The teaching English as a foreign language industry is saturated with hundreds of TEFL-course providers – but not all of them are properly certified or legitimate, an industry expert warns. From course length and syllabus to international accreditation, there are several factors to consider when selecting a company to help you kickstart your teaching career.
“A quick search for TEFL courses will reveal a plethora of different companies advertising their offerings – with new providers popping up every day. The tricky bit is knowing which one to go for, to avoid wasting a large sum of money and time on a poor-quality course,” says Tom Gibbons, Director at The TEFL Academy, South Africa’s leading course provider of Teaching English as a foreign language.
A TEFL certificate, awarded upon completion of a TEFL course, is an official qualification required by those who want to teach English as a foreign language, whether it’s online or in-class in popular destinations like Japan, Taiwan, or Thailand. The qualification is intended to provide teachers with knowledge on how to teach English skills, such as vocabulary and grammar, to foreign language speakers, as well as plan lessons and interact with students.
“In general, the best advice is to do your homework. There are some scams out there, so make sure the company you’re going through is legitimate before you hand over your money. Check out reviews and testimonials online, ask friends who have done TEFL courses, and even get in touch with course providers you’re considering, to find out more about their offering – their responses will give you a good idea of what it’s going to be like to work with them,” says Gibbons.
Gibbons breaks down the five most important factors to consider when selecting a TEFL course:
- Qualification: Good accreditation is a confirmation that the provider upholds high-quality standards. While there is no single accrediting body for Teaching English as a Foreign Language qualifications, look out for external accreditation from internationally recognised education bodies. For example, The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (OFQUAL) and Qualifi, a UK government recognised awarding body, are highly regarded by schools abroad.
- Course length: The industry standard for a TEFL course is 120 hours. This gives you enough time to cover all the key aspects of teaching online and is the minimum requirement for most teaching positions. While a course that is much longer is not necessarily going to give any advantage, a course that is only 50 hours, is too short to cover everything you need to learn.
- Course content: Courses should cover all basic aspects of TEFL teaching, such as lesson planning, grammar instruction, and teaching methodologies. Check the course outline beforehand to make sure all the important bases are covered. If you can’t find one, it may be because the course isn’t comprehensive enough.
- Practical component: It’s important to have a practical component, as this allows you to practice classroom management skills – whether it’s online or in-person – while putting into practice the theories of learning and teaching.
- Resources: From information about travel preparation to earning potential per country, a good TEFL course provider will go beyond simply giving you a qualification. The TEFL academy hosts a job board on their website and publishes an annual TEFL World Factbook, to give teachers an idea of degree requirements, typical student profiles, and average teaching hours per country.