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School Accreditation

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

  1. frogusmaximus

    frogusmaximus Occasional commenter


    Look, of course I get this.

    Maybe the weaknesses as I see them are not what are considered 'major' weaknesses at all. Is the school offering good education? Sure. Is it a proper institution seeking to deliver on its primary focus? Sure. Bang, the accreditation did its job. But to be honest, parents already at the school would see that without needing an audit.

    Standout issues were in the the planning and teaching of the core subjects and the fundamental inconsistency in how different parts of the school was managed, with individuals acting independently of each other. I can accept that maybe these are seen as key issues only to those within the organisation but surely, if the process is about improvement, why not address them.

    No one from the accrediting group asked the key questions that would have opened the door to these issues. Now why was that? Isn't it meant to be a thorough assessment? Were they suckered by management who wined and dined them over a couple of weeks? Or were they simply happy to go through the process since of course it's more money and another name on their roster?

    My impression was the team who visited decided almost immediately that we were a school who fitted the general criteria and then went through the motions.

    Of course, as has been said, the process isn't about finding a perfect school but identifying and addressing areas that can be improved in the future so those goals are reached. Accepted. So what has happened since? Minor interaction with leadership and a bit of paper proof that the cogs are turning at leadership level, but on the ground, no attempt by the leadership to address the identified weaknesses throughout the reporting document. We got away with it.
  2. frogusmaximus

    frogusmaximus Occasional commenter

    Are you insane?

    Surely any expat in the tropics knows, after one taste, to avoid all Cadbury's products for ever until back home. Parents even return from their holidays bringing me bags of chocolate delight. Cadbury's is utterly horrible with their anti-melt additives or whatever it is they pop inside. It satisfies no craving at all at any time, and I have a masters in the fine art of chocolate consumption. In fact. i'll go out on a limb here and say that even the local market offers up a comparable alternative in quality to that item that Cadbury's stupidly choose to stick their branding all over. I feel for the local who has never tasted proper chocolate and will go through life wondering what all the fuss is about.

    Simply put, you've got to pay out the big bucks and go down the import route, no matter what the cost.
  3. Penny10p

    Penny10p Occasional commenter

    Grrr. My last post was cut off half way through, and I have just typed and posted a reply to Hippo ( who I agree with) and it disappeared! Testing to see what happens to this one.
    the hippo likes this.
  4. miketribe

    miketribe Established commenter

    As someone above said, the visiting team is just supposed to report on to what extent the school is meeting the educational goals it has set itself according to the documentation it has provided.
    This CAN be valuable, but OTOH, sometimes the time-consuming process by which the documents are prepared can be very frustrating. All-too-often, it’s an exercise in achieving a false consensus in accordance with whatever bee is in the bonnet of the current administrators.
  5. mikemcdonald25

    mikemcdonald25 Occasional commenter

    While I agree with some of Karvol's comments on accreditation, I have to say he seems to be talking about what accreditation should be used for, rather than what it is used for.

    While I am sure that there are good schools out there that do use it for all the fine outcomes he mentions there are also lots of schools that just use it to attract parents and teachers, and to convince others that they are a good and proper school when they are not.

    Also some countries insist on some form of accreditation (usually CIS) before they will grant a licence to a school and yet those countries are replete with schools run by property developers and other crooks.
  6. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    You have more or less got it correct.

    There are many accreditation agencies out there, with different philosophies and protocols.

    Accreditation is not cheap and it is a major undertaking by a school. I have worked for a number of accreditation agencies over the years and I always wonder why schools who are not invested in improvement bother with it. The letters that the school gets after its name are useful but 50k useful with all the opportunity cost that comes with it, if a school is not invested in improvement?

    One of the things I do is visit schools that are applying for reaccreditation and advise them on issues that they need to work on. Sometimes it is fairly easy but quite often it is difficult and there are heated discussions that take place with heads and other senior leaders. At times, schools are unable to do the right thing due to circumstances beyond their control (government requirements for example) and, at times, they don't want to do the right thing. In those circumstances, when we feel that a school will not achieve accreditation, we either delay the process or advise them to withdraw.

    As for the points made that the accreditation team don't ask the really important questions, the answer is that they do, but not to general faculty but to senior administration. Accreditation teams are under strict instructions that they cannot create conflict in the schools that they visit. Evaluation team members, by and large, are very experienced and adept at reading between the lines. It is easy to spot things that have been put up recently, work on the walls clearly of a quality that does not represent what is being seen in the classrooms, issues to do with faculty, support staff and management, etc. There is nothing to be achieved by going into a school and telling the faculty and staff that everything is awful and that they should leave. It is highly unprofessional and does not improve the school. Everything that is done is with the aim of school improvement, however small it may be.

