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British Accreditation Council new scheme for offshore ELT

The UK’s British Accreditation Council is developing an international English language education accreditation scheme it claims will be “quite unique” in the English language teaching industry.

bac staff discuss new english language teaching standardsL to R: Paul Fear, CEO; Rosie Fairfax, accreditation and quality enhancement manager; Diana Morriss, chief inspector

"The principles of good teaching are applicable anywhere"

Set to be launched in early 2018, the standards will target large organisations around the globe that primarily offer English language training offshore.

CEO of BAC, Paul Fear, told The PIE News that the organisation had liaised with a range of UK and international academics, as well as two chains of language schools, to create a set of world-leading standards.

The BAC would not be looking to compete with any accreditation bodies in the UK, he said, but offer a new choice for educators working globally and focus on quality assurance and transparency, with quality assessment linked to CEFR benchmarks.

“Two of our inspectors we’ve used elsewhere have been heavily involved in EFL inspections for other organisations like the British Council, and one of the other international agencies,” noted Fear, who estimated that £80,000-£90,000 will have been invested into development by the launch date.

“Two of our inspectors we’ve used elsewhere have been heavily involved in EFL inspections”

With a working title of The English Language Accreditation Scheme, the standards will also have an expectation that some students at each institution are working towards an established proficiency exam.

“We looked around the world and said, ‘what does Australia accept or what does the UK accept for visa purposes’, and tried to use those as a benchmark,” said Fear.

“We want to see a proportion of students entered into one of [these exams], which is why we have chosen at the moment to be either Cambridge, Trinity or IELTS on the basis that they are accepted internationally.”

With close to 30 years in quality assurance, the BAC already runs a scheme for private providers of further and higher education and accredits institutions all around the world.

While the scheme will not focus on any particular geographical market, Fear said that plenty of interest has been coming from chains in the Middle East.

He said it would be important to take a contextual approach to applying the same UK standards overseas.

“If you look at teaching and learning for example, in the UK you might expect certain elements to be there, but the principles of good teaching are applicable anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you are teaching in Cambodia for example, you can apply [the principles] anywhere.”

“Qualifications of teachers are going to be important, although we have recognised that you can have people training to be teachers.”

Despite the global appeal of the scheme, Fear said there had been a deliberate decision not to localise costs due to the overheads involved.

“As a not-for-profit charity, we have tried to be as cost-effective as possible. While not having localised costs may be an issue, we still have to pay our own costs externally for inspectors, the head office and everything else.”

£80,000-£90,000 will have been invested into development by the launch date

He added, “Our costs are pretty transparent…we cap our costs at a maximum of £6-8k a year for a very large institution. If I were to put that in a context of a marketing budget, it’s pretty low cost.”

The pace of development is now beginning to pick up considerably, with a target launch date for late January or early February next year, he added.

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