What’s Your Take on International School Accreditation?

..ISR wants to hear YOUR thoughts on the topic of International School accreditation.  If you’ve been through the accreditation process or worked at an accredited International School, chances are good you have something to Share.

According to a major accreditation agency (who shall remain unnamed), the following characteristics are essential for an International School seeking accreditation:

 “The award of accreditation shows that the school:

  •  is devoted to its mission & vision for students
  •  has thought deeply about the services it offers to students, family and community
  •  invests time and resources for validation from a globally-recognized accreditation authority
  •  focuses on the quality of teaching, student learning, & student safeguarding and well-being
  •  is committed to the development of the students’ global citizenship
  •  has a suitable philosophy of education suitable for its students
  •  promises only what it can deliver
  •  is open to regular evaluation by its own school community and peer evaluators
  •  constantly seeks improvement in all areas of the school plans strategically for the future”

ISR Asks:  Reflecting on the accreditation process in which you participated (or witnessed from the sidelines), how were the foregoing ideals fulfilled by your school? For example,

  • Who determined, and how did your school define, a “global citizen?
  • Did/does your school encourage regular evaluation? (think: International Schools Review)
  • Who selected those teachers personally interviewed by the accreditation team?
  • Do you think the accreditation team may have been swayed by elegant dinners, fancy hotels and off-topic excursions?
  • Why are the needs and well-being of teachers noticeably absent?
  • Is the accreditation process transparent?
  • How were the majority of ideals, as above, quantified during the accreditation process?

Your perspective on accreditation will naturally be different from the standpoint of a teacher as compared to that of an administrator, as well as between that of a department chair and a department member. Should you choose to Comment on this Article, we courage you to preface your Comments with a brief, one-sentence introduction telling us from what perspective you are writing. For example: I am writing as a teacher on the sidelines, principal/director, counselor, teacher who was interviewed, etc.

Please scroll to participate in this Discussion Board


43 Responses to What’s Your Take on International School Accreditation?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not familiar with the IB accreditation process, but with my experience with schools outside of the US seeking to get or renew accreditation through US bodies can be summed up quite succinctly: money changes hands and viola.


  2. Wilbert says:

    My experiences with WASC and IB completely deflated my opinion of both organizations. In one case the school was a complete sham and got through both easily. It was simply unreal.

    I’m sure that the current and former accreditation team members who vouch for the thoroughness and value of the process did so in their cases. But the vast majority of people I know who have experienced the process at lower-middle tier schools (and trust that they aren’t just complaining) felt that the process was a sham. Teachers and staff hoped that it would be a tool to straighten out issues, but they didn’t get much below the surface on anything.

    I’m sure it’s a different process when you visit top-tier highly functioning schools. They are already following best practice. But when it comes to upholding a minimum standard, the bar is far lower than advertised.


    • Andre says:

      I only have experience with WASC, but Wilbert has expertly described my own feelings about that particular accreditation process. The school told numerous out and out lies about professional development, salaries, teacher-student ratio etc which could easily have been checked by the accreditation team. At least half of the critical growth areas identified by WASC after the initial visit were still ‘currently under consideration’ when the committee visited years later. The shortcomings of the school, and the lack of genuine interest or effort in addressing them, should have been plain to see.

      I was so disappointed when the school received accreditation for 6 years.


  3. Emily says:

    What I gather from these comments:

