Thursday 5 August 2021

The ICA sets out to answer a question – “How well do we identify the impact of improved learning on the learners themselves?”

ICA accreditation IEYC IPC IMYC

Written by Sarah Blackmore, Head of ICA

Here’s a random question – so what’s the longest gestational period in the natural world? This is one of those questions likely to appear in the virtual family quizzes that so many of us have engaged in over the last eighteen months. Now we might have prepared for this and would confidently answer “I know – it’s the African elephant which (if I’m not wrong) has a 22-month gestation” before sitting back with a self-satisfied smile. In fact, the correct answer is the 42 months of an eel-like frilled shark that lives off the coasts of South Africa and Chile. Interesting – but so what?

Well, the new International Curriculum Association (ICA) formally emerged earlier this year after around 252 months in the making! Beat that! But what’s the background to the ICA and why are we so excited about it?

The focus on improving learning has been the DNA of the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) since it began some twenty-one years ago. That same focus flows through the veins of the International Early Years Curriculum (IEYC) and International Middle Years Curriculum (IMYC) and it now provides the genetic architecture of the ICA Recognition and Accreditation Framework. But the ICA sets out to answer a question – “How well do we identify the impact of improved learning on the learners themselves?”

This evolutionary shift to identifying impact is at the heart of our new ICA Framework. We’re really addressing those ‘so what’ questions here: the School community knows about its Shared Vision – but so what? Teachers display the Process to Facilitate Learning in their classrooms – but so what? Leaders allow time for collaborative planning – but so what?

Of course, these practices are an essential starting point – but they should not be mistaken for evidence of the quality and effectiveness of the learning. That’s where the ICA Framework comes in. It’s completely explicit in noting the clear difference between the Impact on the Learner and the Learning and between Influences on the Learner and the Learning.


John Hattie’s Barometer of Influence

Now we know from John Hattie’s Barometer of Influence that impact can be negative as well as positive. So any review of impact needs to be both honest and rigorous to validate and embed those practices that lead to positive and sustainable improvement.

ICA Recognition and Accreditation seeks to work alongside schools as they develop their capacity and capability for a process of reflection and review that does not just improve but can be transformative.

Ultimately, the accreditation process improved learning across the whole school. The school now has clear and consistent practices and the process helped to create a culture of high standards and continuous improvement that are now well established.  In short, the accreditation process proved to be a fantastic ‘tool’ for improving learning – one that is also capable of transforming a school’s culture and climate.
Brendan Hearne, Principal at Saigon Star International School, Vietnam

Driving the ICA approach are our core values:


These values underpin and are modelled by our ICA Mentor Services. When a school begins their Recognition and Accreditation journey we make sure that they are well supported. A mentor is allocated to each ICA registered school as a partner in the journey – and they start from wherever is the school’s starting point.

So far, the response from the first of our schools to embark on the ICA journey has been overwhelmingly positive. We look forward to tracking their experiences through this blog and sharing the experience with you. Here are some comments from schools about the value of the accreditation process:

Overall, this was an outstanding improving learning process and likewise an excellent professional growth and development as practitioners and leaders in our Small World!
Tess Baguio: Small World Christian Kindergarten, Hong Kong

The reasons for pursuing accreditation were three-fold. The first was to improve the quality of teaching and learning for the children who attend the school. Second, it was a way to provide reassurance to parents about the quality of school. The third and final reason was to boost the status of the school and ensure that every stakeholder is a proud member. Working towards accreditation and achieving accredited status was seen as a strategy to achieve all of these goals. An unintended side-effect was that the accreditation process united the team towards a shared goal and resulted in a greater level of collaboration between teachers that has continued to the present day. One experienced teacher also commented that the accreditation process was “the best PD I’ve ever had”.
Brendan Hearne: Saigon Star International School, Vietnam

We would recommend other schools to go through the accreditation process as it is a platform for everyone to self reflect on the learning journey, revisit areas for further improvement and move forward towards becoming better. It is also an opportunity to get a validation of the school’s judgments, the school’s context, and the evidence collected and recorded by the school about its setting. Most importantly, the accreditation process supports and guides the ultimate goal of any IPC school, to improve learning.
Diptee Acharya: Sanskriti International School, Nepal

The launch of the ICA is a significant moment but – for us too – the journey is just starting. Our commitment to quality, improvement and transformation is focused inwardly on our processes as much as it is externally on our schools. As the learning community grows, so too does the bank of effective practices that underpin our rubrics, with the result that our ICA processes hone themselves as an instrument of systemic transformation. We’re looking forward to the journey ahead and if you’d like to find out more about the ICA and the process for Recognition and Accreditation please contact:

Find out more about our International Curriculum
Find out more about the ICA