We're All Winners

About the Industry

As a teacher in BC, recently, you may have you found yourself asking:
Why are so many schools talking about regulation? 
Why have there been staff meetings talking about "compliance"?Why is the school changing so many things?

This post is going to explore what's going on in the background with private institutions, like career colleges and language schools. There are different types of accreditation/designation depending on the type of institution and the programs being delivered.

Before I talk more about institutions who have lost their accreditation, or stories in the news, I thought I would set the scene for those who are not aware of all the things going on in the background. Here is some information about the key players in all of the regulatory bodies out there.

About Regulation:

First, check out the website Schools in Canada. Here, you will find a clear explanation as to why schools get accredited. The website is designed to help students and parents understand, and educate themselves before selecting a school for their studies.

Reasons for accreditation/designation include:
  • assuring programs adhere to quality standards
  • ensuring faculty is qualified
  • protecting students from substandard institutions

What is the EQA?
EQA stands for Education Quality Assurance. It is a "seal" of quality post-secondary education for both public and private institutions in British Columbia. After December 2015, all post-secondary institutions and language schools that accept international students on study permits are required to have EQA designation. EQA is a voluntary designation that is available to those institutions who wish to have it, and is not mandatory.

What is the purpose of EQA designation?
It creates standard trademark recognizable worldwide, and reduces confusion caused by various quality assurance processes. EQA protects BC's reputation for quality post secondary education.


What is PCTIA?
The Private Career Training Institutions Agency, soon to be absorbed by the Ministry of Advanced Education, is a self-regulating, cost-recovery agency governed by a board of industry representatives. The organization is responsible for the registration and accreditation of private career training institutions that operate in British Columbia. They provide consumer protection for students of registered private post-secondary institutions, and sets standards of quality that must be met by accredited institutions.

Are all private institutions required to register with the PCTIA?
Only institutions offering career-related training programs with at least 40 hours of instruction, and/or $4,000 in tuition, and/or enrollments of 6 months or longer are required to register with the PCTIA. Private institutions that are not required to register may register voluntarily.

Are all private language schools regulated by the PCTIA?
If a private language school also offers career-training programs then it will be regulated by the PCTIA. If only non career-training programs, such as English as a Second Language (ESL), are offered then the institution is not required to register with the PCTIA.

What is Languages Canada?
Their purpose is to be the voice of the Canadian language education sector and to promote quality, English and French language education in Canada, both nationally and internationally.

What does Languages Canada do?
Quality Assurance is a critical element of Languages Canada. All member schools are required to be accredited under one internationally recognized and comprehensive scheme. The Accreditation Scheme maintains the integrity and rigour of Languages Canada’s standards and process. Each level of review done by different member of a team of highly qualified independent professionals and the six areas examined:
  • Student Services
  • Teaching Staff
  • Curriculum
  • Marketing and Promotion
  • Administration
  • Student Admissions

News Story

So, with all that said, let's explore some real cases of why accreditation/designation are important for schools, teachers and students. In a previous post, I discussed the strike taking place at VEC. With all this new information I have presented you, you can see that those particular students were not protected.

For this post, lets look at a story from The PIE News by Natalie Marsh (Jul. 18, 2016) involving George Brown Students.

George Brown College in Toronto has finalized a settlement of $2.73m after international and domestic students were misled by a course description back in 2008, claiming a course falsely offered industry designations.

A summary of the situation is that George Brown advertised that after taking the program, students would have“the opportunity to complete three industry designations/certifications in addition to the George Brown College Graduate Certificate”.

Industry designation and certifications were offered to the students in the international trade, customs services and international freight forwarding fields. However, shortly before sitting their final exams students discovered there was no agreement allowing them to earn qualifications in these subjects.


Opinion Section

The students won their case because the advertising was misleading. They expected to graduate with a George Brown Diploma/Certificate in addition to the industry designations/certifications. But, how closely do customers read the fine print, or even read the ads themselves?

According to the article, and I realize I do not hold the George Brown ad in my hand right now as I write this, so I am only speculating (and that's why I have labeled this the opinion section), students would "have the opportunity". What does that really mean? George Brown may have only made arrangements for students to sit the exams and then they may have to pay extra, and/or apply with the 3rd party institution separately for their designations/certifications.

If I were a student, I would have asked. But, then I would have lost out on a huge payout. It is common for advertising to not give the whole truth, or publish vagueness on purpose. As a program manger, I get questions about the competition all the time.

For example, prospective TESOL students often ask me why ILAC International College asks for an Undergraduate Degree and Grey Stone College only recommends it, when both schools are offering TESL Canada Standard 1 equivalency.

Students who do not have a Degree cannot take our program. My response is "it is required by TESL Canada and if your goal is to get a job in a language school in Vancouver, then you need a degree." I know those students have gone to other schools and taken their programs. Unfortunately, we cannot hire them when they apply with us. I am grateful that the company I work for is transparent, even if it means lower enrollments.

As for George Brown, I understand their situation from both sides. Opportunity vs. Expectation. I find myself on the side of transparency.  We do not know if the students were told throughout their studies that this was an opportunity and that they had to take additional actions once they were finished. The bottom line is that it was not clear to the students, and they won their case.

Nowadays, with all this regulation stuff (see above), there are policies and procedures institutions must follow to avoid situations like this. Win, win. For everyone.

Even if it feels like we are losing, I think that we should all want to be proud of the services we provide, find integrity in what deliver, and promote the quality of our education. These regulations help us do that. Win, win.

Warning: the information presented in this post has not been approved or sponsored by any party featured. It is based on my experiences, interests, and opinions. I thought I would mention that as to not mislead you. I am not an expert.


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