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Getting Qualified


  1. TEFL or TESL?
  2. Routes to Qualifications
  3. Funding
  4. Career opportunities
  5. Working in the UK
  6. Working abroad
  7. Useful publications
  8. Useful addresses

There are a number of ways to become an EFL teacher. This information sheet describes the routes towards gaining the most widely accepted qualifications in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). These vary according to your needs, current academic qualifications and professional experience.

1) TEFL or TESL?

Confusion sometimes arises over the terms used to describe English language teaching. Acronyms most commonly used include: TEFL, TESOL and TESL.

TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) effectively mean the same thing. Teaching is directed towards individuals whose first language is not English, often in commercial language schools both in the UK and overseas. Objectives of students will vary, but generally range from learning for leisure, e.g. improvement of general or conversational English to more focused study such as learning English for specific or academic purposes.

TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) is also found in the UK and overseas, but the objectives differ from TEFL/TESOL. Usually classes in the UK take place in state colleges with a high non-native speaking population in the local area. Sometimes the term TESOL is used rather than TESL so it is best to check the intended meaning. Another term that may be used in this context is TEAL (Teaching English as an Additional Language).

In the UK, TESL often involves teaching individuals from ethnic minority groups who require a level of English that will allow them to integrate into the country's educational, work and cultural environment. Overseas, TESL is the term most often used to describe a context in which English is the language of administration and communication between different language groups, for example Nigeria, Kenya and Singapore. More information on TESL may be obtained by contacting NATECLA (National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults).

English Language Teaching, ELT, is a term that is often used which covers TEFL, TESOL and TESL. This is an international term that is in common use.

2) Routes to qualifications

The most commonly accepted qualifications are the Cambridge/RSA and Trinity College London certificates or state Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), preferably with a TEFL component (although such courses have been reduced in the UK ). These are generally seen as a minimum qualification. This does not necessarily mean that alternative courses are not very good or will not be accepted. A qualification of some sort will certainly be considered preferable to no qualification at all.

It is important to realise that many of the courses described in this section do not confer what is termed a Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). This means that certificate and diploma holders, though able to obtain employment in private language schools in and outside Britain, will not be qualified to teach in British state schools unless they have a relevant qualification.

The British Association of TESOL Qualifying Institutions (BATQI) developed a framework of qualification in this area. BATQI is currently being replaced, following it's merger with the Institute for English Language Teacher Development in Higher Education (IELTDHE), by a new organisation, Quality in TESOL Education (QuiTE). However, the BATQI register of accredited courses is still available on the Internet. There are many other qualifications on offer, but you should always make sure you choose a course that is externally validated by a reputable body (i.e. a university or recognised examination boards). BATQI also recommends that your course includes supervised and assessed teaching practice and that it is longer than 100-120 hours in length. Most employers will also expect the qualification to have included at least ten hours of TEFL teaching practice.

2a) Introductory courses

A number of institutions offer short full-time or longer part-time introductory teacher-training courses. These courses, which cater for a variety of special needs, are exactly what they say, introductory. They do not lead to a generally recognized qualification to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) but may be useful if you need to decide whether you are suited to TEFL as a career or as a lead up to a TEFL Certificate. The duration of an introductory course is usually one week.

2b) Certificate courses

People with no previous experience of TEFL but with a good standard of education, usually a first degree but in some cases two GCE A-levels or equivalent, may enter the profession by taking a certificate qualification. Certificates may be acceptable as a qualification by some employers for teaching overseas and/or in the UK. The cost of a course is between £400-£1000 depending on the institution and duration of the course. The BATQI register provides details of institutions which run BATQI accredited certificate level courses. Many institutions offer their own certificate courses and some courses are validated by an external body, for example:

Cambridge/RSA Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA)
The Cambridge/RSA Certificate, previously known as the RSA/CTEFLA or the RSA Prep Cert was redesignated Cambridge/RSA Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) in 1996. CELTA is equivalent in standard to the CTEFLA/Prep Cert but it has been revised through worldwide consultation in line with ELT professional advice.

The course may be taken full or part-time at centres worldwide. The centres are approved to run CELTA and there is a strict external assessment system to guarantee standards both of the course and of assessment.

CELTA is the only international award that has a placement service for every successful candidate.

Further details are available in the form of an information leaflet available from the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) the address of which you will find in useful addresses.

Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Trainees must follow an approved course before the certificate can be awarded. There are currently around 100 institutions running Certificate TESOL courses in the UK and overseas.

Some 3000 trainees are awarded the Certificate TESOL annually having successfully followed a course validated by Trinity at one of around 100 course providing institutions in the private and state sectors, UK and overseas. Courses may be full-time, lasting 4 or 5 weeks, or part-time from three to nine months. A course may not be followed purely by distance learning although some providers set a pre-course distance task.

