Choosing a teacher training course can be a confusing experience.
– Do you take a weekend course that promises work placement?
– Or, an intensive face-to-face TEFL course with teaching practice, observation and feedback?
– Or, you prefer an online TEFL course, with or without one week of practicals?
What is the difference between these three TEFL courses, which all offer the same outcomes for three wildly different prices?
If you want to secure a qualification that will give you the edge in the job market, will prepare you for every aspect of the job, and equip you to continue your development as a language teaching professional, the benchmarks to look for are ‘level 5’, ‘120 hours’ with some ‘real-time teaching practice’.
This article will clarify why these above features are essential and offer some words of caution to take on before you decide to book a course.
Why level 5?
Firstly, why is a level 5 qualification which is delivered over 120 hours such an important thing?
Due to the development of internationally-accepted, highly-respected TESOL qualifications such as the Trinity CertTESOL and Cambridge CELTA, governments, visa-issuing bodies, and education authorities around the world are setting requirements for teachers applying for jobs in their countries.
More and more of these requirements peg the minimum required qualification level at level 5, having been gained via a course that lasts a minimum of 120 learning hours. Because this is an agreed, independently accredited and confirmed level of basic quality in the industry, and because this is the requirement to get a visa and enter many countries, this is the type of qualification which is most marketable globally for those who want to travel with their teaching.
The ‘Level 5’ descriptor refers to an official regulation governed by the UK governmental body which oversees education activity: Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation).
They position qualifications at different levels depending on their length, level of outcome, and the experience required to gain acceptance onto the course. These levels are assigned numbers on a Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), which is where anyone can check on the official level of qualification.
In a nutshell, an RQF level 5 qualification is equivalent to a UK Graduate Certificate, or the completion of the second year of an undergraduate degree.
Are all ‘level 5’s the same?
The cautionary part to this is that by merely seeing the words ‘level 5’ on the name of a qualification does not guarantee that the qualification is positioned at RQF level five.
Schools and training centers are free to call their qualifications ‘level 5’, ‘level 8’, ‘level 153’ or whatever according to their own internal system. However, it is interesting how many training centers choose the number 5 as the internally-defined level of their TESOL courses… suspicious? Indeed!
If you want to be sure that the qualification you choose will get you where you want to go, will not expire, and will give you the prestige that your hard work deserves, then go to the RQF website (https://register.ofqual.gov.uk), find a Regulated Qualification and search for the course title on the database. This will show you whether the course is ‘level 5’ or RQF Level 5. For example, both CELTA and CertTESOL are registered as level 5 with Ofqual.
The value of 120-hour face-to-face TEFL training course
The value of the 120-hour TEFL course duration is based on the fact that as a qualified ESOL teacher, you will have the opportunity to work in a range of education settings from companies with a lot riding on their employees’ language ability, public schools whose student results are reportable to government agencies, private schools whose students are studying for expensive, high-stakes international exams, and other professional settings.
Ask yourself this: Will a weekend of TEFL training prepare you for the diverse settings that you could find yourself in?
If your training course does not include real-time, live observations and in-depth feedback from industry professionals, what will your first year in the classroom be like?
If your first experience standing up and teaching comes in a high-pressure situation such as those described above, is that fair on the students, their parents, or the school where they are studying?
If that matters to you, then it is really worth doing your homework before selecting the training course for you.
The first step on a pathway
Achieving an RQF Level 5 qualification in TESOL has other benefits. Not only can you ensure that you have the necessary skills and experience which are sought after worldwide in language education, but they also offer an objectively accredited start to a continuing development pathway for teachers.
If you want to continue your development in the TESOL industry with a further qualification such as the Trinity Diploma in TESOL or the Cambridge DELTA, you may be required to show that you have a Level 5 qualification plus two to three years of full-time experience in teaching.
Experience alone does not guarantee quality of teaching, and so missing out on this valuable starting point may prevent you from developing further in the profession when you are ready.
A further benefit of accessing this type of qualification progression is the range of higher professional opportunities that Diploma-level qualifications open up. Management positions, lecturer and university tutor positions, and training and development posts often require a Post-graduate Diploma in TESOL as a minimum, so lacking a recognized qualification from the outset can preclude further career progression at a later stage.
Conclusion: In summary, if you are looking for a long-term career in TESOL, and you want the best for your teaching from the beginning. Then, the seemingly wide choice of training course can easily be winnowed down by looking more closely at the features of the courses you are thinking about.
Check if the qualification is registered on the RQF, check that it involves over 120 hours of guided learning, and look at the requirements for visa applications in countries where you are thinking of traveling as a teacher. Do the groundwork, and you will start on the right foot, with an instant advantage over those who rely on other types of training to start their TESOL experience.