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School Accreditation

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by RUS1, May 8, 2019.

  1. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    @RUS1 think of it like this..

    Let's use Cadbury chocolates. All expats know that the flavour and quality differ. Those destined for the hot climate markets are different because it has to sustain the heat. Does it taste as nice as the UK, US or Aus ones? No, of course not. But if you're really hunging for one you'll buy it because it's Cadbury. It has Cadbury stamped all over the shiny packet. Will it satisfy your craving? Sometimes yes.. Other times no.

    But that's the beauty of the profession and why so many (and their families) become global expats.

    Good luck.
  2. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    Then don't agree.

    An accreditation process is not aimed at parents, teachers or students. It is looking at whether or not a school can deliver what it says it can and whether or not its academic programme is fit for purpose. It is a process that tells other schools and universities that a student moving from that school will have been taught to an appropriate level and standard. Allied to this is concrete advice from experts as to how a school can improve and move forward towards its goals.

    As for meetings, that is little to do with the accreditation protocol and much more to do with how the accreditation coordinator has organised the process. If your schools have had endless meetings, then that is something you need to talk to the accreditation coordinator about. Besides, they occur over a couple of months every five years or so. Hardly onerous.

    There are many accrediting agencies and some are more rigorous than others. Schools will get the ones that meet their needs. If it is some letters after the school name, then they will find the ones that are the easiest to get accredited from.

    If you find the whole process dishonest and worthless, ask yourself why that is and what it says about the schools where that has taken place.
    dumbbells66 likes this.
  3. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    I agree with this.

    Accreditation as a tick box exercise to get letters or a logo is cynical and won't significantly improve any school.

    Accreditation as part of a process of continuous improvement is a much different thing. It can be, should be, and is a valuable construct for helping to guide and shape schools that are doing good things for their students.

    As to this observation:

    'Meetings. Do they really achieve anything? So many teachers have e-mails to write, reports that need to be proof-read, teaching resources that should be prepared and so on. So what is the point of yet another meeting about accreditation?'

    This, I think, comes from a perspective of 'leave me alone to do what I want'. Which is okay some of the time, but I take exception to it as an overarching view of all meetings.

    What is wrong with taking time to improve what our schools do? With collaborating and connecting with others to do this?

    As ever it's a question of perspective. If you approach such happenings cynically then that's what you will get from it. And the opposite is true.
    gulfgolf and dumbbells66 like this.
  4. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    I’ve been several accreditations over the past 40-odd years. Some have been both onerous and of little value whilst others have been relatively painless and have led to valuable insights into what we THOUGHT we were doing well but really weren’t. I think Karvol is correct in suggesting that a great deal depends on the skills and attitude of the Coordinator(s). If they go into the process with an open and constructive attitude, recognizing that we’re all busy professionals, then the experience can be valuable and relatively painless. If, on the other hand, they look on it as a hoop to be jumped through to get the requisite piece of paper, then it can be frustrating and almost worthless...
  5. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    No, Karvol. As soon as a school starts considering accreditation, what happens to the number of pointless, mind-numbingly boring meetings that start to happen?

    I will make it easy for you, Karvol. There are three main possibilities.
    (a) The number of meetings goes down.
    (b) The number of meetings stays the same.
    (c) The number of meetings increases.

    You say that the meetings are not "onerous", but they certainly are when you start to have them every other day. What about teaching? Or marking your students' work? Or preparing educational resources? Surely those things are more important than accreditation?

    As for the idea that the teachers "get something from it", I have to ask, "What can most teachers get, when their time is wasted and they have better things to do?"

    And no, accreditation is not about showing that "a school can deliver what it says it can". Accreditation is about whether the teachers can produce enough pieces of paper that have little or nothing to do what actually happens every day in the school and that no one will bother to read, once the worthless accreditation process is over.
  6. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    So, you've had bad experiences of the process and/or just view it with cynicism.

