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Stages of certification

The processes and procedures involved in the Qualité français langue étrangère certification scheme were developed by a scientific committee in the framework of continuous dialogue with the Advisory Council. They take into account both international standards and the context surrounding French language centres and have been validated by the Interministerial Certification Committee.

Documents pertaining to the certification procedure are freely available with a view to helping both member and non-member centres to improve the quality of their service offering and to prepare for certification.

The CIEP team responsible for the administration aspects of the Qualité français langue étrangère certification is also at the disposal of centres to guide and support them in their efforts.


The certification procedure comprises 7 stages:

  1. Application
  2. Self-assessment
  3. Preparation
  4. On-site audit
  5. Drafting of audit report
  6. Approval of audit report
  7. Committee's decision

Once its application has been accepted the centre has a year in which to be audited. It takes an average of four months from the time at which it announces its scheduled audit dates for the Interministerial Certification Committee to return its decision.

 

The operator also records comments made by bodies involved in the certification scheme (students, councils or consultants, centres, etc.) that might highlight a malfunction in or opportunity for improving the certification scheme

and periodically submits this information to the Advisory Council, which then examines the information provided and submits proposals to the Interministerial Certification Committee for it to decide whether or not these recommendations will be implemented.

 

Application

Any centre that meets the admissibility criteria and applies to register for the certification process must complete the application form, in which they agree to the following:

  • to respect all of the processes and procedures involved in the certification scheme;
  • to provide the Interministerial Certification Committee, the Centre international d'études pédagogiques (CIEP) and auditors with genuine written documents and verbal information;
  • to provide a self-assessment covering at least all of the critical indicators within the framework prior to the start of the on-site audit;
  • to provide all of the documents requested from the time the on-site audit starts;
  • to fully cooperate with auditors during the on-site audit;
  • to inform the CIEP of any changes regarding the legal form of the centre, among other things;
  • to pay the fixed annual fee for registering in the certification process.

The CIEP will examine the centre's application declaration (application form and list of documents that the centre agrees to provide), referring to the admissibility criteria for the certification process, and will inform the centre of the admissibility of its application.

 

Self-assessment

Once its application has been approved the centre has a year in which to be audited. It will be required to complete a self-assessment grid and return it to the operator at least one month prior to the start of the on-site audit.

This self-assessment grid (see the 'Outils' (Tools) section for further information), available in the Candidate Centre Guide, provides useful information for the centre. This includes all of the indicators, as well as the list of documents to be provided for each indicator. It is important to check that the documents used for the self-assessment are consistent with the latter and the self-assessment is as objective as it can be.

 

Preparation

The CIEP announces the dates of the audit and the names of the auditors one month in advance. These dates are determined in accordance with the period chosen by the centre, the dates on which the centre is open, the delivery of training sessions that fall within the scope of the certification and the availability of the auditors. The CIEP would also like to point out that auditors should be accompanied by two members of the centre's team and that they should have access to all useful information described in the Candidate Centre Guide. At the same time, the CIEP will send the self-assessment grid completed by the centre to the auditors concerned. The senior auditor will then examine it to check that it covers all of the indicators. The centre can use all of the documents provided and also call upon the CIEP team and professional groups to help it to prepare for the on-site audit. A dialogue between the centre, the CIEP and the auditors will be established with a view to identifying the best conditions to ensure the smooth running of the audit. During the audit preparation stage centre managers will need to be particularly aware of internal communications, informing both staff and students of the aims of the on-site audit and notably ensuring that the terms governing the quality audit, during which they may be required to provide the auditors with information or be observed doing what they do, are clearly explained.

 

On-site audit

The on-site audit is performed by two auditors - the senior auditor responsible for the mission and for managing the 'Hosting, Premises and Management' fields and a secondary auditor dealing with the fields of 'Teachers, Teaching and Training Courses'. The two auditors will meet with the director of the centre or their representative, together with the two accompanying staff members, at the start of the on-site audit.  A launch meeting marks the official start of the on-site audit and helps establish a climate of trust with the managers concerned. Both parties will also sign the audit inspection document at this point.

 

The two auditors will then proceed to examine the documents requested in accordance with a protocol outlined in the auditor's manual. They may meet with staff or students to conduct interviews, should they consider it necessary, that will be set up by the two accompanying staff members, and observe staff undertaking their day-to-day activities.

 

With regards to the 'Teaching and Training Courses' field, the auditors will observe a number of classes chosen by the centre, on the one hand, and classes they have chosen themselves from those being delivered at the centre at the time, on the other hand. Over the course of the mission the auditors will regularly discuss its progress with one another and may decide to make any relevant adjustments provided for in the audit manual. A closing meeting will take place with the two auditors and the director of the centre or their representative. The senior auditor will declare the mission complete and the two auditors will take their leave from the director of the centre or their representative.

