Does it matter if an international school is accredited?

International schools are becoming increasingly popular as more and more families seek a high-quality education for their children that is grounded in an international perspective. One important aspect of international schools is accreditation, which is a process through which an independent organization evaluates and certifies that a school meets certain standards of quality and performance. Many international schools are accredited by the Council of International Schools (www.cois.org), whilst those with a British identity are accredited by the Council of British International Schools (www.cobis.org.uk) Both of these organisations are long established and have excellent reputations with the international sector. Similarly, many international schools with an American identity are accredited by bodies such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (www.neasc.org/) or the Middle States Association (www.msa-cess.org) Moreover, in some cases, schools may be accredited by more than one of these bodies.

There is a tendency among those working in international schools to assume that schools who have undergone an accreditation process are more credible than those who have not, but is this really the case? In this article, I will discuss the pros and cons of an international school being accredited and whether accreditation is an effective way to advance inclusion via diversity, equity, and anti-racism.

One of the main benefits of an international school being accredited is that it can provide parents and students with peace of mind when it comes to the quality of the education that they are receiving. Accreditation means that the school has been evaluated by an independent organization and found to meet certain standards of quality, which can include things like curriculum, facilities, and teacher qualifications. This can be especially important for parents who are considering an international school for their child, as they may be unfamiliar with the educational system in the country where the school is located. The fact that the school has been endorsed by an external agency certainly adds to the schools credibility and provides some degree of quality control within a sector of education that is largely deregulated.

Another benefit of an international school being accredited is that it can help to ensure that the school is providing a well-rounded education that prepares students for the globalized world. International schools are often designed to provide students with a more diverse and global perspective than traditional schools, and accreditation can help to ensure that this is actually happening. For example, an accreditation organization may require that the school has a certain percentage of students from different cultural backgrounds, or that the school offers classes that cover global issues and perspectives.

On the other hand, there are also cons to an international school being accredited. One of the main cons is that the accreditation process can be time-consuming and expensive for the school. In order to become accredited, a school may need to spend a significant amount of time and resources on preparing documentation, undergoing inspections, and making any necessary changes to the school. This can be a significant burden for schools, especially if they are not able to secure funding to cover the costs of accreditation.The costs can accumulate quickly, especially given that although an accreditation team visit on a voluntary basis, and are thus not paid for their service, the host schools is expected to meet the travel costs of all of the accreditation team.Whilst this is affordable for schools owned by large education conglomerates working in the sector, and for those schools with significant financial assets at their disposal, it does make it difficult for schools operating in parts of the developing world to access the accreditation process.

Another problem with the accreditation system is that it can be a challenge to ensure that the process is truly inclusive and equitable. Accreditation organizations may have different standards for what constitutes a diverse and inclusive school, and these standards may not always be aligned with the values and priorities of the school or the community it serves. Moreover, accreditation organizations may not always have the expertise or resources to address issues related to diversity, equity, and anti-racism. Those who volunteer to join an accreditation are usually well-meaning teachers and administrators working in international schools in other parts of the world. They are to some extent or another influenced by their opinions that have been developed working in their own school(s) and by the setting of their own host country. They may make judgments based upon a lack of experience with making judgement about the quality of a school, or worse they may be influenced by a conscious, or unconscious bias, that they they developed due to their own experiences in the sector.

In conclusion, accreditation can be a useful tool for ensuring that international schools are providing high-quality education and promoting diversity, equity, and anti-racism. However, it also important to recognize that accreditation can be time-consuming and expensive for schools, and that the accreditation process may not always be inclusive and equitable. Ultimately, it is up to each individual school and community to weigh the pros and cons of accreditation and decide whether it is the right choice for them.

Note: It is also worth mentioning that many schools will be members of CIS, COBIS or the alike and use their logos on their websites and headed paper. Being a member of one of these agencies is not the same as being an accredited school.

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