Selecting an international school: Tip #4 – Is the school accredited? If so, by what international and local bodies?
September 25, 2012
What reasons do parents think about when selecting a school for their children when they move abroad? Are they similar reasons for why teachers choose to work at a school abroad as well? There are many kinds of international schools and they are all in different situations. How important is finding out about a school’s accreditation status? It could be beneficial to ask these types of questions at your interview, before you make any big decisions to move or choose a school to work at. So, how do you choose the right international school for your children to attend or for you to work at? Our new blog series will discuss the Tips for Selecting an International School.
Tip #4 – Is the school accredited? If so, by what international and local bodies?
International schools intentionally seek various forms of approval and accreditation as assurances to its students, parents, employees, and community that quality and excellence drive educational decisions. Countries have governmental standards that schools must meet in order to have local approval. Schools generally follow specific steps to apply and meet approval status through the country’s Department or Ministry of Education and are monitored for annual renewal of the approval status. This standardization is important for students and parents to have proof that the school provided an education that had to meet specific standards and provide some basic assurances of quality.
Accreditation takes the quality assurance factor to the next level of focusing on the processes used within a school to provide a high level of excellence not only in the “end product” of a quality education, but it examines the manner in which that excellence is achieved. As in the previous blog post in this series, which focused on the value of international schools having a Vision, accreditation looks at what the school does and how it provides for an internal and external examination of its programs and processes: how decisions are reached within the school itself, what programs are offered that have international value, how student achievement is documented and used to increase learning, and to what extent the greater community is informed and included in the life of the school. Accreditation not only looks at meeting quality standards; it requires that schools be engaged in a continuous improvement process so as to give its constituents long-term quality assurances.
Why is it important for a school to seek and obtain international accreditation? Often international schools obtain multiple levels of approval and accreditation to demonstrate commitment to excellence for parents who are making educational decisions and educators who are seeking meaningful career experiences. Let us take a look at what you should know about the processes involved in international accreditation.
The Internal Process can take one to three years of collaborative examination by the Head of School, the Faculty and Staff, the Governance Board, Students, Parents, and members of the local community. The Standards or Required Elements for accreditation become the work of focus groups that look at the present reality, then, using the Vision, set forth a map of how the school can improve and how that improvement will be assessed and sustained over the years. After much collaboration, data gathering, and communication, a formal report is usually prepared and submitted to the accreditation agency.
The External Process will likely include an on-site visit by a team of highly experienced educators with specific areas of expertise who have the responsibility of examining evidence to validate the school’s formal report. This visit includes several days of interviews as well as classroom visits to observe the quality of instruction and the depth of student engagement, critical thinking, and application of knowledge.
The Accreditation Report that the visiting team provides will likely include a level of accreditation recommendation for the school and most importantly, that report will give direction and focus for the school to provide on-going quality educational programs for its students.
What has been described in this article is indicative of extensive work by a cross-section of a school and its community stakeholders. So who benefits from this work?
School Owners and Directors are members of a highly competitive market. International accreditation gives added distinction to a school that sets it apart from many others when parents are looking for excellence. It also attracts quality teacher applicants for employment.
Teachers and Prospective Teachers who seek employment in international schools want to be in schools of excellence where there is a strong vision and the internal human support and programs that enable them to perfect their teaching skills. They also want their years of experience to be recognized by other educational agencies should they seek graduate school acceptance or transfer to other parts of the world. It is important to note that when an international school is going through an accreditation process the teachers (and everyone else basically) have to spend much time and energy to gather and fill-out all the paperwork involved! It can be quite an intensive few years for teachers (and all other stakeholders too!).
Governance Boards appreciate direction for their decisions which accreditation defines. It is added assurance that as a Board, decisions are intentional and supportive of the standards set forth in accreditation.
Parents want the best possible educational experiences for their children. Often they feel inadequate in evaluating schools and programs, so the quality assurance component of international accreditation, can aid them in this important decision. Additionally, international accreditation gives parents assurances that the education their children received will be viewed favorably by other schools and universities in admission to future institutions, transfer of credits, and possible scholarship acquisition.
Students are the direct beneficiaries of international accreditation. Behind the scenes, educators are required to have on-going analysis and refinement of programs and activities so as to consistently provide an education of excellence. As mentioned previously, student records indicate international accreditation for the purposes of transfers, admissions, and scholarships.
The community benefits from schools of excellence that are providing quality education; it becomes an added value and attraction to the area. Corporations want to be established where high-performing schools prepare citizens for the 21st century workforce and generate sustained excellence for community growth.
International accreditation is a continuous process of internal and external conversations and review of what is happening inside and outside a school to prepare creative and productive problem-solving people for international stability in an ever-changing society.
On International School Community all school profile pages have a topic in the School Information section that specifically addresses the accreditation status of each school. The topic is called “What types of accreditation does this school have? When is the accreditation up for renewal? Any religious affiliations?”
For example on the Seoul Foreign School’s profile page there have been 3 comments and information submitted so far on this topic:
If you are an international school community member currently working abroad, please log-on today and submit your comments and information about your school’s accreditation status.
If you are not a member yet, make sure to join www.internationalschoolcommunity.com and become a part of our over 1100 members. Many of our current members have listed that they work at over 200 international schools around the world. Feel free to send these members a message with your questions about an international school’s accreditation status and get firsthand information about how the accreditation process is going for them.