 

Audit report

The audit report is written in accordance with a specific procedure outlined in the audit manual that aims to obtain an objective and standardised result. Each of the two auditors reads what they have noted in the audit manual and writes a comment for each indicator. The auditors then work together to determine a score for each indicator based on each of these comments. Both auditors write a general comment for each field based on the following classification: strengths, avenues of progress, points for improvement and points that need to be rectified. They will then verify that the comments made for each indicator are consistent with the values attributed and the content of the general comment and enter all of this information into the audit report grid. Each of the two auditors submits their audit report to the other auditor for cross-checking. They will discuss the matter with one another for the purposes of moderating the comments and scores that will then enable them to produce a joint audit report and a recommendation aimed at the Interministerial Certification Committee. The senior auditor will then submit the finalised report to the CIEP, which will ensure that the documentation provided is complete and complies with the procedure. An audit report submission meeting is then held between the operator and the senior auditor for the purposes of adjusting the comments made and recording any useful information that might help improve the certification scheme. Once the centre has paid the fixed annual registration fee, the CIEP will be able to submit the audit report and the recommendation made by the auditors to the Interministerial Certification Committee.

 

Decisions made by the Interministerial Certification Committee (CIL)

The Interministerial Certification Committee examines the audit report and the recommendation made by the auditors and decides whether or not the centre should be awarded the certification, taking the auditors' recommendation into account. In the event that the Interministerial Certification Committee decides not to award the certification to the centre, the latter can resubmit its application during a later certification cycle.

The centre will be informed of the Interministerial Certification Committee's decision and will receive the audit report and corresponding communication tools. The centre may contest the Interministerial Certification Committee's decision, as provided for in the appeal procedure outlined in the Candidate Centre Guide.

 

Renewal

The renewal process can begin up to a year before the original certification awarded expires and will take place in accordance with the terms outlined under processes and procedures.

 

Complaints

Complaints from users who are dissatisfied with the services provided, from service providers or from employees of a certified centre should be addressed to the CIEP, as the operator of the certification. The Interministerial Certification Committee approved a procedure for the processing of such claims on 2 May 2011 and improved this further still on 14 February 2013 (see point 11 of the Candidate Centre Guide - Procédure d'instruction des réclamations (Complaint investigation procedure). The procedure is based on the principles that the complaint is only admissible if made by a user, a service provider or an employee of a certified centre and only admissible if it corresponds specifically to one of the indicators within the framework. Provided that these conditions are met, the CIEP will ask the centre for explanations, which can sometimes be supplemented with an on-site quality inspection. In the event that any form of non-compliance is identified, the centre will be asked to rectify this to ensure full compliance. In the event that it is not possible to verify full compliance, the CIEP will submit the case to the Interministerial Certification Committee. The Interministerial Certification Committee may dismiss the complaint or take the necessary steps to have the certification removed. For detailed information on the procedure see the processes and procedures booklet or the Candidate Centre Guide. Complaints can be addressed to Caroline Mouton Muniz at the CIEP.

 

Withdrawal of the certification

A centre can have its Qualité français langue étrangère certification withdrawn in the event that any serious breach of the commitments made in the framework of the certification is identified, including the following:

  • failure to inform the operator of any changes regarding the information provided on the application form;
  • proven refusal to cooperate with auditors during the on-site audit for the purposes of renewing the certification;
  • provision of false information on the application form and attached documents, in the documents requested and provided during the on-site audit, in interviews between staff and auditors and in any other document submitted to the operator of the scheme or the Interministerial Committee with a view to renewing the certification;
  • failure to pay the fixed annual fee for registering in the certification process;
  • communication regarding the certification of any form and under any conditions other than those prescribed;
  • communication of information that would suggest that any training courses other than those that fall within the scope of the certification are also covered by the certification;
  • the awarding of a score of less than 1.00 (or 1.5 for the teaching and training fields) in any field or for any critical indicator scored [C] in the framework following a surprise inspection that might take place prior to the certification expiring (4 years);
  • proven denigration of the certification scheme: documents used, processes and procedures followed, bodies involved, etc.

In the event that the operator of the scheme believes that one of the aforementioned situations might apply to a centre they shall inform the Interministerial Certification Committee of this and provide the corresponding detailed information. The Interministerial Certification Committee examines the evidence and decides how to proceed. The CIEP will then inform the centre by recorded letter of the Interministerial Committee's decision and ask them to provide a written explanation. The operator will put the centre's point of view to the Interministerial Certification Committee, which will then examine the centre's response and decide on one of the following outcomes:

  • either to withdraw the certification,
  • or not to withdraw the certification,
  • or to request that the centre makes the necessary adjustments to ensure full compliance.

In the event that the Interministerial Certification Committee decides to withdraw the certification, the centre may reapply once a period of 2 years has passed.