    1) As long as the process in CLEAR to the individuals then it can be rewarding in reflection and improvements.
    2) The directors/supervisors of the process must maintain a healthy hand in showing that this is meaningful and can do so by being organized and purposeful.
    3) Accrediting bodies must take take a look at the make-up of their teams.
    4) Transparency and responses must transcend staff to admin/board and reach the accrediting body without possible interference from aforementioned leaders. Perhaps a pre-survey with mandatory # of respondents from all grouped stakeholders is part of the pre-process.
    5) Leveling the playing field must include access and outreach in terms of teaching AND non teaching staff, offer information in the country and school languages, access to technology, and encourage honesty and anonymity.
    5) Stakeholders from each identified group (teaching staff, non teaching, student, parent, admin, board, etc) must have an understanding of the process and schools must provide access to accreditation-based PD, whether it is conferences or online training annually.
    6) Some accrediting bodies must be more international in their wording – especially standards, benchmarks and the like.
    7) Accrediting must start with the hiring process and see through the exit process (be it graduation or staff departure).
    8) Accreditation wording must offer the same or equal domain standards to staff as it does to students.
    9) Accreditation procedures may include random interviews by the team with stakeholders that have not been chosen by school leaders.
    11) All school surveys must use the RIGHT questions and all school surveys MUST be outsourced , although they may be created by a school and should be revised yearly for effectiveness.
    12) There are more great ideas out there than I can cover in this post.
    13) There are some great schools out there and wonderful teams making progress in supporting institutions. Perhaps these can be case studies available to all others.
    14) Those with the desire to thoughtfully work on some of the accreditation frameworks (WASC, Advanced, CIS, etc) and send brainstorms to some of our working partners (all accrediting agency contacts) are welcome to email me.


  4. Annonymous says:

    The first accreditation I ever went through was at a school trying to get CIS. I had no idea what this was at the time, what it meant to the school, or what a CIS school looked like. I was put into a group every hour after school for months, asked to find evidence that specific mandates existed, even though I was totally new to the school and couldn’t answer most of it. I was told to just scour the school’s database for evidence of certain thing, not knowing what in the world I was supposed to find. We were told that everyone on the staff had to work on it, and nobody seemed at all invested, having either just arrived or on their way out the door. It felt like this was something that was only meaningful to the director, who could put that on his CV and head out to greener pastures. He eventually got it, and left. It was torture, but so was everything at this school.
    The next accreditation was with a WASC. The director was extremely organized, and made sure that our staff was able to accomplish meaningful chunks in specific times. People weren’t put up to tasks that they couldn’t do or answer questions that they couldn’t. It wasn’t a CV booster for the director, and it was only about the school and students. It didn’t even feel like we were going through an accreditation process – we were just being transparent! (Shocking, right?) I actually liked this process, and I thought it made our school reflective.
    I think if a school is doing an accreditation correctly, it should feel like the second example. It should seem like a normal process, and everything makes perfect sense.


  5. Anonymous says:

    Having been teaching for 30 years +, I have experienced numerous accreditation processes, in many countries, including in my home country. If the process is conducted transparently and honestly, then it can be a rewarding experience for a school, and a real opportunity for reflection and growth. However, as mentioned in many of the above posts, there are WAY too many loopholes for administration to skew the documents and supporting evidence, as well as presenting a “rose-coloured glasses” impression for the external accreditation team. Our school is almost finished a duel accreditation, with both ECIS and NEASC – a monumental task, and one that was not carefully coordinated between the two organizations. Our staff is so “over” the whole process, is exhausted, and having chaired one of the committees, I doubt that few real improvements will result from our process. It takes real follow-up work, so it will be interesting to see if this happens.


  6. Diane says:

    So many of these comments are true. I was involved with two accreditation processes both at the same school. The first time I was new to the school so I was not familiar with what was going on. The second time I felt it was a waste of my teaching time. My team member and I were working together with no knowledge of what needed fixing or what was discussed the first time around. As stated in some of the above comments when the accreditation team arrived for the final inspection only a chosen few were involved in discssions. Many colleges look for the international schools accreditation status but do they really understand that for some schools it is just for bragging rights?


  7. ann harris says:

    It is a waste of time, involving entire staff in puffed up busy work in the name of quality while reducing available time better spent on their teaching prep. It gives managers something to do to impress each other and to write a the story they want to propagate.


    • Toomuchdetail says:

      One of the skills I try to teach my students is the ability to support every claim with evidence. I am having a hard time reconciling the experience I had with the actual human beings who are responsible for accreditation in the Asia region — whom I have not always agreed with, by the way — with these vague, negative posts that assert with absolutely no evidence that accreditation is a complete scam. That’s basically what people are inferring here.I have led a WASC committee. Nothing would have made me happier than to take a week, or better yet have SOMEONE ELSE take a week, and write an entire report, only to have our accreditation renewed for six years. Accreditation never stops. You only get longer or shorter times between visits. Why don’t any of the negative posters mention this is a process, not an award?

