Accreditation: What You Should Know Before Choosing an ESL School

Imagine taking English courses at a school with no books, overcrowded classrooms, unexpected expenses, and unqualified teachers that do not follow an established curriculum. Sound far-fetched? Unfortunately, it’s not and such schools can be difficult to identify, especially when exploring options online. If you would like to avoid this situation, it is a good idea to pay careful attention to accreditation when choosing a language school in the United States.

To start, what is accreditation? Simply put, being accredited is like belonging to an exclusive club for schools. To be a member, the school must maintain professional standards determined by accrediting agencies. In the United States, schools do not receive their accreditation from a Ministry of Education. Instead, they rely on accrediting agencies to verify the quality of the school, curricula, instructors, and the methodologies they employ.

In order to become accredited, schools must undergo a thorough and voluntary evaluation process that can take months to complete. To receive accreditation, some agencies require schools to…

  • Demonstrate the effectiveness of the programs that they offer
  • Show commitment to the best interests of their students
  • Prove that they are financially stable
  • Operate according to a strict code of ethics determined by the agency
  • Consent to regular inspections to verify that agency standards are maintained

The list goes on and varies according to the agency and type of institution that it accredits.

When considering a school’s accreditation, it is important to verify that the US Department of Education recognizes the accrediting agency. Is this a guarantee of quality? Not necessarily, but it is a very good start. Other questions to ask are:

  • What are the school’s professional affiliations?
  • What are the teacher qualifications?
  • What is the maximum number of students per class?
  • How many years has the school been in business?

It is also a good idea to request a student referral. Reputable schools maintain lists of students whom you may contact to learn more about their personal experiences.

In case you were wondering, Bridge is accredited by ACCET, the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training. For more information, I invite you to visit their homepage .

For more about accreditation, check out Kelly’s interview with BridgeEnglish director Richard Brown.