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Just what is CELTA?

The University of Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) is the oldest established ELT training certificate and was developed from a certificate launched by International House over 50 years ago. Most training courses now follow the CELTA model (see box, right).

It is also the most well-known. Cambridge Assessment research by the university department which owns CELTA suggests it is the required qualification for one-third of TEFL jobs and it is certainly the most frequently named in the job ads we see.

The main advantages, apart from its reputation and the fact that it’s owned by a world-famous university, is that it has a clear syllabus followed by every centre and that Cambridge Assessment specifies the process of training teacher trainers, visits every course provider, most courses and assesses some of the work of every candidate.

The main disadvantage is that it’s focused on teaching adults – assessed teaching practice, for example, must be with over 16s – yet most of the students in the world’s language schools are now aged six to 16 and, increasingly, even younger.

Although there has been an online option for several years, until the pandemic all teaching practice had to be face to face, which is clearly optimum. Cambridge is allowing online teaching practice for the duration of Covid-19, but it is unclear if this will continue post- pandemic. We’ll try to keep you posted.

The CELTA model

Most widely accepted certificates follow the CELTA model:

  • 120 course hours, including 20 hours of teaching practice with adult language learners, normally face to face.
  • A solid grounding in communicative language teaching methodology.
  • Assessed written work.
  • Assessed teaching practice.
  • No final exam.
  • Designed as an initial pre-service qualification and does not confer state-qualified teacher status.
  • Available to non-graduates and non-native speakers (no precise language level specified).
  • On the national register of recognised qualifications for England at level 5 of the English qualification framework run by OFQUAL, and on the European Qualification Framework at Level 5 with certificate issued by an accredited assessment body.

NB: A similar qualification framework exists across Europe. In Ireland, for example, it’s run by QQI, and it also exists in Australia and New Zealand. However, the system for certificate validation in the USA is quite different, as trainers Bridge in Denver explain on page 50.

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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