When you’re getting started in TEFL and deciding which certification to take, one thing to keep in mind is whether or not the course provider is accredited. In fact, we’ve put it as one of our six questions to ask when choosing a TEFL course.
In this article, we look at what TEFL accreditation is and whether it’s important.
What is TEFL accreditation?
So first of all, what is TEFL accreditation and what does it involve?
TEFL accreditation is a form of quality assurance. An external organisation comes up with a set of standards which it believes providers should adhere to in order to deliver a quality training program. Providers apply to be accredited by this body, who then carry out an assessment.
What happens during this assessment depends on the standards that have been set, but it usually involves someone from the accrediting body visiting the course provider, observing the course and trainers (some accrediting bodies impose fairly strict requirements on the course syllabus, others allow more leeway), talking to employees, looking at processes and procedures, and so on. On the basis of this they decide if their standards have been met.
If so, then the TEFL course provider is accredited by that body.
The process shouldn’t stop there. Good accrediting bodies should assess and moderate the provider periodically to ensure that standards haven’t slipped. Ideally, the accrediting body should be actively involved with every course that the provider gives, for example assessing some of the coursework done by trainees.
Why is TEFL accreditation important?
The biggest problem with the TEFL industry is the lack of regulation. Anyone can create a TEFL course, market and sell it. Inevitably, this means that there are hundreds of courses to choose from, many of which are low quality. Some are even created as a means of exploiting badly informed potential trainees, with hollow promises of high quality training at rock bottom prices.
So you can start to see why having reputable, high quality accreditation behind a course can help both you and the training centre.
Here are some advantages that might come from taking an accredited TEFL course:
- It can ensure that you are receiving good quality training that has met the standards imposed by the accrediting body.
- Accreditation may increase the chance that your TEFL certification will be recognised and trusted when it comes to finding a job. (And government-regulated accreditation should ensure that your certification is recognised and trusted worldwide – more on this later.) The majority of employers will only consider applicants whose TEFL certification meets some minimum standards. Many employers, for example, require a course that is at least 100 hours in length and includes at least 6 hours of observed teaching practice. Accreditation from a body that sets these standards is one way for providers to give this guarantee to its trainees.
- You can look at accreditation as a form of protection. It is protection for yourself, to ensure that you aren’t being exploited by a shady TEFL course provider, and therefore to ensure that you aren’t throwing your hard-earned money down the drain on a low quality, untrusted or unrecognised course. It is protection for your future employers, who need to know that they are recruiting teachers who have received quality training. And it is protection for your students, who have the right to expect their English language trainer to be well qualified.
Why might TEFL accreditation not be important?
Unfortunately, the very same reasons why accreditation are important are also reasons why it might not be important. This sounds counter-intuitive, but here’s what we mean by this:
- An accredited TEFL course only ensures that you are receiving good quality training if the TEFL accrediting body itself is reputable and stands up to scrutiny. Just as anyone can create a TEFL course, so too can anyone create a TEFL accrediting body. In the UK, anyone with £12 and three pieces of ID can set up a limited company and call it a TEFL accreditation body. Some course providers, after creating their course, do just this, and then rapidly “accredit” their own course. Needless to say, this doesn’t guarantee quality training.
- If the accrediting body doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, then it may not provide the protection that we talked about above. You may still be throwing money away on a low quality course.
- Most accrediting bodies are businesses, just like the TEFL course providers they work with, and so accreditation involves payment of a fee. The fact that a business transaction is involved can mean that ensuring high quality is not at the top of the accrediting body’s list of priorities.
So, seeing the words “Accredited by XYZ” on a course provider’s website is not enough. It doesn’t guarantee quality. You need to look into the accrediting body itself.
What should I look for in TEFL accreditation?
So what should you be looking for when you research a particular TEFL accreditation? Here are some things to look out for:
- Is it a government-regulated accreditation? A course accredited by Ofqual in the UK or AQF in Australia, or awarded by a body which is regulated by one of these organisations, should be recognised and trusted internationally.
If the course is not government-regulated, but has a private accrediting body:
- Is the TEFL course provider listed on their website as one of the providers they accredit?
- How long have they been in operation and have they accredited other reputable-looking TEFL courses?
- Does their website and setup look professional, or like it was put together in five minutes?
- Do they list the requirements, the process for accreditation and the standards that organisations are required to meet? Do they actually physically send a moderator to assess the course and the trainers, get feedback from trainees and participate in their assessment? If so, how often?
