The biggest threat to the education industry is the accreditation mills like IAO that not only tie up with diploma mills, but also dupe even the most sincere & prestigious institutes by their false accreditations. It is a relief that IAO has been busted. IAO’s accreditation does not add any value to your institute. However, lack of awareness is helping IAO & organizations alike to roam free.
WHY IAO IS FAKE?
Apart from being an accreditation mill, IAO has some serious allegations against it.
The USDE has listed it in the unrecognized higher education accreditation organization & has notified that any institution that “describes its couplings with IAO as a positive attribute are not to be taken seriously.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unrecognized_higher_education_accreditation_organizations).
This organization calls itself to be working from the USA but is NOT recognized by either USDE or CHEA or both as per the ABA rule.
As we are here to spill the beans of IAO who claims to be from the USA, let us look at the USA role of accreditation.
In the USA, the accreditation process is conducted by nonprofit organizations, which are validated by either USDE or CHEA or both. No organization can work on their own. ((http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/).
Neither USDA nor CHEA accredit individual institutes. There are national & regional accrediting agencies both of which are liable to the Dept. Off. Education. Then how does an organization give accreditation independently?
Well, you do not have to carry the fat rulebook to chase a thief. People always overdo the matters when they attempt deception. Proof? Read on.
Type this URL http://www.iao.org/
What do you see as soon as the window opens? Sliding screens followed by few contact processes, i.e. phone number, chat, email etc.
The phone number is 1866-276-426/ 1866-276-8426. Right? Now Google the numbers. For the first number there is no information. IAO has deleted the info & you get an error message here http://www.iao.org/iao/memberarea/school-certificate.asp?sc=09. Do not go back. Wait a few seconds & this very error message leads you automatically to the official page of IAO! Why? Just to divert your attention.
For the second number try these links- http://800notes.com/Phone.aspx/1-866-276-8426 , http://www.whycall.me/866-276-8426.html . In reality, people call from these numbers claiming to call from USA & ask for money.
Then the colorful rich sliding screens catch your attention immediately. What do these screens have? Logos of almost all reputed companies! The first thing that clicks your mind is ‘IAO has given accreditation to them!’ & immediately IAO earns a trust level for you. However, study carefully. Scroll down. You will see a disclaimer regarding these logos used here. What IAO actually saying, is if they accredit your institute, you too can be like them! How can you be like them when IAO itself is not recognized?
You will find some news about some real institutes being accredited by IAO. There are real & convincing names listed on the website of IAO & I cannot but blame these so-called wise institutes to be too good to allow a fraud organization like IAO. IAO even accredited West Coast University, Panama & the University Of Antarctica which IAO has recently removed from the site. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Coast_University_%E2%80%93_Panama)
Now there is a video showing how IAO accredit. Well, it says to be a video but in fact, it is an audio clip with irrelevant description & still graphic irrelevant images. It promises you to accredit your university, institute, or even school in just 30 days & that is too lifelong! IAO grants permanent & full accreditation! Not sure how they claim, it is for any standardization as one company has to go with yearly audit and renew any certificate.
Click ‘About us’. There is no mention of either being approved by the Dept. Neither of Education, nor of any governing body (http://www.iao.org/iao/about.asp). Only a list of members is there. How can an organization have members without a governing body? Also, look carefully. Most members are Asians. If an organization is in the USA & if it claims to be coming from the USA to visit, your institute do not you think there should be a reasonable number of Western members?
IAO Claims to be self-described ‘secondary’ accrediting body but does not mention who gave the permission. This in no way is possible as per USA rules of accreditation. Their accreditation does not have any value actually; it is just you open a company then start giving accreditation to others. Alternatively, you give an award to yourself. LOL.
According to CHEA, accreditation mills allow accreditation to be purchased - IAO allows their accreditation to be purchased in $ 499 that is in Indian currency Rs. 26954.48 only. However, this is not mentioned in any of their official pages. They even offer attractive discount! Not sure how any person from the USA will fly to India and do Audit (Not sure about the process as, if you pay they will give accreditation and you can be anyone.)
Once contacted by IAO, if you change your mind & do not want to proceed with the accreditation, they start forcing you!
IAO conducts a showy site visit. The visiting body DOES NOT come from the USA. Even the assessment process is meaningless. If you are in India, just ask them to send someone. You will see an Indian, or at best, an Anglo-Indian will come to visit your institute, his English is fine but the accent is very much Asian.
Not only IAO, there is a long list of accreditation mills to follow. Here’s more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unrecognized_higher_education_accreditation_organizations
Why talking only about IAO then? You got it right. I had a small encounter with it & have seen others suffering.
In 2011, I got a call from a Skype-like number congratulating me that my institute has been selected for the accreditation certificate of IAO. The person claimed to call from USA though the accents were very much Asian. However, the message was that to claim the accreditation I had to fill up a form.