      I also think it impossible that that we could “cherry pick” teachers and staff to impress a visiting committee. There aren’t that many staff at my school, and even at a large school, I don’t see how its possible the people I know who have gone on visits would not think to ask STUDENTS what was going on while on a visit. Kids don’t lie. They have a skewed version of reality sometimes, but they will not sing the praises of a school that doesn’t treat them well.

      If you are convinced the accreditation is complete BS, then please tell me why colleges insist on accreditation in order to accept a students CV. Why do schools waste their time and money on accreditation? They could spend even more money at EARCOS conferences and recruiting fairs instead of getting accredited to stroke their own egos. I have met many admins of large schools. WASC is not even close to the top of things they brag about. Why? Because it’s MANDATED if a school is attached to an embassy, or if it is approved by the State Department. Accreditation arose out of a need to ensure the education of ex-patriot American children, not because someone’s former shitty principal needed an ego boost.

      Am I happy with the accreditation system? Not completely, but it is valid, there are professionals involved with it, and as I have already shown in a previous post, it is important to both teachers and students.

      There are too many people in America who are intellectually lazy. They would rather condemn a process they don’t understand, or conflate it with petty grievances they want to vent about. It doesn’t help the rest of us who are trying to be professional about all of this affect actual change. If you think accreditation is a joke, prove it is with evidence, or stop badmouthing the process.


      • ann harris says:

        Accreditation is based on a convoluted bureaucratic process of hearsay and thus is not credible. Administrators need to spend more time teaching classes and then they would not have to make busy work for themselves and pass this administrivia on to teachers who have better things to occupy their time.


        • Anonymous says:

          Some accreditation agencies are trying to change this thinking. AdvancED is a good example of positive change in the accreditation process.


      • Debby says:

        I’ve been through accreditation at least four times in two different schools with two different agencies, WASC and AdvancEd. All were a rigorous examination of our teaching practices and outcomes.

        Although the process was was slightly different for each school the ongoing examination of our practices was worthwhile introspection. The time leading up to the visit was an escalation of intense, seemingly annoying busy work, and once it was over the admin did relax a lot, we are not slacking off as we head to the next round.

        The school I’m currently at was denied the first time it applied because it was a relatively new school and still had a ways to go. The administration team used that to the school’s advantage to get essentials needed for the school’s, teacher’s and student’s improvement including a playground, air filtration system (Beijing air, you know), professional development funds, etc.

        I just had to turn in a paper copy of something that is already available online. Annoying, but not difficult because the work has already been done.


  8. janet says:

    WASC accreditation is a scam. I worked at a school in China where the report was manufactured and written by one person in a week without any committees or input. Yes, the school got accreditation.


  9. Anon. says:

    I was on an SMT throughout a pre-inspection visit. With the standards to be addressed well advertised, most schools with an ounce of common sense can easily address them or look to work to address them.
    The process was heavily manufactured and, over a 3 day visit, the members of staff who were asked to meet with the accreditors were very carefully chosen and coached. As a SMT member, I was not one of those chosen nor was I sort after by the accreditation team.
    After the accreditation team left, my Director passed on to me some comments about me – hurtful, untrue and unhelpful – alegedly made by the accreditors behind my back.
    I say this to highlight a major flaw in the system…
    My advice to all visiting teams? It should be mandatory to interview each member of the SMT alone. At your request. Don’t ask each school to put forward their A-team forelock tuggers. If the school really is as unified and well-oiled as their pretty 120-page Google doc says, a one-on-one interview process with all key stakeholders should easily confirm previous thoughts. However a school that hides a senior SMT member raises a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored. As ISR ask above “Why are the needs and well-being of teachers noticeably absent?” Students come first; of which I haven’t got a problem. However, if staff morale and well-being is overlooked entirely (which it usually is) a bias in the overall findings is inevitable.


    • Anonymous says:

      I have been teaching international for many years and have been through the accreditation process many times (I even have training for accreditation). I absolutely concur to everything you have mentioned. Since the last accreditation in my current school (we are being accredited this year), nothing has been done to address key areas of concern and now this year’s current teachers are being worked above and beyond their call of duty.

