ABU DHABi // British schools in the region will focus on an improved accreditation process during their association's annual meeting in the capital this week.
Established in 1982, British Schools in the Middle East (BSME) represents a total of 72 schools from 12 countries in the Mena region, including 30 schools in the UAE. The group's annual meeting will run from February 2 to 5.
For the last 28 years, admission to BSME has been based on meeting the general requirements of the British education model: Following the necessary curriculum and recruiting teachers recognised by the Department of Education in the UK.
Now, a new move towards formal accreditation means the association will ensure that schools under its umbrella meet codified standards in areas including student achievement, leadership and management.
"For schools to be members of the association, they have to successfully go through the accreditation process, which will continue until 2013," said Jan Brettingham, vice-chairman of the organisation and principal of Fujairah Private Academy.
"It will be at the same level as if they were undergoing the process in the UK, with an added local component."
BSME will work with Penta International, approved by the British government to inspect schools overseas.
Ms Brettingham said the organisation wants to promote standards of excellence throughout the Middle East.
"Our whole approach to accreditation is ongoing school improvement," she said.
"The process will be looking at the effectiveness of the school, standards achieved by students, quality of education, leadership and management."
Schools in the association will also be expected to promote bilingual education with an emphasis on Arabic language.
Some schools might find it hard to fulfil the affiliation requirements, Ms Brettingham added. "We may look at working with these schools to bring them up to those standards in the future as well."
To do that, the BSME can provide a support network, she explained. "For example, if one school has an area of excellence in Arabic and another school is struggling, then we can co-operate to provide assistance."
Students at BSME schools have collaborated in the past on various sports and cultural activities, and head teachers convene annually to debate topical issues.
Glyn Kilsby, headmaster of the Rashid School for Boys in Dubai, which is a BSME member, said: "As an organisation, the BSME offers great value addition, school improvement opportunities and in-service training."
He said the new accreditation procedure will provide a quality mark for the schools and ensure they operate to high standards.
The annual BSME conference, at the Beach Rotana Hotel in the capital, is being organised by Pearl Primary Academy in Abu Dhabi and Fujairah Private Academy.
The meeting will be inaugurated by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
Education professionals, publishers and service providers are expected to attend the four-day event.