Why are there no internationally accredited TEFL qualifications for non-native speaker teachers?
The global English language teaching industry has developed hugely in the past decade, with the quality of provision rising fast in a wide range of different teaching settings. From the Chinese education system making the move towards more communicative, skills-based teaching, to large-scale teacher development projects in Vietnam and Malaysia coming to an end, and international TESOL conferences springing up in every corner of the globe.
Despite these fantastic developments, however, until now, no formal qualifications in international TESOL have emerged for teachers of English with a language level below C1 (advanced level, IELTS 7). The fact is that the vast majority of English teachers in the world do not speak English to this level, and work in an environment where English is not the first language spoken. In addition, every country has its own accepted educational principles and styles of teaching, which vary from region to region. The question is: do existing teacher training courses such as the Trinity CertTESOL and Cambridge CELTA meet the needs of the majority of language educators in the world? The answer is: sadly, no.
In my time as a Course director at one of the busiest CertTESOL providers in the world, I would receive applications from teachers and education majors with a passion for the job, and real potential for the course, but whose language level simply didn’t make the grade. Luckily, we offered a lot of other professional development activity at the centre, though none of which led to a formal qualification or certificate with any weight behind it.
However, things are beginning to change. There is a very positive focus on training and development for teachers working in their diverse and wide-ranging settings, with learners who may be mixed-level, monolingual, and streamed by age alone. This is the most common language education setting in the world (including in English-speaking countries, where foreign language lessons are typically taught in exactly the same conditions), and the challenges faced by teachers, no matter their first language, simply because they are teachers.
This focus on training which respects the local setting and the learners studying within it is known as contextually-informed teacher development, and is fast becoming an essential part of what we do as education developers. With this in mind, we are eagerly awaiting a formal qualification, which can be used as proof of teaching quality, and which can be taken by language educators in any country, while working in the environment that they know best: their classroom, teaching their learners, using the resources that they have to hand. This will be the future of global teacher development, and something which will benefit a lot of us around the world.
Tom Garside is Director of Language Point Teacher Education. Language Point delivers the internationally recognised RQF level 5 Trinity CertTESOL in a totally online mode of study, and the RQF level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification with specific courses which focus on online language education or online methodology.