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BAC launches new accreditation for international EFL schools

The British Accreditation Council has launched its new accreditation scheme for English language schools worldwide with a ceremony at the House of Commons in London.

The launch ceremony was held at the Palace of Westminster in London. Photo: 12019/Pixabay

Schools must comply with local legislation and unannounced inspections can be triggered if concerns are flagged up by students

The International English Language Provider scheme will be available for language schools outside of the UK and builds on BAC’s 30-year experience in quality assurance with the aim to raise the standards in the EFL industry.

“We have deliberately created a demanding scheme”

“We have deliberately created a demanding scheme,” said BAC CEO Paul Fear at the launch ceremony.

In comments made to The PIE, Fear explained that the scheme aims to extend the same quality assurance standards required in mainstream education to the EFL sector.

“That’s what we expect from our schools it’s what we expect for universities. We have taken exactly that same approach to the EFL market internationally,” he explained.

“We felt that quality assurance in the industry was patchy at best and we felt that also students and partners had very limited access to quality assurance information about the institutions,” he explained.

A lack of quality assurance can hinder schools’ student recruitment and partnerships efforts, Fear explained, and in some segments of the EFL market reputation and branding are the only discriminants between schools.

With students becoming more “muscular” about their rights and governments being more careful where scholarship money is spent, accreditation can help schools differentiate themselves from the rest of the market, Fear said.

“Assessment is a key part of our accreditation schemes”

The application for BAC accreditation will involve two steps – schools submit documentation first, and then if deemed to be successful they undergo an inspection. Schools who are unsuccessful in their application will have fees refunded, Fear explained.

The standards will examine management, teaching and learning, student welfare and premises and facilities. All reports will then be published online.

One of the areas Fear highlighted was assessment, which he said in the EFL sector is often not as rigorous as we would expect to see elsewhere in the education system.

The scheme will ensure students meet English language levels for external examinations such as IELTS, TOEFL, Cambridge or Trinity exams.

It will also require institutions to properly assess students at the beginning and at the end of their courses, track their progress and provide appropriate feedback.

“Assessment is a key part of our accreditation schemes,” Fear told The PIE. “You don’t know how good you are until you start measuring outcomes.”

Teachers, who will also be expected to undergo reviews and receive feedback on their performance, will need to hold or be working towards accredited qualifications such as CELTA.

“That does have implications for online teacher qualifications unless they can demonstrate they meet the minimum standards,” Fear said.

“I think there’s a lot of progress to be made for child protection internationally”

As for their English levels, the standards mention teachers must “provide exemplary models of written and spoken English”, but the word ‘native’ is nowhere to be found.

“We’re quite open to the concept of non-English native speakers to teach English language – just because you can speak English it doesn’t mean you can be an English teacher,” Fear said.

As for child protection, the scheme will look at requirements such as references, safeguarding training as part of teacher qualifications and student support.

It will also require all schools to comply with local legislation and unannounced inspections can be triggered if concerns are flagged up by students – but implementing the same standards present in the UK will be a challenge because requirements change from country to country, Fear explained.

“I think there’s a lot of progress to be made for child protection internationally,” Fear told The PIE.

“It’s something we’re going to do more work on to strengthen our standards. But no organisation will do it by itself. I think it’s going to take more coordination between agencies and governments.”

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