I did so & received a mail on June 16, 2011 from firstname.lastname@example.org informing me that my application has been accepted & my institute has been rewarded with the IAO candidacy status though no proper reason was shown! “With Candidacy Status you can use the IAO logo on your website, official printed materials”, the mail also says, “It will also include the official IAO Candidacy Certificate and the Assessment Report” & provided me with a log in ID & a password.
What struck me is that they wanted $499 to claim the candidacy certificate! $499 in current Indian currency is Rupees 26954.48 only! Interesting. I complied.
That is when I started to smell something fishy. I was yet to use their logo & I asked them about their own recognition status. Certainly, this question was a bolt from the blue. “We are calling from the USA. Don’t you believe us?” this was the only reply!
As predictable, they started to avoid me. After 1 year or so, they contacted in the same way with another institute. The irony was that they had no idea that this institute too was mine & they were contacting the same person!
By this time, I did some research about IAO & got to know that they simply hire a USA based number & the address mentioned had no real existence at all! Being contacted for the second time, when I asked them that two years back I have already been through the, process, and I have paid to you for the recognition, but I have never used your name as I found it’s fishy , the person asked me who am I? I gave him a simple reply I am the owner of five different institutes offering different courses. One is into game development & animation, another one is in total IT, another one into medical solutions, another into skill development and the rest is into manufacturing. Also informed them I am the same person whom you have communicated earlier. Very I asked them to give me their address; I will ask my USA team to have a visit to their office as you are claiming you are calling from the USA. They just simply turned off the call. Funny huh? I tried to call back, but they never replied.
Then I started digging the whole thing. Then I found many Universities in India took their accreditation! Some of the institutes who stole our course contents and they too got the accreditation. Now they are so proud about the accreditation without knowing that it’s fake! Poor them! They have just wasted the money. Now I do not have a problem with that. They are free to spend of spoil their own money. But the fact is that student’s are the actual sufferers as they think the institute they are choosing is recognized by a USA based firm. But the truth is that the firm itself is not recognized. Well I am trying to make it simple. Let us say you are getting a diploma. But when that diploma will be valid? When it will be recognized from a University and that University must be accredited by the Govt. In India that may be UGC, AICTE, DEC any of them or all of them.
Well, this was my story. I could have been a victim if I were not conscious. What made me suspect them is their silence when questioned about their own recognition status.
WHY IAO GETS EASY ACCESS IN INDIA?
The primary thing is, accreditation & approval are not same. Approval is given by some universities who themselves have to be recognized by the state. License of approval is mandatory. The process does not end with a blink of the eye. It takes years. If a university or college is not approved, any degree issued by it will be regarded as illegal. We often get confused about Approval & Accreditation.
Accreditation is above & beyond the state level & it is exclusively a voluntary process. It is conducted by professional organizations & given based on certain standards set by those very organizations. Accreditation is a kind of granting the public recognition. But who can give accreditation? Neither you nor I. Nor Tom, Dick & Harry. The companies who can give accreditation must be recognized from a govt body itself and must follow the rules given by the govt. Of that country where it is established .Then that second party organization can give accreditation to others who are in the education industry.
Most institutes do not really care that much. Callously they are carried away by the sudden announcement of an accreditation. The ‘whites are the best’ syndrome still lures them to such an extent that they give up their common sense even.
‘The USA accreditation & that are too in such a cheap rate’ – this thing immediately clicks the bargain-loving & profit-smelling minds. They never crosscheck about the authenticity of the organization; that they are paying for; whom they are attending at their campus. They sincerely arrange for the whole process, gather fake strength, & end up being bullied when they finally get to know that all this was fake!
In India, lots of prestigious institutes & universities have already been their prey. Some of them I personally know & I regret their decision to go for IAO’s accreditation. You can easily find their names on the website of IAO it.
See, nothing can come out of nowhere. It is ridiculous & shameful. Institutes are responsible for the welfare of their students. Some decent looking, English speaking people can easily gully them with their tall talks. How can they be so callous about their reputation? How can they be so careless? So gullible? Is it not only their duty but also their moral responsibility to think twice before accepting any reward or award?
Of course, the students are the ultimate sufferers. They are doubly bullied. Firstly, about the quality education & secondly the degrees & the certificates. They churn out all their money & in some ceremonies; they are presented with the certificates of their labor having the seal of some good-looking logos, which in real life have no value at all. Finally, being rejected everywhere they crowd the population of educated unemployed youths & that too with no real education.
So what to do?
Do not just go by my words. Check the links I provided here. Just Google “IAO Fake” & you will get all the information.
Ask, know, implicate. As a responsible institute go to the root of a matter, know the truths. Know your rights. Easy there! With the RTI, you get easy access to the right knowledge. Why don’t you use it? If your ego hurts you to take help from a knowledgeable person or media, please use your common sense. Let your moral police ask questions. Let us not make common sense the most uncommon thing. Let us take the pledge not to make our students suffer.