    Tell me what's wrong with a school wanting to improve, reflecting on what they're doing and using accreditation as a process to do this? What's wrong with spending time on getting better and involving everyone in this?
    dumbbells66 likes this.
  7. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    Your response is clearly based upon your experiences. Perhaps you should look for better schools to teach in.
  8. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    I thought he already had another job working for the Bulgarian tourist board ;)
  9. frogusmaximus

    frogusmaximus Occasional commenter

    I was at an International school when we sought CIS accreditation and one of those responsible for writing and presenting documents. I think the whole thing is
    [This comment/section/image has been removed for breaching our Community Guidelines/Terms and conditions] and an utter waste of money.

    Staff bust a gut to get this thing over the line putting in countless hours and the costs were no doubt horrendous, all paid for of course by the parents. One of the senior staff privately told me he would be leaving soon after due in part to the process which he did not want to come back and bite him. He left within a year.

    When CIS asked questions about the school, the important ones that would have highlighted serious deficiencies were overlooked. Instead the senior staff sucked up to the CIS team. My specific area was a significant one in terms of teaching and it was almost hardly covered. Part of the process requires you to identify areas of weakness and put forward proposals of how you will address them in future. No effort was made to do that and CIS have expressed zero interest in following that up despite a procedure that says they will. During the visit, resources that infringed copyright laws were conveniently hidden and basic questions about how teaching was supported would have revealed an obvious black hole. None were asked.

    Senior staff were delighted when we got accreditation; of course it makes them look good. The staff were quite shocked as it confirmed we had successfully hidden our weaknesses. Why would CIS not want another international school under their wing as it gives them more money and prestige.

    Don't play this game. No parent ever makes a choice based on accreditation. Save your money and invest it in new reading books.
    the hippo likes this.
  10. frogusmaximus

    frogusmaximus Occasional commenter

    Sorry Hippo. I wrote my post before I read yours. Spot on in so many ways.
    the hippo likes this.
  11. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    As has been said before, development is a two way street. A school can fake whatever it wishes to fake but, ultimately, it is only cheating itself. Pretty much like a student that gets hold of a past paper and studies the answers before a mock exam.

    If a school is willing to lie and obfuscate to get accreditation, then it is more than likely the sort of place that will not invest in new reading books. If it is the type of school that is always wishing to improve, then it is probably the type of school that starts an accreditation process with an open mind and willingness to take advice and act upon it.

    Accreditation is for school improvement. If a school is not wishing to improve then it shouldn't bother with it. An accreditation cycle cost around 50k USD or so. There are much more useful things a school can spend that money on, rather than a few letters to post on its website.

    Your experiences are based upon the schools that you have worked in. There are other schools that have much more positive views and experiences regarding accreditation.
    dumbbells66 likes this.
  12. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    well said
  13. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Dear frogusmaximus, yes, you are absolutely right. Accreditation is often a waste of time (and money). Does it always have to be that way? Perhaps not. Thinking about how to improve your school is a good thing, of course, and I suppose that getting accredited might sometimes be a catalyst for positive, helpful changes. However, my experiences of the accreditation process, both in China and in Qatar, were not positive ones.

    One incident from my Doha days sticks in my mind. As part of our preparation for accreditation, we had a long-winded and rather pointless meeting about "mission statements". What a lot of hot air and irrelevant nonsense! The very next day, a Spanish boy in my class was rushed off to hospital with suspected head injuries, after a basketball stand had fallen onto him in the playground. (The bases of the stands should have been filled with water or cement or something, but they were empty and therefore very unstable.) I made my thoughts and feelings very clear to the headteacher, as did the parents of the boy who was injured. About a week later, I was on duty in the playground and I checked the basketball stands. Nothing had been done. The bases of the stands were still empty and therefore they could easily be knocked over. I will not repeat on this TES forum what I said to the head, as soon as my break duty was over. Perhaps we should be charitable and conclude that he was too busy dreaming up mission statements and thinking about accreditation, so he did not have enough time to consider minor things like the safety of the students or the staff.
  14. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    I am very much a fan of properly thoughtful accreditation processes, as well as a fan of safety. Happily I’ve found both things to be easily compatible.
  15. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    And what exactly has your story to do with accreditation, other than you attended a meeting to do with mission statements?

    You are highlighting a poor school with an ineffectual head who does not have the safety and well being of students as a focus.

