Accrediting International Online Schools - a huge need and no one to address it?
The Meteoric Rise Of Online Learning Post COVID 19
June this year, saw the publication of the UK Government's white paper on the urgent need to accredit online schools, imaginatively entitled the 'Online Education Accreditation Scheme', it follows quickly on from the consultation document sent out late last year. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/891322/Online_Education_Accreditation_Scheme_Government_Response.pdf
Not surprisingly, online schooling and tutoring is now getting a lot of press coverage and interest following school closures due to COVID 19. Online tutoring facebook pages and websites are appearing everywhere, with parents desperate to make up for their children's perceived learning loss during school closures, and unqualified teachers who make a living as specialised subject tutors, happy to cash in on these fears.
The Online Tutor World.....
Many of these pages and sites offer unqualified tutors with no pedagogical background, who are graduates in subjects or enthusiastic mathematicians, linguists or students supporting learning. These services are now beginning to become blurred with those offered by 'online schools', due to no current accreditation framework, and it is getting increasingly difficult for parents without an educational background to know what is good and what is not so good in the world of online education.
Quality Assuring International Online Schools...
Online schools are popping up everywhere, and there are new ones almost every day launching onto the market. Entrepreneurs are ready to capitalise on the "virtual world' created by COVID 19 by funding online schools, without any accrediting bodies to answer to, without any agreed online school safeguarding regulator to answer to, and without any recognised independent scrutiny of teaching and learning.
The government paper published in June this year plans to address this for those schools based in the UK through OFSTED, but not for international schools based outside the UK. So our question is - who will?
Time to step up BSO, and COBIS
Currently British international schools are accredited through the BSO - British Schools Overseas, who are essentially the overseas arm of OFSTED, but will they be given the mandate, on behalf of the UK government, to accredit international online schools offering the UK curriculum to British students? The other option is COBIS, the Council of British International Schools, who when last questioned mentioned it was on the agenda but not yet....
The Online Future of Education
It is clear times are changing for education, and accrediting bodies for international schools such as the BSO, COBIS, CIS and IB have to stay ahead of the curve, or at least meet the curve, to ensure they have influence in this market, and can guide and steer online schools in the same principled, independent and clear way they have done for physical international schools for many years.
By meeting with online school leaders and owners, who are currently setting up UK programs in international online schools, the BSO and COBIS could collaborate quickly to formulate standards, expectations and accreditation paths, which would really add value to their own organisations and would grow their sphere of influence.
Now is not the time to wait to see what happens - since COVID the world of education has changed, and accrediting bodies need to catch up - and quickly!