The Importance of Revising the International Education Standards
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Recognizing the trend toward global convergence and the increasing mobility of professional accountants, the International Accounting Education Standards Board™ (IAESB™) project to revise and redraft the suite of eight International Education Standards™ (IESs™) will clarify the obligations of IFAC member bodies and other interested stakeholders involved with the education, development, and assessment of professional accountancy education.
Additionally, the suite of revised IESs is expected to contribute to other desirable outcomes, including the reduction in international differences in the requirements to qualify and work as a professional accountant; the facilitation of the global mobility of professional accountants; and the provision of international benchmarks against which IFAC member bodies can measure themselves.
The IESs improve the consistency and clarity by articulating the nature of professional competence in terms of technical competence, professional skills, and professional values, ethics, and attitudes. They delineate the competence areas required to perform a role as a professional accountant. In addition, they set the essential learning outcomes required to meet the public’s expectations of the professional competence to be demonstrated by a professional accountant and audit engagement partner.
And, ultimately, the revised IESs aim to raise the level of confidence and trust of stakeholders in the work of professional accountants.
Initial Professional Development (IPD)
The revised IESs have benefited from a wide-ranging consultation that accords with rigorous due process, including oversight by the Public Interest Oversight Board (PIOB). The revised IESs not only protect the public interest by setting entry requirements for professional accounting education programs, but also elevate the standard required of professional accounting education programs by delineating 18 competence areas and 82 learning outcomes required of the aspiring professional accountant. They go beyond knowledge of principles, standards, concepts, facts, and procedures; they require the integration and application of technical competence, professional skills, and professional values, ethics, and attitudes.
The IAESB’s revision project has ensured that professional accounting education programs will be in sync with cutting-edge advances in accounting education that are being incorporated into top-tier accounting programs in universities across the USA, Europe, and Australia. In addition, the revised IESs set clear requirements for IFAC member bodies and other PAOs on entry to professional accounting education programs (i.e., IES 1), content of professional accounting education (i.e., IESs 2, 3, & 4), practical experience (i.e., IES 5), and assessment (i.e., IES 6). These education standards lay the foundation for further learning and development in which professional accountants are required through continuing professional development (CPD) and one of the specializations of accountancy, auditing, to develop and maintain their professional competence.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
The revision project has also extended to the redrafting of IES 7 on CPD so as to improve its clarity. IES 7, Continuing Professional Development (Redrafted), continues to require that all professional accountants undertake CPD, regardless of sector or size of the organization in which they work. CPD plays an important part in enabling professional accountants to develop and maintain a level of professional competence that is relevant to their role. All professional accountants have an obligation of due care to their clients, employers and other relevant stakeholders – and are expected to demonstrate their ability to competently discharge this responsibility.
IES 7 also requires measuring CPD, which can be achieved by three alternative approaches: output-based (professional competence demonstrated by way of outcomes); input-based (professional competence established by the amount of learning activity); and a combination approach (professional competence achieved by combining elements of input- and output-based approaches). This type of requirement provides the member body with flexibility in measuring CPD activity.
In addition, IES 8, Professional Competence for Engagement Partners Responsible for Audits of Financial
Statements (Revised), prescribes the professional competence that professional accountants are required to develop and maintain when performing the role of an engagement partner responsible for audits of financial statements. IES 8 is primarily aimed at IFAC member bodies, but recognizes the shared responsibilities of engagement partners, public accounting firms, and regulators as part of the system of quality control for engagement teams performing audits of financial statements. This standard will also be of interest to employers, regulators, government authorities, educational organizations, and any other stakeholders who support the learning and development of professional accountants.
The IAESB recognizes that continuing professional development develops and maintains competence of professional accountants performing the role of engagement partner. Accordingly, the IAESB has specified learning outcomes that engagement partners must achieve to demonstrate competence in areas relating to technical competence, professional skills, and professional values, ethics, and attitudes.
As the career of an engagement partner progresses, practical experience also becomes increasingly important in maintaining and further developing the necessary depth and breadth of professional competence.
Supporting Adoption and Implementation
Following the approval of the revised IES 8, the IAESB will focus its work on supporting the adoption and implementation of the revised IESs.
In completing my term as IAESB Chair on December 31, 2014, I leave the Education Board to move ahead on the next three-year work program, which combines completing the current projects and introducing new projects that will support the adoption and implementation of the IESs, and preparing to conduct a review of the impact of the revised IESs.
I am confident that new IAESB Chair, Chris Austin, will successfully lead the IAESB work program, as it aims to accelerate and enhance the required capacity and capability of IFAC member bodies and other professional accountancy organizations to implement these revised IESs in an effective and efficient manner.