Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Which certificate?

In the sometimes confusing world of certificates, Melanie Butler explains what’s what

Virtually every country on the planet requires a foreign English language teacher to have a first degree before they will issue a work visa, but an increasing number also ask for “a recognised and accredited English teaching certificate”.

What does ‘recognised and accredited’ actually mean? It depends on the country where the certificate originates.

The simplest system operates in the US, where a certificate can be either issued by an accredited university or by a training centre or language school whose course is accredited by one of two bodies: ACCETT or CEA. To find out if the training course is accredited, simply check the websites of both accreditors. Simpler still, check the email address. Under US law it is illegal to use the top level domain name ‘.org’ on your address unless you are accredited. Unfortunately, almost everywhere else, this is not the case and domain names with .org followed by .ru, .tv or even .uk tell you nothing about their accreditation status.

In most other English speaking countries, certificates are not accredited, but they are recognised if they appear on the website of the national authority responsible for all educational qualifications.

In Ireland, that body is Quality and Qualification Ireland (QQI), which is also responsible for accrediting language schools and the Irish equivalent of the CELTA, known as the CELT. The Irish also accept CELTA and Trinity as equivalent. You cannot work in an accredited school in Ireland without a first degree.

The UK situation is much more confusing, not least because the four constituent nations have different educational systems, although the qualifications in each country are recognised by the others. OFQUAL, which runs the English national qualifications framework, requires teacher training courses to be validated by a recognised assessment body, such as Cambridge Assessment or Trinity College London, before it will include them on the framework. At least four other assessment bodies – GA, Pearson, TDQ and Focus – validate TEFL courses which appear on the national framework.

Teachers in UK accredited language schools are expected to have a first degree or equivalent unless there are ‘exceptional circumstances’. However 64% of accredited centres had non-graduate staff at their last inspection. While centres may not pass the criterion of academic staff profile if their ratio of non-graduate teachers is deemed too high, we know of no centre whose accreditation has been put under review solely on the basis that it had too many non-graduate teachers.

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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