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Meet the FELTOM Crew: Jason Aquilina is in charge of Accreditation

Published EDU-WorldWide on Friday, December 20, 2019

FELTOM Accreditation Scheme

In today's interview with FELTOM we are going to speak to Jason Aquilina, who is in charge of the FELTOM Accreditation Scheme. This way, our agent readers can be more aware about the systems and processes to go into giving a school FELTOM Accreditation. Here's what we asked him.

Jason, you are in charge of the FELTOM accreditation scheme. Can you explain to our readers what this scheme entails, and which criteria must a school satisfy in order to become FELTOM accredited?

I chair the Accreditation Council that administers the accreditation scheme. The Council is responsible for receiving and checking applications, recruiting, training, proposing and confirming inspectors, reviewing the inspectors’ reports and recommendations, ruling on the accreditation status, and ensuring appropriate corrective and preventive measures are taken by our members to meet accreditation standards.

The scheme is a general quality management scheme and accreditation is a prerequisite for membership with FELTOM. The overall spirit of the scheme is one of continuous improvement on the road to seeking excellence. The accreditation process establishes quality standards in six main areas, namely:

  1. Leadership and management – The management of the FELTOM member organisation shall operate to the benefit of its students and professional staff in accordance with legal and regulatory compliance. The management will lead the FELTOM member organisation in its quest for continuous quality improvement.
  2. Learning and Teaching – Academic staff members of the FELTOM member organisation shall have the appropriate knowledge, skills and competencies to deliver courses and assess students effectively in order to optimise outcomes for students.
  3. Student Welfare – The FELTOM member organisation shall meet the needs of the students for security, pastoral care, information and leisure activities.
  4. Premises and Facilities – The learning resources and environment shall support and enhance students learning and offer an appropriate professional environment for the teaching staff.
  5. Recruitment of Learners – The application and enrolment process shall be clear and easy to follow for students and agents. Promotional material shall be ethical, accurate and consistent.
  6. Care of Minors – The FELTOM member organisation shall have organisational structures that effectively support the provision of services to minor students, with particular emphasis on their welfare and safety.

How does the FELTOM scheme differ from the basic licensing procedure that a standard ELT school in Malta has?

The scheme is a voluntary scheme, in that organisations actually choose to become FELTOM members. Although a voluntary scheme, adherence to the requirement is a mandatory requirement for membership to FELTOM. In many cases the standards and criteria set by the scheme build further upon the requirements set by national legislation that establish the licensing requirement. Therefore, they also cover areas that are not within the scope of the national legislation.

Our agents are always very interested in quality. How does the FELTOM scheme ensure that FELTOM schools are high-quality schools?

Correct implementation of the scheme ensures that the learner needs are better understood and fulfilled. Students studying with FELTOM accredited organisations are assured a high level of service defined by the standards of the accreditation scheme.

The accreditation process allows members to strive to, adhere to and continually improve standards and better understand and fulfil the needs of their learners. By successfully going through this process the FELTOM member, as an accredited organisation, will manifest a commitment to meeting and maintaining quality standards through the use of the FELTOM Accreditation mark.

How often do the schools have to go through the accreditation process?

Becoming an accredited FELTOM member involves a rigorous application process which includes submission of formalised policies and procedures which go through a desk review. This is complemented by a visit by one of the FELTOM inspectors to carry out an audit. This is held during the peak summer period. Inspectors visit all premises held by the organisation, and not just the main school complex. They have the opportunity to witness classroom activities, interview key personnel, check staff qualifications and evaluate the effectiveness of health and safety risk assessments as well as the correct implementation of policies on handling complaints and customer feedback, amongst many other requirements.

Each organisation submits itself and all sites it operates at any time of the year, and at any point throughout its period of accreditation to inspection. Full general inspections are held once every three years, with review visits being carried out in the interim years. Over and above, an academic inspector will visit all sites once every two years and carry out a more focused inspection meant to observe the academic staff to ensure that they have appropriate knowledge, skills and competencies to deliver courses and assess students effectively. With this system a FELTOM inspector visits the sites of our members at least once every year.

What happens if a school fails to meet all the necessary criteria?

Following the inspection our organisations will receive a detailed report outlining the outcomes of that inspection including any areas that were found to be nonconforming to the FELTOM standards or requiring improvement. The organisation is expected to send detailed evidence of corrective action taken to mitigate any problems and prevent recurrence. The Accreditation Council will then evaluate the corrective action to determine whether the identified problem has been rectified.

In some cases, the Accreditation Council may decide that a follow up visit by an inspector is required to assess the corrective action on site. Should no effective and timely corrective action be taken such that nonconformities persist, the Accreditation Council would terminate the accreditation status of the organisation.

How has the FELTOM accreditation scheme developed over the years? And where will it go from here?

The first edition of the scheme was approved way back in the January of 2007. The members of FELTOM instituted the scheme as a warranty of their commitment to quality and customer satisfaction in English language stays in Malta, and established accreditation as a condition for membership to FELTOM. The scheme currently adopted is the second edition following a major revamp that was carried out in 2014. This was necessary to present a more user friendly and cohesive layout and define criteria and regulations that were previously unspecified or ambiguous. This also allowed the formalisation of our induction process for inspections and the various training courses that the Accreditation Council organises. The scheme is in constant flux and every year a number of amendments are proposed to improve or raise the requirements. Member organisations also have the possibility to propose changes to the scheme during the FELTOM annual general meeting.

A memorandum of understanding with the English Language Teaching Council of the Ministry of Education and Employment (ELTC-MEDE) signed in recent years has allowed cooperation and sharing of information between the two bodies. Recently FELTOM has also digitised the scheme allowing submission of forms, reports and other documentation in an electronic manner.

Being a founding member of QALEN (an international federation of accrediting and quality assurance bodies in the language education sector) FELTOM also plans to participate in peer reviews with other accreditation bodies. FELTOM is also considering improving its standards related to provision of third-party services to our members.

For the long term, FELTOM is exploring the possibility of developing the accreditation scheme into a multi-tier system, allowing members to select the level of standards and criteria they will be assessed against.



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