Which TEFL Accreditation Counts?
Getting TEFL certified these days is easy. There are online courses out there that can be completed over a week and will issue you a certificate that says 120-hours. On it will likely be some sort of ‘accreditation’ claim. But how does this differ from a spending 4 weeks in a class, costing considerably more.
There are numerous TEFL courses offered around the world, usually sticking to the 120-hour format and each claiming some sort of accreditation. It’s a magic word that is obligatory on any website selling you a course, but they aren’t all equal.
Many who enter the world of TEFL are surprised to subsequently discover that there is no standardised TEFL, or worldwide body that moderates or accredites the many rival TEFL certificates. The industry is notorious for empty claims, bogus or illegitimate accreditation, and lack of standards. In short, not all TEFLs are the same, and few have any credible accreditation that meets academic review.
So, what do the recruiters say? Well, they haven’t got a unified standard to go by so they resort to building their own private profile of different TEFL trainers locally, noting which ones get a proper review from an accreditation board. Usually they can tell when someone isn’t properly trained by the way they conduct themselves in a teaching trial. These recruiters may not say anything, but privately they don’t take anyone seriously if the TEFL course was conducted entirely online. Some of these may be accredited by a bureau that validates the ‘online study’ but there is no credible online TEFL accreditation since teaching is something that requires some in-class training.
In fact the TEFL industry itself has no international body that is recognised for accrediting courses. Instead there are a number of rival agencies who have built up respect over the years for their standards in moderating courses run under their name. The best known of course is CELTA, which was launched by International House some three decades ago and is monitered by UCLES (The Cambridge based examinations board responsible for multiple international qualifications). Trinity College also moderates a respected course that is franchised around the world. Both are businesses, backed by a genuine academic institution, though the business end of things sometimes results in some centres falling short on several of the strict criteria in their rush to keep up with the stiff competition. All the same, these are two accreditations that are widely respected.
A more recent comer is TEFL International, a non-profit organisation (US registered) that maintains a board of professionals, including a professor from Leeds University, who keep an eye on the standards. Again this is a large franchise, operating in 20 countries with two branches in Thailand, Phuket and Chiang Mai (run by UniTEFL). Recently they went a step further by gaining validation from the TESOL Masters program at Fort Hays State University in the US, who reviewed the program and agreed to award 3 credits towards their Masters degree to graduates of the TEFL International 4 week intensive course, something no other TEFL course in the word boasts.
There are other individual TEFL courses that claim accreditation from various agencies, though these need to be carefully researched to see just how legitimate they are and if there is any evidence of moderation of standards. At the very least, the centre should pass an annual inspection and be reporting monthly on activities, with a rigorous test at course completion before awarding the certificate. Usually a minimum criteria has to be met regarding qualifications, facilities, curriculum and practicums. Anything less is academically a fraud.
Other TEFL courses may affiliate themselves with an academic institution or run their courses on a campus, making use of the institutes name on a commercial agreement. If the institute has no academic background in TEFL (ie a faculty of teaching conducted in English) then it’s probably not very credible in endorsing the course.
While many TEFL courses are correctly run by qualified staff, to a high standard, with some sort of quality control approval, it’s more advisable to opt for a course that is known worldwide for its moderation, so that there can be no doubt. Much of the TEFL industry is based on superficial demand and schools in Thailand may not be too fussy which TEFL course you did, provided you demonstrate skill and confidence in teaching correctly. But you may later find your choice regrettable when you try to move on to better paying jobs in Japan and the Middle East, only to find their TEFL certificate isn’t recognised.