    If posters feel that the evaluation teams are not doing their jobs properly, then say so or apply to join a team. They are always looking for new members.
    gulfgolf and dumbbells66 like this.
  7. taiyah

    taiyah Occasional commenter

    Yes... Well. You hit the nail on the head! Those poor locals who continue to waste their money buying those fake and low quality Cadburys.

    Those poor locals going through life without knowing how Sparrow and all the rent a name private schools should really work.
  8. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but what Karvol seems to be saying is yes, accreditation can be rather expensive. Secondly, there are situations when schools that want to be accredited are "blackballed" and they are told no, you are not going to be accredited because you do not cut the mustard. Thirdly, he seems to be admitting that there are quite a few organizations that do accreditation and they operate in different ways. Therefore some accrediting agencies do a good job, but he might be implying that there probably are others that are not so thorough. But if there is no real consistency, then does this invalidate the process? And if "accreditation" means different things to different people, then is it really going to be a vehicle for positive change?

    Well, yes, I have to say that I more or less agree with these points that Karvol has made, if in fact I have understood them correctly. And maybe Karvol knows a lot more than I do about how accreditation teams interact with SLTs. I was looking at accreditation from the point of view of an ordinary teacher, who sees it as more work and more meetings. While I accept the truth of what Karvol has said, I still say that many teachers think that accreditation is mostly a waste of time, although it might be an opportunity for the SLT to pat themselves on the back. If some quite rubbishy schools can get accredited, then does accreditation really prove anything?

    Even if the accreditation team were to suggest some ways in which a school might improve, Karvol admits that their suggestions may not in fact be acted upon. He mentions local government control and I remember that in Qatar there was something called The Supreme (And Absolutely Perfect) Education Council. But then of course there are lots of other factors, such as the parents and the owner (or owners) of the school. Given these constraints, does it really seem likely that the accreditation process is actually going to achieve anything? If there were some positive changes that could be made, then it seems likely that a good SLT would have already have made those changes.

    A lot of the educational jargon, gibberish and "accreditation-speak" that you will hear at most accreditation meetings is unintelligible to many teachers who do not have English as their first language. (I asked my TA, whose level of English was very good, what the meeting was all about and she could not tell me. When I asked her if she thought that most of the local staff really understood what the accreditation meeting was about, she told me that most of them did not understand what had been said.)

    Now someone might say, "Yes, but that is just bad management. There is nothing actually wrong with accreditation itself." Yes, but accreditation ought to be one way in which a school's management team is corrected and pointed in the right direction. The bad news, unfortunately, is that the proportion of scummy international schools seems to go up each year, so my conclusion is that accreditation is not a silver bullet and it is not really making much difference. The good schools actually don't need it and the scummy ones won't change because of it.
  9. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    This does seem to be one of those cases where compelling arguments, points and counterpoints won’t get the job done.
    Perhaps, as change theory suggests, it is a case where, in order to change a naysayer’s mind, it would be necessary for said naysayer to actually participate in a functioning accreditation process. You’re welcome to my school anytime. We take it seriously, involve almost everyone (even have language-specific groups at some points), and keep the meeting schedule as reasonable as possible. Real change happens as a result.

    Having said all that, I know it’s still true that some schools haven’t figured it out.
    Mr_Frosty and dumbbells66 like this.
  10. mahipaul

    mahipaul New commenter

    I'm gonna throw in my two cents for what it's worth.

    I've been part of an IB school that went through the 5 year review. IBO is financially driven I think, however, the programs and curricula they deliever are top notch, so that is worth something big.

    I'm also part of a school going through CIS accreditation, I think CIS has lost it's worth. Furthermore, I tihnk CIS like IB is financially driven.

    However, I don't know if others are familiar with ROUNDSQUARE, I don't believe they are an accreditation program or not, but their list of schools only number 200 schools. They are in 50 countires: https://www.roundsquare.org/our-schools/

    I used this site as a barometer for when I was applying for a new position. The schools are very reputable and would trend towards the better end of the spectrum.
  11. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    mahipaul, you have mentioned that the IBO and CIS are both "financially driven". So does that mean they are both equally good or equally bad? If you think that the IBO accreditation process is superior to CIS, then could you please explain why that is the case?
  12. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    Round Square is a group of schools which roughly follow the philosophy of Kurt Hahn. Essentially, the chap who founded the UWC movement (and something to do with Gordonstoun) which is the reason the IB has the CAS program. It is not an accreditation service.

    The IB has an evaluation, not an accreditation. They are only concerned with the IB program and nothing else.

    There is no school that is purely non-profit. Each school has an operating budget and, in order for that budget to be available in future years, it has to make more money than it spends. If it doesn't, there will not be funds available for growth and times will get hard. Throw in a fallow year or two for student enrollment and the writing will be on the wall.

    The future of education is of educational groups buying up schools and increasing student numbers. There will be problems, but no one really cares, other than teachers, and no one listens to them anyway.
    mahipaul likes this.
  13. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Oh dear! A rather pessimistic view from Karvol. If he is correct, then will accreditation really change anything?
  14. frogusmaximus

    frogusmaximus Occasional commenter

    This thread reminds me very much of the accreditation process.

