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Quality assurance in French language schools

Quality standards in education is an ongoing theme throughout many ICEF Monitor articles, so today we turn to the language learning sector in France to highlight a quality assurance approach as part of a movement for institutions, government bodies and associations to work together to promote the country as a destination for learning French.

The Label Qualité FLE (Qualité français langue étrangère) is a label for public and private centres located in France teaching French as a foreign language. It functions similarly to the British Council’s Accreditation Scheme and serves to identify, recognise and support learning centres that meet certain quality requirements.

french-language-schoolsThe label is jointly award by three ministries: the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the Ministry of Culture and Communication. A public administrative institution under the French Ministry of Education, the CIEP (Centre International d’Etudes Pédagogiques) manages the label.

The FLE label is a useful marketing tool for language centres, language travel agents, professional associations, and public organisations (i.e., embassies, consular institutions, French linguistic and cultural establishments abroad). It offers several benefits, such as:

  • guarantees the quality of the services offered by a language centre;
  • aids a school’s promotion in France and overseas by providing proof of national recognition;
  • rallies school staff around a quality approach;
  • unites the public and private sectors under one quality campaign
  • offers a community of certified language centres committed to providing excellence in education;
  • enables a school to leverage the support offered by the three aforementioned French ministries.

Institutional partners are closely involved in the promotion of the FLE label, particularly because certain consulates only grant visas to students attending accredited centres. FLE’s promotional network also includes a variety of professional groups such as Campus France for studies and Atout France for leisure in order to advance study abroad and language stays in France.

Becoming accredited

Close to 100 centres currently carry the FLE label, which was created in 2007 and is valid for four years. Now that many schools are undergoing their second round of auditing, the standards have become more strict, thus further strengthening the quality level.

A French as a foreign language centre wishing to acquiring the FLE label must meet the following criteria:

  • The centre has a legal status and meets all the legal requirements related to that status;
  • The centre can demonstrate that it has provided French as a foreign language courses for at least three consecutive years;
  • If the centre’s activity is full-time, it must provide at least 2,400 hours of French as a foreign language teaching per year and employ permanent, full-time staff;
  • If the centre functions on a part-time basis, it must provide at least 1,200 hours teaching per year over a 4-month period, with a monthly total greater than or equal to 300 hours. It must also employ at least one permanent staff member, either full-time or part-time.

Once the application has been accepted, two auditors visit the school: one to investigate pedagogy and one to evaluate administrative areas. Over the span of two to three days (approximately 30 to 40 hours per audit), the auditors focus on compliance with required standards in five main areas:

  • welcome and reception;
  • premises, facilities and equipment;
  • management;
  • teaching quality, staff training and benefits;
  • courses.

The audit report is submitted to an inter-ministerial commission for recommendations and decision making.

The audit also serves as an ongoing improvement scheme for institutions, giving schools the opportunity to reflect on their strategies, practices and results, and reminding them to continually enhance their service offerings.

More information on the FLE label, including a list of participating language centres, can be found on their website.

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