      Staff morale is ALWAYS overlooked – it is never addressed.

      You made some good points, thanks for sharing.


  10. Chris says:

    The IB strikes me as the one …governing body that promotes really high ideals that most would approve of yet completely disregards pretty much everything it preaches when it comes to accrediting schools. One in particular that I worked in, in Xi’an, China, had numerous unethical practices and structures in place, not one of the foreign teachers felt there was a snowball’s chance… and of course the snowball proved to be fake, made out of all fire-resistant materials… IB has no core principles that it applies to itself. Makes a joke of the whole organization.


  11. Jeremy Craig says:

    I’m a bit outside this space, but I really know of only several instances of schools getting their WASC or IB accreditation revoked. In both cases as a result of the school basically imploding.

    How often does this happen in practice?


    • Anonymous says:

      To be honest, not enough school implode. There is so many privately owned international schools that lack in integrity and equality. I am surprised that there has never been put in place (after all, it is almost 2019) that will out these schools on the onset as opposed to having highly educated professionals find out the hard way. Accreditation needs to fine-tune what they are looking for. I have worked at one school in the Middle East that actually had great opportunity for growth over a 2 or more year period focusing on feedback from previous accreditation. It was well done an provided an opportunity for professional growth for both educator and institute.


  12. Annonymous says:

    In my experience, accreditation is simply a way to pad pockets and provide lip service. In process now and once before at my previous school. At my previous school, there was NO WAY we were ready and prepared for IB accreditation, yet miraculously, we had our visit and were granted IB diploma.
    After that experience, I simply shook my head and went with the flow. Current school is involved in the accreditation process now and based on staffing, we should not be accredited based solely on one segment of the school population which are not serviced, yet we will be.


  13. Ken says:

    Accreditation is a badge schools like to flash around. It does mean certain standards have been met. But it doesn’t correlate with the quality of education within the school, or reduce the corruption of administrators. It does mean lots of extra work for teachers, which is a major distraction from thinking about teaching and students.
    Members of the COIS team are nothing but out-to-pasture administrators, and it is my experience that they do not want to hear anything negative from teachers. In fact they try to quash criticisms from teachers. It’s all a dirty game….play it and get what you can personally, or get out. That’s the ugly reality.


  14. Anonymous says:

    Accreditation is nothing but a mutual admiration society.


  15. Toomuchdetail says:

    I also have been involved in the accreditation process at two different schools. I can only speak to WASC accreditation, which is the governing body of the area I teach in. There seems to be some misunderstanding of both the process and the results.

    First of all, the visiting team does not actually grant accreditation. They write a report, and their input is considered when a body of educators inside the United States grants accreditation. Again, I can only speak to WASC, but no one here mentioned how long their school was accredited for. Accreditation isn’t granted permanently, so a school shouldn’t be “waving” its accreditation unless it got the maximum (WASC ‘s maximum is six years).

    Secondly, I know some of the educators who run the accrediting organization, and they are long-time educators who are familiar with educational research. They visit schools all the time, and any admin who thinks he or she can cherry-pick teachers and get away with it will find that WASC will be back sooner than later. The requirement is that all stakeholders, not just teachers and administration are heard from. And I have personal experience that shows that if not all the stakeholders are cooperative, or if there is evasion, there are issues.

    Do schools that are horrible get accredited? Yes, because accreditation is a process, and the other job of the agencies is to act as consultants. This makes it very frustrating. But what it also means is that the schools, however unpleasant they are to work at, have some system in place. I totally agree with the previous poster that said accreditation agencies should check college performance as a major metric. If a hefty percentage of students don’t graduate from University, that should reflect back on the school that taught them. Yes, schools are supposed to be held accountable to teach the students they admit to “pay teacher salaries” (which was what I heard at a WASC training). However, when they fail, there is no recourse for the misled parents, and certainly no school is held accountable by its accreditation agency.

