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Have TEFL certificate will travel?

What do you really need to know about training for TEFL? Melanie Butler investigates

Training courses for Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) are booming as graduating students and furloughed workers sign up for online programmes which they hope will lead to jobs overseas after lockdown. But which of the many courses available is best?

It’s not a question of quality, it’s a question of portability, as different countries demand different things. So, which qualifications are accepted in the most countries?

If you’re going to a country where you need a visa – which for Brits will now include the EU – the most essential qualification is a university degree.

With some exceptions for language assistants working in state schools, the only countries we know of which allow you to teach English legally without a degree are the UK and Malta. And, outside of Europe, where preference is given to EU citizens, a depressing number of countries also require you to have a passport from an English- speaking country.

With a university degree and the right passport there are a small number of countries where you don’t need a training course. Traditionally it has been possible to work legally in private language schools in Japan, Korea and Taiwan without a certificate, while in France and Germany ability to speak the national language has been seen as more important. A small number of countries, including China, allow graduates with a degree in English to work without TEFL training.

The number of countries requiring certificates for work visas is, however, increasing plus, in a recession, the supply of graduates from English-speaking countries looking to go abroad rockets, so having the right certificate will give you an advantage.

Which certificate should you have? As already stated, the requirements vary from country to country, but a 120-hour course including 20 hours of teaching practice with English language learners, from a reputable provider, is acceptable almost everywhere. Online courses are now also commonly accepted, though less so in the Middle East. However, employers prefer online courses which include tutor support and teaching practice on real students.

Which certificate provider is acceptable for a visa again depends on the country.

The toughest restrictions are in the European Union member states, where the only certificates which are widely accepted are the Cambridge University CELTA, the Trinity College London CertTESOL and their Irish equivalent, the CELT. As these appear

to be accepted everywhere else too, we have listed every provider of both the CELTA and the CertTESOL in the English-speaking world, starting on page19. As CELT courses are only available in Ireland, they are not included.

Outside of Europe, the situation is far less UK-centric. In East Asia, for example, where American English is standard, certificates awarded by accredited US universities and specialist institutes, such as the School of International Training in Vermont, are accepted, as are courses inspected by the two main accrediting bodies for language centres: CEA and ACCET, which accredits the training courses from Bridge in Denver, see page 50.

The US system’s use of accreditation is reflected in the requirement in many countries for teachers to have certificates which are, as the Chinese authorities put it, ‘recognised and accredited’.

Unfortunately, however, outside the US no national system for accrediting TEFL certificates exists. Instead, a host of ‘accrediting bodies’ have sprung up on the internet, some owned by the very company whose certificates it accredits.

Countries don’t print lists of certificates they accept. Even the Korean government EPIK programme, whose list of certificates was traditionally followed in many Asian countries, now simply asks for a ‘TEFL/TESOL/CELTA/etc certificate of at least 100 hours or more from an accredited programme’. Apart from CELTA, a certificate which can only be issued by the University of Cambridge, this could cover any number of certificates accredited by almost anyone.

We recommend only considering either the US accredited courses described above or certificates issued by a national assessment body and accepted on the national qualification framework of the relevant English-speaking country. These include AQF in Australia, the QQI in Ireland or the UK’s Ofqual, which lists not only CELTA and Trinity, but at least five other course providers.

At least then if the country you are applying for a job in hasn’t heard of your course, you can prove that it’s an officially recognised qualification back home.

Be careful though. We have come across a few UK courses claiming to be accredited by Ofqual which we couldn’t find on the register.

If you take away one thing from this article, it’s that, when it comes to teacher training certificates, always check everything you read on the web.

Ofqual regulated certificates

Both Cambridge Assessment CELTA and Trinity College London CertTesol are regulated qualifications listed at Level 5 on the Ofqual registers. The following TEFL qualifications at the same level are listed by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) in England:

Course provider:        The TEFL Academy

Courses:                   Level 5 certificates in Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Assessment body:     Qualifi

Course provider:        i-to-i

Courses:                   Level 5 certificates in Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Assessment body:     GA

Three more assessment bodies – Pearson, TQDQ and Focus – have Ofqual regulated Level 5 certificates in this field.

Image courtesy of Library
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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