Examining the examiners
If you want to learn to dive, or develop your diving, you must first select a training agency. But how do you decide which does the best job Brendan O'Brien puts them to the test - by comparing their various approaches to turning tenderfoots into dolphins
|WHEN I LEARNT TO DIVE 22 YEARS AGO THERE WAS ONLY REALLY ONE AVAILABLE TRAINING AGENCY, the British Sub-Aqua Club. Now there is plenty of competition, but the range of choice can be disorientating. |
Which agency does a novice choose The BSAC because of its strong links with UK diving Its British rival, the Sub-Aqua Association (SAA)
Or one of the commercial agencies - the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), Scuba Schools International (SSI) or, a recent arrival in the UK, the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI)
Many divers want to pursue technical diving qualifications. Do they go for Technical Diving International (TDI) or the International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers (IANTD) Recreational diver training agencies also now offer technical diving courses and, not to be left out, technical diving training agencies have started offering recreational courses.
Every agency claims to offer the best diver training in the world. Which is right You could try asking other divers, but so many simply support the agency with which they trained.
The other UK diving magazines are tied to particular training agencies and, guess what, they all promote their agency as the best! So Diver set out to do what they couldnt - evaluate the training on offer in the UK. Big task You bet!
The delivery of training is only as good as the individual instructor, so we decided to evaluate the one thing that shouldnt change from one school or club to another - the material used by students and instructors.
Between them the agencies run more than 300 courses, so we targeted the training packages for an entry-level recreational diver, plus basic nitrox courses. The quality of these flagship courses should indicate that of the other courses on offer.
As for my credentials, over 22 years I have dived in a variety of conditions all over the world. I originally trained with the BSAC to Advanced Diver level, but have no current connections with any training agency. My professional background is in training - my qualifications include a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) licence that enables me to both assess and quality-assure training material, its design and its delivery by a trainer-instructor. I also have a postgraduate qualification in training and evaluation.
I wanted to check the aim of each course (whether it does what it says it does); the objective (whether the goals for the lessons/materials used are specific and achievable); and whether the process by which the objective is to be achieved takes the student from simple to more complex concepts and skills in a straightforward, logical way.
And before the agencies say it, no evaluation can be free from a degree of interpretation, but by using an objective procedure I have tried to ensure that the results are both valid and reliable.
I entered this project believing that most training agency products would be similar, but that proved to be far from the case. Each has its own merits based on background, and differing approaches.
Shop around and ask questions of your potential instructor. Ask to see the materials you will be using. And if you dont think a course will provide for your personal style of learning, rest assured that one of the other training agencies will have one that does.