been inspected by the ISI and got a good report.
    This is only just over 10% of the impressive 330 accredited schools boasted by CIS.
    But the numbers will rise, because five other inspectorates have been authorised by OFSTED to give British schools abroad their official ticket (or not). And because, crisis or no crisis, the international schools sector just keeps on growin'.
    All five new inspectorates were on hand at the elegant COBIS conference, to make their pitch to the distinguished networkers gathered there.
    Cachet was conferred on the event by authoritative speeches from the Minister for Schools and the OFSTED supremo. And by the many perfectly toned bodies inside expensively tailored clothes, of course. And by the royal lady who turned up at the end. No, not that royal lady, alas.
    Returning to accreditation, one hears that 'Penta' may clean up the Middle East, where the King of Bahrein fears and loathes the COBIS/ISI axis of evil. But how long will the King remain on his BSME throne?
    The other organisations will squabble over the rest of the pickings - schools in Europe, Africa and Asia not already accredited.
    Will COBIS find the other five organisations as much to their taste as ISI? They are waiting and watching, it seems, under the direction of a new chairman.
    London was mostly sunny, and there was time to shop, with Boots and M&S the main targets in these straitened times, rather than Harrods or Fortnums.
  2. Hi smt dude
    I enjoyed the conference, much better than the NABBS one in Spain. Far better speakers, and actually had quite fun "networking".
    It will be interesting to see what happens re the accreditation inspections. I suspect a lot of schools will opt for one of the shorter, less comprehensive ones rather than sticking with ISI. But at least those options may encourage more schools to have inspections.
    I wonder how COBIS will get on with its first new chairman for 15 years. Will the black tie tradition be upheld, or will there be a revolution? Are the rumours of the impending knighthood true?

  3. SMT dude

    SMT dude New commenter

    No contest, querida.
    Absolutely. Only a very small handful of activities beats networking for unalloyed pleasure.
    I believe the schools already with ISI will stay aboard, but the variety on offer will tempt new schools into the quality assurance game: as you rightly say,
    and that has to be a good thing. I continue to argue that although accreditation is no panacea, it is much better than nothing, provides an excellent opportunity for searching self-study, and offers some degree of guarantee to prospective teachers and parents. Whatever the cynics say.
    It will go from strength to strength. The talent on the executive committee makes the Barcelona dressing room look tawdry. The new chairman is experienced, astute, articulate, charming.
    Peaceful change will be the name of the game: Mao, Lenin and Fidel are not the first names one thinks of in association with COBIS.
    I've always wanted the black tie to become optional. Packing that penguin kit makes the difference between travelling with hand luggage and stowing a case in the hold - although the extra space comes in handy after one has looted a couple of department stores. Being a perverse sort of chap, I'll welcome the change to optional black tie, and then go on wearing it anyway. It absolutely incenses the egalitarians, which is always a laff.
    No, I believe I'll be just plain old Mr Dude for the foreseeable future.
  4. chipsnegg

    chipsnegg New commenter

    Ahh, my dear Dude,
    My current school is all befuzzled by the delightful prospect of a return ISI accreditation visit. Any fool with an eye and a slide rule could tell all is not roses in Ruritania, but our elders and betters insist that our lavatory is unstained with faecal matter.
    I for one am looking forward to the inevitable. And if the inevitable turns out to be unspoken, then ISI has no I for detail or standards, and inspection is merely a pat on the back for devious types that hide truth,
  5. I am not sure of the worth of accreditation from an educational viewpoint after some experience of helping to steer a pretty battered school through a 'successful' ISI accreditation.
    The school was in a poor state largely because of poor governance and the breakdown of a Head who had been promoted beyond his abilities - and I have real sympathy for the poor bloke. He had made some terrible errors and then barricaded himself in his office rather than turn for help to a pretty well motivated staff with a strong interest in seeing their school succeed.
    A new Head was appointed who focused on the process of gaining accreditation with a laser like intensity. But the focus was on the inspection - not on the education (and there was a great difference here). The staff and students were pretty good material and simply needed a bit of Henry V before Agincourt to get them rallied.
    Instead, they got masses and masses of paperwork - the sheer volume of it raised the eyebrows of the lead inspector so high he could hang off the chandeliers with 'em. One Deputy just threw the towel in after a furious row over the introduction of a policy which the school had no students to which it could possibly apply. The other Deputy and the Senior Teacher effectively took over the day to running of the school while the Head concentrated on paper to the exclusion of almost everything else.
    In the end, the Deputy did the Henry V bit and the staff and students responded magnificently. During the inspection, the Head was found in a pool of tears in her office after a report of a bad lesson had reached her, but despite this the school got its accreditation.
    Well done allround?
    Not. The Head effectively wrote everyone but herself out of the report. I was staggered when I read it and noted that several HoDs who had really carried the load got not a sausage (I know they were not allowed to be referred to directly then, but the lead inspector put plenty of praise of their depts into the Draft Report).
    A number of reccommendations were made, three of which were based on submissions written by the Deputy Head who had a clear vision of the way the school wanted to go. The Head never acted on them. One recommendation she did act on was a faulty (but very minor) H&S violation which earned that HoD a written warning.
    Bolstered by the plaudits she had not earned she stayed on at the school for another couple of years, ignoring her more experienced Deputy and ended up almost crashing the school into the ground. I watched that school from a distance for several years (I had friends there after the inspection) and it was a tragedy. It did her career no harm whatsoever, however, as she had put a great deal of effort into bolstering her CV with CPD,NPQH and networking shamelessly. She was appoined to her next post without interview.
    So, the lessons I drew from this process was that:
    1.Inspection made no positive difference to the education of the kids beyond providing a bit of a spur for some extra motivation.
    2. It had several detrimental effects on the quality of education being provided by adding to teachers stress and workloads while distracting them from their jobs.
    3. It made the Head feel really good when she claimed all the credit for the work that others had done.
    In an international context, I suspect that seeking accreditation is really driven by marketing imperatives and again, my experience of it is - in the context of newer or less established schools - something to be avoided like the plague for the following reasons:
    1. In addition to the extra (often pointless) workloads, the owners will demand that the school 'pass' - and it tends to be seen in pass/fail terms rather than a process of self assessment. Failure means that Head(s) will roll.
    2. Given the turnover of staff tends to be much higher in international schools, the worth of this badge to put on your prospectus, is in some doubt because the people who achieved it may well be working elsewhere within a year or so.
    3. An excellent result - however defined - will very often defeat the object of the school, as the more ambitious will take their 'pass', trumpet it at the agencies and move on to other things. A poor result will have the same effect.
    4. Inspectors who come to a country for a few days are easily fooled by Potemkin Tours. This is a regular and much derided feature of OFSTED inspections; how much truer will it be in an unfamiliar culture?
    5. What interest have the Inspectors in failing a shocking school? Follow the money...

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