    So, did you make sure that the base was made fit for purpose? Or does your responsibility for student safety only extend to what you may or may not have said to the head?
  16. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    A story about the dangers of accreditation....

    I went to a meeting once. It was about mission statements. Then I went to a meeting about accreditation.

    Later on, I fell off my bike and broke my arm.

    I blame, and hate, mission statements. And accreditation.

    The end.
    Karvol and dumbbells66 like this.
  17. frogusmaximus

    frogusmaximus Occasional commenter

    I'm confused. People justifying accreditation because it will help raise standards. Are the people running the school incapable of making informed decisions themselves? Why seek accreditation, paying out loads of money in the process, in order to improve?

    I've never worked in a school where it wasn't pretty clear to the staff where substantial improvements could be carried out to improve work efficiency and teaching quality. Asking experienced professionals who have worked in different environments, adopt a professional approach to their careers and are well trained to know what they should be doing and the obstacles they face, would generate a substantial list of items that would significantly improve a school.

    My accreditation experience was a process that generated a list of weaknesses and recommendations to cover every aspect of the school, a useful list, most of which was subsequently ignored. Sure, you can criticise the school leaders for their fruitless self promoting aims - they did indeed want some letters on their website because the rival school had them - but otherwise I really don't understand why anyone chooses to pay an outside body to receive the same results you could generate yourself for free.

    The truth of the matter is that leaders have different goals to teachers, whose aims are ironically pretty pure and focus on teaching and learning, and every year decisions are made by senior management that cost the school a bundle of cash and do little to move forward the primary purpose of the school. The irony is that in pursuit of improving the teaching and learning, the children and the parents receive the direct impact and spread the word, and the aims of the leaders - raising the profile of themselves and the school - would also be fulfilled.
  18. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    Schools get accredited for the same reasons that other institutions get accredited, inspected, licensed or authorized: to prove they are a “proper” institution, according to objective, external standards and examination. I prefer my hospitals, mechanics, hotels and, yes, schools, to have gone through such a check.
    Just because a staff member or group can see what needs doing, doesn’t mean there will be agreement or commitment to get it done. Accreditation, when done properly, provides both. And interim reports to the agency require schools to give updates on their progress towards agreed standards, goals and projects.
    Not all schools get it right. But undertaking a proper process and getting an external check is a better indicator than “we’ll be fine, who needs them?.
    the hippo and dumbbells66 like this.
  19. Penny10p

    Penny10p Occasional commenter

    I have been in schools where the accreditation process has meant a huge increase in workload for staff, who have to attend several meetings about it and provide lots of evidence in the format the the accrediting body require. I don’t think teachers would take a negative view of accreditation if it didn’t put such a strain on already over worked teachers. I’m waiting for the day when an accrediting body suggests that a school could improve by cutting down on p
    the hippo likes this.
  20. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    For once, I have to disagree with old gulfers. If an SLT want to do some accreditation-related things, I do not really have a problem with that. The problem comes when the accreditation process means more work for the teachers, usually when they already have their hands full with writing end-of-term reports or parents' meetings or arranging sports fixtures. What seems to happen in some schools (perhaps not the majority) is that the SLT push most of the work of gathering (or fabricating) the "evidence" and attending more meetings onto the teachers and then they take all of the credit, the praise and the payrise for themselves if or when the school finally passes its accreditation.

    As for this idea that some sort of official stamp is a guarantee of quality, I have to say that this is not always the case, alas. In Bulgaria, I was once given the Bulgarian equivalent of an MOT for my car. The "inspector" never even bothered to open the car door. He certainly did not open the bonnet or switch on the engine. If the accrediting bodies have a financial incentive to accredit as many schools as possible, then how independent and how rigorous are they going to be? quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Yes, of course there are many very good international schools that see accreditation as an opportunity to double-check that they really are doing their best for their students. How could anyone object to that? Unfortunately not all international schools approach accreditation in this way. For example, I was at one school where all of the staff, both expat and local, had to attend all of the accreditation meetings. Most of the local staff had good English, but they just did not understand most of the accreditation jargon and the educational gobbledegook. (I must admit that I did not understand some of it myself!) No one translated anything, so the local staff could not really take part or make any worthwhile contribution.

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