    Finally, I would like to say that the one thing I vehemently disagree with is that accreditation doesn’t matter to teachers or students. Unaccredited school students must take extra exams in order to get into universities, and sometimes they are not considered until all other students have been considered for acceptance. For teachers who make a career of international teaching, years at unaccredited schools don’t count as years of experience. I have 11 years teaching, but only five years of experience in accredited schools. That’s a substantial difference in payment for a new contract. So we can complain about them and question the integrity and/or agendas of these agencies, but they do matter.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never been directly involved with accreditations but I’ve a friend that was involved with the process and I’ve been interviewed by some “accreditators” (mostly IB). From this perspective it seems that just as usually with most schools everything is about money, the same happen with accreditations. Basically, the accreditation raises some debatable standards that needs to be met and schools that have money and want to get even more money give their money to these institutions. For their part, since these institutions wants to make more money in the future, they never truly revoke the accreditation, mostly slapping the schools on the wrist. It’s rare to see a school missing an accreditation. When this happens, usually is because they simply want to save money. But, as I said, this is my perspective and I may be wrong.


    • Ann Onymous says:

      I’m troubled that a lot of posts seem to show a lot of anecdotal negativity and little evidence. If you say you been interviewed by IB accreditators, I will point out that there is no such thing and the even if there were, the IB does not provide accreditation. They check for conditions that must be met in order to write a report that is sent to the IB to make a decision on authorization. The IB does not dictate dictate many of the aspects that an accreditation team would cover – that is not its purpose. Many of the complaints I read show that the posters don’t know what the IB is responsible for and what it is not responsible for.


  17. Alex van ' t Hof says:

    I have been involved in two accrediting organizations’ processes at all levels except that of a student and parent. I have even been a visiting team member for two and have the inside scoop on just how flawed the entire process is.
    Long story short: it’s a bullying pressure cooker designed to get positive results for the paying school ASAP never mind that teachers rights are completely ignored or fatally misrepresented in the reports. I mention teachers only here because if just they are discounted the accreditation process is fully complicit in perpetuating and condoning bad schools for all stakeholders.
    To be fair, accreditors wouldn’t have to be such scam artists if international schools would be half decent to all stakeholders in the first place.
    I wish you all the best and hope that next year accrediting organizations will revert to helping schools improve the lot of teachers for a start rather than just cashing their checks.


    • Michael Gare says:

      Yes, I agree. Especially WASC accreditation is a massive work load for the teachers. The paperwork doubles the teachers workload. This process alone means that the teachers are so overworked that they cannot teach effectively.


  18. Laitf says:

    Is there a financial incentive for accrediting bodies to accredit a school. That is, of course, a rhetorical question. There is an obvious ‘conflict’ of interests in the whole process, for ‘all’ accrediting bodies, as the accrediting teams return to wherever they have come from empty handed if they don’t accredit a school. The only valid accreding bodies, are, IMHO, IAPS and HMC.


  19. Zippy says:

    Accreditation means zero – My current school doesn’t have it and it’s a great place to work and highly academically successful. My previous school was COBIS accredited and was absolutely terrible. I wouldn’t let a dog work there it was that bad.


  20. Truth is part of education says:

    When accreditation takes place I think the school gives a really rosy picture to the team and it all seems perfect. But in countries where you can get just obtain documents etc where is the real verification?
    I think the team need to look into documents very carefully and see that they were not just printed down the road as many school do that for certificates.
    If your Head is corrupt then that says it all, No names mentioned but being a foreigner in a country does not necessarily mean you are honest, Is bribing part of education?


    • Yes, most often schools try to give a rosy picture of the current situation, however, the accreditation team is presented with a self-report from the school which is then analyzed. The written report has to match the practice and this is what the accreditation team is there for.


  21. Trav45 says:

    It’s a pointless question. If you’re at a good school, it’s a valuable process. If you’re not, it’s like everything else. We just finished accreditation at my current, top-tier school, and everything was fairly seamless and very open. Everyone participated, and the school wanted honest evaluation, so nothing was “hidden under the rug.” At a school in Egypt that I shall only call “the hell-hole,” accreditation was a sham. The owner had two schools, and they shuffled all the library books and equipment back and forth between schools to make them look better resourced.


