March 30, 2023

Getting accreditation from the Council of International Schools (CIS) is a significant achievement for any educational institution. The accreditation process and renewal, which might seem daunting at first, involves an in-depth evaluation of a school’s educational practices, policies, and overall operations to ensure that they meet CIS’s rigorous standards of excellence. Though the initial process of getting the accreditation can take some time and effort, the positive impact on the school, students, and wider community is noteworthy.

What is the Council for International Schools?

The Council for International Schools is a global non-profit membership community that works with schools, higher education institutions, and individuals to shape international education. It was founded in 1949, and currently has 1360+ institutional members including 740 schools and 610 colleges and universities located in 122 countries.

The Council for International Schools provides a range of professional support services such as school accreditation, career and recruitment services, and higher education services to prepare global citizens.

At its core, CIS shares two ideals:

  • A desire to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to pursue their lives as global citizens
  • A commitment to high-quality international education.

How can my school begin the process of accreditation?

The process from beginning the accreditation to finalizing depends on two variables: the school submitting required documents and scheduling a visit.

The process to apply for international accreditation happens in three stages: the first is to become a member of CIS, to share information about the school, and complete an online application. Being a member school of CIS is a requirement to be eligible to apply for international accreditation. You can read about the requirements to apply for international accreditation on the CIS website here. The cost of an international accreditation registration fee is €2,140 and the cost of an annual accreditation fee is €4,350.

The process to apply for school membership includes two stages: first, the school shares information so CIS can confirm eligibility. Then, CIS and the school engage to understand how the CIS member standards are applied in the community and the school’s perspectives on the drivers for school improvement. During the second stage, a virtual conversation and a report are submitted to CIS. You can read about the school membership standards here and the eligibility requirements for members here. You can read about the Code of Ethics here. The cost of the school’s annual membership fee is €500 for 0-250 students enrolled and €3,200 for 251+ students enrolled. The cost of the school membership application and engagement fee is €4,325.

The beginning steps to obtain an international accreditation includes a review of the application and information provided. Then, CIS has an onsite visit and conversation with the leadership team, students, and members of the board. The information shared with CIS includes but is not limited to information about the organization, mission statement, educational programs, facilities, and staffing. Once CIS has reviewed the application, a team of experienced educators visit the school and conduct an on-site evaluation.

The on-site evaluation is a decisive part of the process. The team examines and reviews every aspect of the school, from the quality of teaching and learning to the governance structure and financial management. This examination and review include but are not limited to documents, observing classes, and interviews of staff, students, and parents to understand and have an in-depth view of how the school operates. This visit can last several days, and once the visit concludes, the team prepares a detailed report of their findings.

This report will provide an overview of the school’s current status: areas of excellence and improvement, as well as recommendations; a set of standards or expectations that the school must develop to attain accreditation.

The standards are an assortment of areas:

  • curriculum,
  • students’ well-being,
  • staff development,
  • community engagement

Once the report has been presented, the school is provided time to plan and implement the recommendations and meet the standards.

Is a CIS accreditation really worth the effort?

The process of accreditation might seem extensive and daunting, but the benefits greatly outweigh the hard work. A CIS accreditation provides an objective and neutral assessment of the school’s operation: its strengths and weaknesses. A CIS accreditation is a mark of quality that is recognized worldwide, a badge that demonstrates the commitment to providing an excellent international education. Also, CIS accreditation and membership provide a wide range of resources: networking opportunities through conferences, professional development programs, recruitment services, and online resources to develop and grow as an international school.
When working towards international accreditation from CIS and maintaining such accreditation, effective strategies must be implemented for all members of the school community.

First, an understanding of CIS standards that address key areas. Some of the areas these standards target are school operation, leadership and governance, curriculum, teaching and learning, and student well-being. These standards are the framework for schools to make self-assessments and use them as a draft for growth.

Second is adopting a self-assessment mentality and plan of action. Conducting regular self-assessment reviews on all aspects of the school’s operation using the CIS standards as a framework allows all members of the community to provide input, and create goals and plan of action that fosters development and improvement.

Once a self-assessment mentality has been adopted by all members of the community, a culture of continuous improvement will be in place. Every three to five years CIS will visit the school and review the accreditation, and as part of a membership in CIS, institutions, and schools much be committed to ongoing evaluation and improvement. This culture allows for values such as collaboration, a growth mindset, openness, and honesty to be part of the school.

Fourth, schools should address openly and honestly all areas where the school needs to improve. As these areas are shared, addressed, and promptly plan and taken action on, the school demonstrates its commitment to the CIS standards and commitment to international education. Communicating consistently with CIS, being proactive in reaching out for guidance and support when encountering challenges, needing assistance to meet the standards, and mentioning significant changes in leadership, curriculum, and enrollment. This consistent communication can help in being successful in obtaining accreditation and maintaining it.

Finally, as a school who has decided to begin and eventually achieve the accreditation process, it is important to celebrate achievements. Taking the time to recognize and celebrate accomplishments, sharing updates with the community, highlighting areas of strength, and recognizing the work done by the students and staff should be announced and recognized.
Commitment to educational excellence and continuous improvement will well propel your institution to achieve the accreditation status and high-quality international education you are looking to achieve.

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