Successful trainees must attend the whole course of 130 hours and complete all assignments including teaching practice to the required standard. Trinity sets all course providers guidelines on entry requirements, course design and staffing, and assessment. The normal entry requirements are qualifications allowing the holder entry to higher education and a high level of spoken and written English language skills, whether or not English is their first language.

The usual minimum age at entry is 20 although some providers take candidates at 18. Course providers are monitored through an extensive inspection process prior to validation and then a visit at the end of every course by an independent moderator appointed and trained by Trinity, who will evaluate written work and talk to tutors and all trainees.

Further details are available from Trinity College London the address of which you will find in useful addresses.

2c) Diploma courses

Cambridge/RSA Diploma (DTEFLA)
The Cambridge/RSA Diploma (DTEFLA) is a high-level qualification normally open to graduates who have at least two years recent EFL teaching experience. Most Diploma courses run part-time over one academic year although there are some full-time courses which last eight to ten weeks. Applicants usually already possess a TEFL certificate. However, all candidates for the Cambridge/RSA Diploma must follow an approved course. (Please see the important note.) The BATQI Register provides details of institutions which run BATQI accredited diploma level courses.

Further details are available from the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) the address of which you will find in useful addresses.

Trinity College London Licentiate Diploma to Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
Trinity College London Licentiate Diploma to Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages is a high level qualification through examination normally open to graduates with two years' experience of teaching English as a foreign or second language and a Cert TESOL or equivalent.

Assessment is by a four-part examination which includes two written papers, an interview on the characteristics of spoken English and the teaching of spoken English, and externally assessed teaching. The examination is open to speakers of English or of another language as their mother tongue with two years' teaching experience. It is strongly recommended that candidates follow a course at a Trinity College registered centre. A growing number of centres offer tuition essentially by distance learning but which include one or more brief contact sessions. The syllabus is currently under review.

Further details are available from Trinity College London the address of which you will find in useful addresses.

2d) Distance learning courses

Those wishing to gain TEFL qualifications by distance learning should check carefully with their training institution and any potential employer on employment prospects. It is important to remember that teaching observation and teaching practice are substantial aspects of a TEFL course, and this is not always possible with a distance learning course.

The Committee of BATQI has adopted the following policy: 'In initial professional courses (whether pre- or post-experience), there must be a substantial element of integrated and supervised teaching practice which is explicitly moderated by a validating body.'

2e) Courses for overseas teachers of English

RSA/Cambridge offers certificate and diploma courses in TEFL for overseas candidates whose first language is not English.

RSA/Cambridge Certificate for Overseas Teachers of English (COTE)
The aim of the Certificate is to provide training for teachers over eighteen years of age who have at least 300 hours of relevant classroom experience with children or adults and whose first language is not English. Entry qualifications vary from country to country depending on the requirements of the national education system but the level of language should be approximately equal to the Cambridge First Certificate in English or Certificate in Communicative Skills in English, Level II.

Courses are only offered by centres outside the UK, and about thirty part-time courses lasting over six or twelve months are run each year. The duration of courses is usually a minimum of 150 hours. Please contact individual centres for dates and fees.

RSA/Cambridge Diploma for Overseas Teachers of English (DOTE)
The Diploma is aimed at experienced practising teachers of EFL, over twenty-one years of age who have at least 500 hours of relevant classroom experience and whose first language is not English. At entry candidates should possess a standard of English which would allow them to pass Cambridge First Certificate, GCSE Level II or Cambridge Examination in English for Language Teachers, Level I. Courses are normally part-time and run over a period of two years with regular class meetings, although some courses are more intensive. Please contact individual centres for dates and fees.

Trinity College London Licentiate Diploma to Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages
This examination is also open to speakers of English with two years' teaching experience who have another language as their mother tongue. See above for details.

Important: Cambridge Integrated teaching schemes - The RSA/Cambridge Teachers Schemes are currently under review.

Please note that the DTEFLA students will be able to retake either or both components until 2001. The Diploma level qualification of the revised Cambridge Integrated Language Teaching Scheme will be introduced in September 1998.

2f) First degree courses

There are comparatively few first degree courses in TEFL/TESL offered in Britain. More commonly, TEFL/TESL usually forms one strand or module within a broader subject area such as educational studies, linguistics or English language.

There are some Bachelor of Arts (BA) courses in applied language studies and linguistics which do not include practical teacher training but which can be 'topped up' by a four week 'certificate type' course to provide the practical element to this initial qualification. However, this does not confer Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

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