In a recent management meeting, we considered expanding our offer of the Trinity CertTESOL. Part of this discussion involved the value to teachers, the relevance of the qualification, and comparisons between these two (CertTESOL and CELTA) and other qualifications. This discussion highlighted that there are numerous reasons why these two qualifications are still very relevant, but also many issues that need to be addressed. In the first of two blog posts, we look at why they are still relevant for teachers and what needs to be done for them to remain relevant.


Why is the CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL still relevant

As a language teaching operation in a very competitive market, teacher qualifications are very important to our school. It distinguishes us from other schools because our teachers have recognised qualifications. Keep in mind that this is in my context in Asia where the vast majority of teachers don’t actually have or need a qualification to become an English Language Teacher. There are other contexts where it is required, and in some places, the CELTA and CertTESOL are often the only entry level qualifications accepted to work in Language schools. In this sense, these qualifications are therefore still relevant as they are a requirement for these contexts. You would also, for example, not be able to become an IELTS examiner without one of these or a higher qualification, like a diploma or a master’s degree.


So why do these qualifications set teachers apart? The answer is predominantly the following points:

  • External moderation – The course provider doesn’t decide if you pass. That is up to the exam board through a moderation process.
  • Observed teaching practice – Both qualifications require 6 hours of observed teaching practice
  • Real students – Teaching practice has to be done with real students, not demonstration teaching to peers
  • Standardised tutors – All tutors go through a training and standardisation process that ensures quality

While there are many good training organisations that offer courses or qualifications that are excellent in quality, with the CELTA and CertTESOL, you are guaranteed quality and acceptance internationally, ensuring they are still relevant for many teachers.



Required Language ability and teaching beginners

However, one of the main issues with these two courses is entry barriers. The first main barrier is language proficiency. There are numerous teachers globally who do not have a very solid CEFR C1 level. The reality is that you don’t need to be completely proficient to teach a language, especially considering the vast number of teachers teaching beginner level learners in public schools and language schools. While Trinity does have a Certificate for Practicing Teachers (CertPT), and the language requirement is lower, Cambridge does not have such a qualification as the CELT S and CELT P have been discontinued.

An additional issue with this is that teaching absolute beginners is not really addressed in these courses, when in fact this is the situation for the bulk of teachers around the world who often end up teaching mostly beginners. This brings into question whether Present Practice Produce (PPP) or Task based learning (TBL) lessons are always the best option for beginners, especially considering research indicating the importance of comprehensible input type approaches, especially with beginners.



Methodology, beliefs, and realities

There have been numerous criticisms of the CELTA and Trinity CertTESOL from teaching experts who feel there is an overt focus on using coursebooks, which creates an overreliance on coursebooks rather than a focus on effective methodologies. I personally feel that this is true, but also feel that there is generally enough flexibility to address this. We tend to cover a lot of Comprehensible Input approaches, such as TPRS in our unknown language lessons, storytelling approaches, and task-based teaching in teaching practice.

The unfortunate reality is that lots of teachers work in an environment where they are required to use a course book or are not sufficiently experienced to just drop the course book and use approaches like TBL or Dogme. The industry dictates the course content of teacher training courses, and it would be illogical to train teachers in great methodologies that they might be unable to use. This reality is an unfortunate barrier as well, but is perhaps something that could be addressed by different providers in different contexts, considering the flexibility available.



Potentially the biggest barrier into a CertTESOL or a CELTA is the cost. For many teachers, this cost is completely prohibitive. In order to maintain relevance, alternatives to these courses have to be considered, or more importantly, less cost prohibitive options.

One option we are currently toying with is to offer the course in affordable sections, offering one Unit at a time, and allowing teachers to complete the modules as their budgets allow. This means you could do the course in increments of around 20%, significantly decreasing that initial cost barrier.

An additional benefit of this approach is that it moves the CPD responsibility to the employer. The teacher has now done part of a course and can be trained in-service, while preparing for the next part of the course. This is bound to have a much more positive effect on teacher development and satisfaction while at the same time significantly reducing the barrier of entry into the profession.



Looking forward

Key considerations as a teacher should be to make sure what you do is accepted by the places you want to work, and in this sense, the CertTESOL and CELTA are still very relevant. However, cost, context, language ability, and what groups you want to be teaching are also important considerations. I think it is important for exam boards to keep designing and developing their courses, but perhaps a change in the industry would also be good. As for now, my vote is these qualifications are still relevant, but perhaps not always necessary. And maybe a soft nudge to reconsider how they could address some of the issues in this blog might also ensure relevance remains.