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September 23, 2006

To seek accreditation or not?

Hello again,

I received the following query recently: I am in two minds whether to go for official accreditation for my school as it is a costly process and will put a lot of strain on my staff. Are there really any benefits of accreditation? My reply was ...

...If official accreditation is not obligatory in your country, then obviously only you can decide whether it is of real value or not. The first consideration is the fairness and robustness of the accreditation scheme. Is it respected by all stakeholders in the filed: school owners, students, teachers, corporate clients, sponsors and agents?

Then the situation locally needs to be considered. If you operate in an area which has a large number of “cowboy” outfits, then official accreditation will help you stand apart from those disreputable organizations. Accreditation should be a form of quality assurance for students and teachers but it will only be so if the scheme itself is widely respected. If accreditation is generally seen as desirable in your location, then it is likely to be a good investment because it will class you with other reputable schools, and students and teachers alike will know that all facets of your operation have been externally validated and shown to meet the industry standards.

To add to that answer, in general I feel that both students and teachers need to know that a school meets certain basic requirements for the quality of teaching, the provision of proper facilities and the propriety of the management. Only adherence to an accreditation scheme can offer such guarantees.In many countries, obtaining this basic recognition opens the door to membership of national or regional assocations that provide additional support for schools to constantly improve the quality of their services.

However, the accreditation scheme itself must be one that commands the respect of the sector and if conflicts of interest arise between the accrediting body and the schools, then the scheme may be compromised. See David Blackie's blog expressing concern over the role of the British Council as both course provider and accrediting body:http://dblackie.blogs.com/the_language_business/.

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