Sunday, December 14, 2008

The importance of accreditation

I am speaking from my own experience as a clinician and an academic. The accreditation I am talking about is not Uni accreditation, but rather professional accreditation.

Depending on the profession, accreditation is important. Accreditation is what separates those who hold the necessary degree and those who hold the degree AND are actually practising according to a set of standards and regulations. This is especially important in the medical and health profession. Imagine putting your life under the care of someone who has a medical degree but has not practiced for 10 years since graduation!

Peer accreditation, especially, is important. What separates peer accreditation from government accreditation? Well... in peer accreditation, a person is assessed based on a set of regulations set by their peers. Their performances will be assessed and criticized by their peers within the same profession. This ensures a high standard of good practice. In government accreditation, a person is required to meet a set of rules set by the government and these rules may be politically motivated and have less emphasis on standard of professional practice.

Accreditation also ensures that a professional maintains continuing education and keeps up-to-date with his/her practice. This is because in order for a person to continue being accredited, he/she must submit evidences of professional activities he/she had undertaken every year (or in a financial cycle of the professional organisation etc) to maintain his/her accreditation.

This is the reason why, in certain profession, accreditation is more important than just merely holding the degree for that profession.

Accreditations from certain countries (for certain professions) are recognised by a set of other countries because the professionals and governments in those countries have committed to a certain understanding between themselves. Normally, the country which is the strictest in their accreditation will have recognition pretty much everywhere in the world... and therefore, accreditation from these countries are well sought after and highly regarded.

In Malaysia, many of the health professions are not accreditated. What it means is, there is poor regulation on the quality of health professionals, on what they are allowed or not allowed to practice etc. Therefore, one can see a dietitian (for example) in Malaysia who uses their professional degree to sell and market health products of dubious quality, making claims such as "cure cancer" or "eliminate diabetes" etc. If there is peer accreditation, such people can be easily stopped from practising or from calling themselves by a certain profession. Public awareness from accreditation will mean that people will be asking for an accredited pofessional.

Accreditation also enhances the trust the public has on the integrity of practice from the profession and increases the marketability of the profession to the public and to other people from other professions. It also helps with setting up a netting system, a monitoring system and a self-appraisal system that ensures continuing education is undertaken always.

Why accreditation is not sought after in Malaysia?

Well... in the words of someone I know (an academic from a local Uni in Malaysia)..."If we are to peer accreditate these people....more than half of them will not make the are they going to find job?"

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