  22. Rob says:

    I’ve served on 7 accreditation visits to schools around Asia, and in each of those I worked with quality educators who wanted the best for the school (except maybe one team member). I also led the accreditation process at a former school for several years, and we engaged all teachers and staff whose English-level allowed them to engage in the process, and we were a small school which made participation easier. So, for the most part I’ve seen transparency and emphasis on student needs and good work environments. All that said, my current school is not accredited, may not choose to be so, and it won’t break my heart if not!


  23. Anonymous says:

    Wow, such negativity, as someone who has coordinated accreditation processes in schools I have worked in and been on visiting teams I have known nothing but good experiences of accreditation moving forward and even driving school development for the better.
    Being on a team as a volunteer I have experienced a school who tried to put particular groups in front of us but with a large team and triangulation of every aspect of the school process, I think it is hard to hide everything that occurs. Am sure we have missed some things but not everything. Accreditations that cover all aspects of a schools systems are the best ones i think as everything impacts on each other.


  24. Michael Rossouw says:

    Schools want to look good, hence the emphasis on accreditation with these bodies. I was in a school that failed an accreditation visit.
    All had worked hard in the process to achieve accreditation with this particular organization, but it seemed that Admin had failed in some aspect. Both the primary and High school heads were replaced within a week of the news of the school not being granted accreditation. School passed on another attempt with a different agency.


  25. Uma says:

    I am Working in a bilingual school in China that was accredited with IB World Status recently. I joined post-accreditation. I was gob smacked that the school has IB status. In its soul and teaching strategies it is absolutely not an IB school. Textbooks are used to teach all subjects and it is not inquiry led at all. The international aspect is sorely missing too as the school focuses on only American culture.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous says:

      Ib accreditation visits dont always have the same vigour as some and on some cases they do so remontely.


    • I just wanted to emphasize that IB does not grant accreditation, but authorization to function as an IB school. There is a big difference. I was teaching at a bilingual school in Kuwait and they had an IB visit and were granted authorization. As a member of an accreditation agency, who goes often on accreditation visits and being very aware of the standards for accreditation, I was shocked that my school was granted the IB status; but then again, the criteria is less rigorous.


  26. omgarsenal says:

    My 2 experiences of accreditation were both farcical. The accrediting organisations were very cosy with the admin. and owners but very dismissive of any real concerns from staff and teachers. I am extremely sceptical of the validity and reliability of such processes and know that the above comment about a ¨free,all expenses paid trip¨ to a foreign country is right on.


  27. Not again says:

    Personally, I was very disappointed with the accreditation process at my school. The director hand picked the teachers who would have a chance to interact with the accreditation team. Any dissenters were strategically kept from having a chance to interact with the team. like said in the article, my school went so far as to inflate grades in exchange for a “donation” from the parents. It never occurred to the team, or maybe they just weren’t interested, to check the statistics on how many kids went off to US universities and how many returned before the end of the first semester. About 90% failed out because they were not capable of actually do anything academic. They returned home to attend a local university where their parents could purchase their grades. I found the accreditation process to be a big song and dance through which the team got a wonderful, free, trip to a foreign country and the school got a certificate they could wave in the face of parents as they charged absorbent prices for a mediocre education. Gee, trying to get school to give you a new erasure for the white board required an act of God. I can’t say this is true of other schools….I sure hope not.


  28. Marc Koster says:

    It’s a process tightly controlled by school management, and for obvious reasons. They have big players behind them and their career interests. The accreditation team members for obvious reasons don’t want anything rocking their career-related boats. It’s politics, the politics of IB or whatever education. Human nature, you know?


    • As an accreditation team member, I have to contradict you; we don’t have anything to win or lose when visiting a school. If anything, we do it out of our own time, we don’t get paid for it (just our expenses paid for) and it is a very intense process; I remember on one particular accreditation visit, we were in meetings until midnight. Our job is to support schools and help them in their process of improvement.


      • Anonymous says:

        Absolutely correct. To suggest team members have something to gain by giving a positive report is ludicrous. In fact, as a team member you get more complaints for being too harsh. On one team I was on, the school cancelled our dinner on the last night.


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