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Accounting Education in a Global Environment

By:   |   Jul 08, 2018   |   Views: 10   |   Comments: 0

There has been much discussion in the last few years both in professional and academic circles about the convergence of FASB's U.S. GAAP and the IASB's IFRS.  There are many advantages to this convergence, it would allow for an overarching international accounting standard allowing for much simpler comparison of foreign companies versus U.S. based companies financials.  It would also make it much simpler for a U.S. based company with subsidiaries and affiliates around the world to publish financial statements if all the financial statements were accounted for under a universal system.  Another great advantage is the ability to universalize education requirements.  If the world is conducting business based off of IFRS then a student from India is being taught the same system as a student in the U.S.  This can be very advantageous to a corporation; it provides much more flexibility in the placement of the people that they hire.  This great possibility opens up some very large questions.  Are the students being taught the same courses from one country to the next?  Are schools producing equal quality students?  Are schools giving students a quality experience in and ability to interact with people from cultures other than their own?  There needs to be a standard for international education, and an awareness of the need for growth in international relations and a growth in the desire of students to pursue and understand these relations.

The International Accounting Education Standards Board (IAESB), which is a branch of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), this organization was formed in 1977 with the purpose "to strengthen worldwide accountancy profession in the public interest by:

  • Developing high quality international standards and supporting their adoption and use;
  • Facilitating collaboration and cooperation among its member bodies;
  • Collaborating and cooperating with other international organizations; and
  • Serving as the international spokesperson for the accountancy profession" (IFAC)

The purpose in the development of the IAESB is "to develop guidance to improve the standards of accountancy education around the world and focuses on two key areas: The essential elements of accreditation and the nature and extent of continuing professional education needed by accountants" to this end they have developed a "Framework for international education standards for professional accountants". (International)  This framework outlines the concepts that the IAESB uses to develop their standards for program accreditation.  The development of this framework has created a very comprehensive and thorough requirement base for the development of programs built to produce quality students.  One example is a school in Rwanda whose students took an international accounts exam.  This is an exam that is internationally recognized as a comprehensive accounting exam consisting of six papers.  64% of the 72 students passed all exams and 30% failed only one paper. (Kwizera)  These are incredible numbers for an exit exam out of any University.  The IAESB works regularly to maintain a watch on the programs that they have accredited to make sure that they are continuing to produce high quality accountants.

The previous discussion ended up talking about the quality of students produced from schools monitored by a regulatory body.  The two questions presented complement each other. With an international regulatory body, schools that are under that regulation will produce an equal quality professional.  The only thing that should be presented better is the accreditation to the general public, how is a student supposed to know if the school they choose is accredited without knowing to look for the accreditation.  The knowledge to look for a CPA when doing your taxes is generally accepted, but do people know what to look for to signify a quality accounting program that will produce quality students.

The third question that must be considered is; are students coming out of college with an ability to interact with individuals from outside of their culture?  In her paper on this topic Alina M. Zapalska and her colleagues concluded the following:

"Many aspects of existing curricula encourage practices that weaken rather than strengthen the ability of the United States to compete effectively at home and abroad.  For instance, most textbooks in an area of businesses devote only a chapter or less to international topics rather than taking an international approach particularly in the context of current global political conflict.  Moreover, many textbooks appear to ignore the fact that business practices in different parts of the world differ significantly from those in the United States and this difference can lead to potential social, political, cultural, and religious conflicts" (Zalpalska)

This statement is a harsh judgment.  Considering most, if not all students currently in school are going to interact with non-U.S. cultures, this is an issue.  There are options that are being cultivated and developed to encourage cultural diversity in students. These include foreign exchange programs, both for professors and students, and a curriculum that encourages students to research and interact with foreign cultures. The goal of these programs should be to encourage students to see the need for international awareness and sensitivity.

The most difficult part of changing a system is realizing the need for a change.  Through the work of the IAESB, AFIC and others the need for a universal international accounting education accreditation has been realized and is being implemented.  The harder part of the process is breaking down the barriers that students have put up to cultures other than their own.  Seeing the need to study and respect the beliefs and convictions that they will encounter working across cultures.  It is this student awareness that is the critical key to International education.  The students can learn the rules from a quality program and come out knowing all the information, but if they are unable or unwilling to positively interact with other cultures the international accounting community will be adversely affected.


International Accounting Education Standards Board. "Framework for International Education Standards for Professional Accountants." Www.ifac.org. International Federation of Accountants, Dec. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2011.

International Federation of Accountants. www.ifac.org.

Kwizera, Charles. "Rwanda: Finance School Students Excel in CPA." AllAfrica.com. The New Times, 13 Mar. 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2011.

Zapalska, Alina M., Steve Shuklian, Denis Rudd, and Frank Flanegin. "Global and International Issues in College Education." Insights to a Changing World Journal 2011.1 (2011): 85-92. Academic Search Complete. Web. 10 Apr. 2011.

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