    A lot of effort put in trying to report on the same thing in many different ways.
    mahipaul likes this.
  15. gone east

    gone east New commenter

    An accreditation would usually generate well over 100 recommendations for a school and roughly a dozen or so major ones. The school (The leadership) has to respond to these and show a plan to deal with them.
    Now, it is not up to a bunch of strangers to tell a head how to run her school. So the recommendations tend to be worded along the lines of 'The SLT examine blah blah to look to improve x, y or z. This does give plenty of wiggle room but they have to respond. Good schools will get value for money out of this process and will look to improve less well run ones will not and will, in effect, have wasted a huge amount of time, money and effort. A fresh pair of eyes is useful. As someone else said above, just because you are not involved in a conversation does not mean it does not happen.
    CIS looks at a school from the view of all members of the community. So, if the parents are OK with things, the students aren't moaning more than usual, the owners are happy, then the fact that the teachers feel that the owners are a bunch of charlatans/fools is of far less importance.
    I have been a part of numerous CIS and WASC accreditations and I can assure you that I have never come across anyone on those teams who does not take the responsibility of judging a school very seriously and is in it to help the school improve.
  16. topquark

    topquark New commenter

    I would say that from my own personal selfish opinion, my accreditation criteria tends to be derived from first hand teaching experiences on this very forum and the general thread of plausible comments on ISR.

    Perhaps the moral of the story, from a teacher's point of view, is only apply to schools with good or no reviews on ISR and no accreditation or alternatively schools which have moved on from their successful, but frenzied accreditation phases.

    Avoid applying to schools who intend to go through the process of accreditation or are currently undergoing the process, otherwise you could end up getting a stainless steel Olympic medal for jumping through hoops.
  17. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    gone east, I have to say that on the whole I agree with topquark.

    It was more than twenty years ago that this smelly old hippo left the UK. During that time, I have been teaching in a few different places and I have met (or e-mailed) one or two international teachers. So are international schools getting better? Or worse? I am sorry to say it, gone east, but it seems to me that there are more scummy schools each year, more schools that get dreadful reviews on the ISR and some of the ghastly things that are happening in the UK seem to be seeping into international education. Well, that is my impression, for what it is worth. So is accreditation a new broom that will sweep clean? As topquark argues, for most teachers it is really just a rather pointless exercise in hoop-jumping.
  18. gulfgolf

    gulfgolf Established commenter

    Jumping geraniums, batman! Over 100? I'm happy to report I've never seen that many on any accreditation (or IB authorization) report. Not in the schools where I was employed, and not on the teams I joined for CIS, NEASC or the IB. And I would question the wisdom of that many - accreditation teams should help schools focus on what is most important, so that the schools can likewise focus. Too many recommendations would more likely create chaos.
  19. gone east

    gone east New commenter

    I too left Blighty 20 odd years ago and have worked in a number of schools in that time. Certainly agree with you about bad habits from the UK seeping into International schools. Lots of the schools I know recruit from the UK or at least UK trained teachers so habits from there will start to come in. Lots of poor managers who have no people skills or understanding of how an international school differs from a UK one, even one with a diverse intake. Others with little idea how to teach a clss of EAL learners. Although I do find the young colleagues I am recruiting from the UK are really, really good and like the less intense atmos and the respect I try to treat them with a boon.
    On the number of scummy schools out there.... Numbers of all international schools have rocketed so therefore so have the rubbish ones. Is the % higher? Don't know, but I would guess so too. Too many people now see them as a chance to make a quick buck and that causes conflict with teachers ideals. It doesn't have to though. No reason why you shouldn't make a profit by providing tip top education and charging accordingly. So long as the owners are open and honest then I see no problem. If they want to cut corners to cream off even more, then, one would hope, the 'customers' would foxtrot oscar and force them to change their ways. This growth can't go on forever in every market and sooner or later fingers will be burnt and some will drop out of the 'market'. 'Customers' will become more sophisticated over the coming years and discerning about what they are buying (again, one would hope).
  20. moscowbore

    moscowbore Lead commenter

    Seems to be two schools of thought here. Those that value accreditation and those who see it as an academically pointless exercise.

    My own experience is that accreditation just leads to teachers producing pointless documentation which just sits on a shelf.

    I agree with those that have observed the abominable data nonsense creeping into international schools. The increasing use of "assessment weeks", flightpaths and "interventions" and the associated tracking are all much more noticeable. I get a special chill from international schools proudly advertising their adherence to OFSTED requirements.

    I also bemoan the increase in the number of international schools. They are predominantly profit-making exercises. The percentage of international schools which treat their staff well is decreasing. It is becoming harder to find a good international school. The owners run these schools. Accreditation to them is simply a badge which goes on the website and attracts more customers.

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