Is TEFL accreditation important to employers?
Most TEFL course providers market their courses as “internationally recognised”. But accreditation doesn’t automatically make your certification internationally recognised. It can certainly help, but most reputable employers will look at more than just your course provider’s accreditation when deciding whether or not to recruit you.
For the course itself, they will most likely look at the duration of the course and whether or not it included some observed teaching practice of real ESL students. (At least 100 hours duration and 6 hours of teaching practice is a widely accepted requirement). If those criteria are met as a result of having done an accredited course, then great, but for many employers it may be these criteria themselves, rather than the fact that they came from an accredited course, that are foremost on their minds.
And they’ll look beyond that too. All employers have their own preferences. They’ll look at your experience, other aspects of your CV, how you come across at interview, and so on.
Should I prioritise accreditation when choosing a TEFL course?
If you are choosing between different courses, then, all other things being equal, yes, you should certainly prioritise those that are accredited by reputable bodies that stand up to scrutiny.
But remember there are other factors which might be as important in your choice, which we outline in these questions to ask when choosing a TEFL course. The duration of the course (as we mentioned above), the course cost and location, for example, may all come into it. But that’s not to say you should choose a shady, non-accredited course provider just because they run their course on the beach!
What are some of the TEFL accrediting bodies?
We can divide TEFL accreditation bodies into several types. Firstly, there are organisations which accredit only TEFL courses.
The two most widely recognised of these are Cambridge University and Trinity College London, which moderate and accredit the CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL respectively. These are probably the most widely recognised and accepted certifications internationally. CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL also have the advantage of being government-regulated, by Ofqual (mentioned above) at level 5 on their Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) in the UK. An RQF Level 5 qualification is the equivalent of a Foundation Degree or Diploma of Higher Education in the UK.
Some other examples of specialist TEFL accreditors are the International Accreditation of TESOL Qualifying Organisations (IATQUO), which validates some courses in France, Spain and the Czech Republic, and the Online TEFL and TESOL Standards Agency (OTTSA), which accredits online TEFL courses. These are private, non-government-regulated bodies.
Secondly, there are organisations which give accreditation to both TEFL and other types of training course. Training Qualifications UK (TQUK) is one of these, and offers government-regulated (Ofqual RQF level 5) TEFL courses with some providers, as well as accrediting other types of training. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF – mentioned above) provides government-regulated accreditation to TEFL courses and other types of training. Their Certificate IV in TESOL is recognised as being equivalent to CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL. The Open and Distance Learning Quality Council (ODLQC) gives accreditation for online and distance learning, including accreditation of online TEFL courses.
Thirdly, some TEFL certificates are accepted by universities for graduate credits towards an MA or M.Ed. This kind of agreement means that the university validates the coursework and syllabus. Other courses and providers are accredited or approved by the Ministry of Education in the country where the course is run. In some countries such approval by the Ministry of Education is a necessary requirement for TEFL certification course providers.
What doesn’t count as TEFL accreditation?
On many TEFL course provider websites you’ll see mentions of memberships of various TEFL organisations, such as IATEFL or TESOL.org. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these, but they are not the same as accreditation. They simply mean that they are a member of that organisation.
Other things to consider
We mentioned above the criteria which are most widely accepted and recognised by employers worldwide, namely a course with at least 100 hours of training and 6 hours or more of observed teaching practice, teaching real ESL students, not your peers.
The reason these criteria are generally accepted internationally is because they were, in a sense, “laid down” by the original leaders in the field, the Cambridge CELTA and Trinity Cert TESOL. As a result, some other accrediting bodies set these minimums in their standards, and many employers have these as a minimum requirement for job applicants.
But that’s not the case for all reputable accrediting bodies. For example, you can take a course accredited by ODLQC, whom we mentioned above, and these minimums won’t necessarily be in their standards, simply because they only accredit online courses. By definition, a teaching practicum is not possible with an online course.
So if you take one of these courses, it will still be accredited by a reputable organisation, it just won’t meet the standards required by many employers. That’s not to say it’s not a good course. It just means that your employment options will be more limited. And this brings us back to the other factors that you have to consider when choosing a course. Maybe for where you’re thinking of teaching, and for your budget, a shorter, online course is the best option.
A list of accredited TEFL courses?
Listing all accredited TEFL courses here would make for a very long article. You can find lists of TEFL courses in different countries in our database, and then take a look at each one to see how their accreditation matches up to what you’ve read here.