As organisations, our customers should be the most important driving force behind what we do. They pay for our services and expect certain results. But, with the vast number of schools available, and lots of other activities for children and adults, we are not only in competition with one another, we are in competition with lots of other elements. These include hobbies, sports, TV, homework from school, computer games, and anything that could be a factor in whether a student decides to sign up for language classes.

The opposite is also true. We have lots of students but find it impossible to find or retain teachers. What are we supposed to do? We often receive resumes from teachers or people who would like to be teachers, but they have no qualifications or experience.

With all of these challenges, is it worthwhile to still insist on qualifications? How do these qualifications remain relevant in an everchanging world, and one that has changed substantially post-Covid? How do different teaching contexts impact the relevance?


Qualifications aren’t required in our context

For many language schools, this is indeed the case. Qualifications are simply not required. The reality is that there are many countries where people who come from an English-speaking country can teach English on the condition that they have a bachelor’s degree. How can qualifications be relevant, if they are not required?

I think the simplest answer is competitive advantage. You cannot work at places like the British Council or become an IELTS examiner if you don’t have a proper initial qualification like the CertTESOL or CELTA. Placing yourself as an organisation in the same group as other organisations requiring a qualification not only improves your competitiveness, but also ensures that quality remains at the forefront of what you do.

A final note here relates to other TESOL qualifications. One of my best teachers does not have a CertTESOL or CELTA. He is currently completing a DipTESOL, but his initial qualification is from King’s College London. You don’t have to limit yourself to only those two qualifications but be sure that the qualifications you accept includes a proper teaching practice. Keep in mind though that as a responsible employer, you still have a professional development responsibility. This is discussed later in the blog.



The Trinity CertTESOL or CELTA doesn’t prepare teachers for what they need to teach 

Despite what I discussed above, there are also places where CertTESOL or CELTA is a minimum requirement. However, quite frequently, I head the complaint that the course only really prepares a teacher for general English and more often than not, in an adult context. It doesn’t prepare teachers for Academic English, or teaching Young Learners, or exam prep classes. The reality is this statement is completely correct. And we know it is correct because that is exactly what the qualifications say they do. However, this complaint cannot and should not be placed at the doors of Trinity or Cambridge. Their courses provide teachers with an understanding of theory, lesson planning, and lesson delivery.

So, what does this mean? It means you are given a teacher that can be trained to teach Academic English, Young Learner English, exam classes, etc., but with the support that is available at a proper institution. The responsibility to develop the teacher into what your organisation needs is the responsibility of the organisation, not the responsibility of the exam board. We cannot claim that these qualifications lack relevance if we as organisations take no responsibility for our teachers’ development.



But we need a teacher now

I think in quite a few contexts, it is often the case that organisations need a teacher now. And it will also be the case if you are considering moving towards improving your current staff by helping them get properly qualified, because it isn’t always easy to find suitably trained teachers. However, this doesn’t need to be a prohibitive problem. There are numerous part-time and online options available that means a teacher can be working full time and completing a CertTESOL or CELTA part-time. The main benefit of this is that the development happens from both sides, and it actually makes it somewhat easier for the course providers if they are set up to do observations in your teachers’ place of work. We have run a number of CertTESOL qualifications like that where we observe teachers in their place of work. The increase in confidence and quality is often marked. The same can be said for qualifications like the Trinity TYLEC, Trinity DipTESOL, or the DELTA, where observations generally take place in your place of work. The purpose is purely to make you better at what you are currently teaching.


Cost, language ability and availability

As with my previous blog, cost and availability are issues, and often schools employ teachers at a CEFR B1 or B2 level, because it is a sufficient language level to teach the courses the school has available. This means that the CertTESOL or CELTA is not a suitable qualification because of the language requirement.

As stated in my previous blog, the language requirement issue does mean that teachers need to look at other qualifications. Trinity has available a Certificate for Practicing Teachers (CertPT), but this does not include a teaching practice component. One area I definitely feel can be improved is a teaching qualification for teachers at B1 that includes a proper teaching practice component similar to the CertTESOL or CELTA, as there is likely a good market for this.

In terms of cost, if organisations allow teachers to work while doing a qualification, and these initial qualifications can be offered in modules, it would significantly reduce the cost, and could actually ensure that teachers stay with an organisation for longer. For example, if the qualification is delivered in 5 modules, each over a 4-to-6-month period, that means teachers are at the organisation for at least 2 years. And if it is the kind of organisation where professional development is taken seriously, you would end up with a really good teacher after two years, and one with a fair amount of loyalty to you.



Looking forward

Key considerations for organisations have to be focused on quality and service to your customer base. In this case, these qualifications are still very relevant, but with the caveat that professional development within the organisation has to be focused on empowering the teacher to deliver your product the way you would like it delivered. Inevitably, that also means having managers who are academically sound, and not only focused on profitability. Ensuring that these qualifications remain relevant is both the responsibility of the exam boards and organisations who are leaders in the industry. And this in turn will ensure that the industry and the quality of teaching continues to grow and we continue to positively contribute to the development of our most important asset: our teachers; and our most important focus: our customers.