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Go forth and qualify

May 18, 2006

I can't believe that there are people out there who still ask if they need to be qualified before they can teach English.

Hello again,

I feel the need for a minor rant about the issue of qualifications for English teachers. I have no patience at all with aspiring teachers who demand to know why they need a qualification to find a job. As far as I know, there is no other field of education in which people believe they should be employed without appropriate training. Let’s think for a moment about what is required of teachers. They need to understand how people learn: this involves being aware of how people are motivated, how they...

... have different learning styles, how adults learn and how they can handle both the cognitive and memory aspects of language acquisition. Have a look at the shelves in any university library on these topics and you will see that the literature is vast. This is not the sort of understanding you can casually pick up along the way.

Teachers also need to understand how languages work. I put it like this because to teach a second language you need to know more than the grammar of the target language. You have to have at least a grounding in linguistics so that you can see how far the students’ mother tongue might get in the way of the new language. Furthermore the kind of grammatical analysis you make of English when you intend to teach is much more far-reaching than the native speaker needs for ordinary grammatical understanding. By this I mean that a well educated native speaker could probably identify, for example, the tenses in English. But I doubt very much if that same person could give an explanation of how they are used: this is the kind of analysis you really only need to make for the purposes of teaching non-native speakers. Speaking for myself, I have always found that the further I delve into how English works, the more complex it seems to become.

Then teachers need to know how to plan and deliver their lessons, both singly and in sequence. This means being able to identify clear aims, select and devise materials, control the pace, and be able to adapt the plan to reflect the students’ reactions.

The points I have outlined are just the bare bones of what a teacher needs to be effective. I do not see how these skills and this knowledge can be attained without appropriate training and, of course, by completing training successfully, the teacher has external validation of his or her classroom ability. I think employers have not just a right but a responsibility to demand properly qualified staff and to those people who can’t be bothered to train, I would say, why should anybody take you seriously?
What do you think?

Bye for now.

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  1. Lali Says:

    Hi Brenda

    I absolutely agree that English Teachers should be trained and qualified. It makes me so mad that schools can employ someone who has no training or teaching qualifications. In one of my first jobs, there was a teacher who had no training or teaching qualifications. I thought it so unfair that she was employed, whilst the rest of the other teachers were trained and qualified.

    What makes these so-called teachers think that they can just walk into the classroom and teach. Personally I think it's arrogance. They assume that just because they are native English speakers/ and or white they can just walk into a classroom and teach.

  1. dee Says:

    I think your comments are selfish and rude,every person has the right to a job, everyone has a different experience, some jobs require simplicity,basic english language, if your qualifications are so important, perhaps a job in your own country would be more suitable,where your degrees have more recognition,everyone who speaks has to start somewhere

  1. bentleybanton Says:

    I think it is proper to get certification if you are a newbie and it is further documentation in the hiring process, but it DOES NOT mean you can teach. I'm going to get a cert in english teaching but I never had the time before, have taught for five successful years and before that had a unique teaching assistant position while in uni that I actually taught classes and taught myself all about lesson plans and the lot. I've known "teachers" with a TEFL or whatever that had no clue in the classroom and also the stereotypical "anyone that's caucasian and speaks English natively can teach at our school" clueless teachers. That said one should not be rude or pretentious because they do or do not have certification. Remember it is not a master's degree or BA, it is a short-term course, helpful yes, but not essential for everyone...don't forget that! Cheers

  1. Olivia Says:


    I am hoping to get some advice.

    I want to teach English abroad (preferably in China at first). I am currently working as a Teaching Assistant in the English department of a secondary school in the UK. I also have experience teaching history and some TEFL/ EAL experience gained from this role. By the time I leave for China, I will have had one year of experience working in education. I also have a BA (hons) degree.

    The problem is that I the only CELTA courses available (part time and full time) do not fit in with my timetable and term times. There is also the issue of cost, as a Teaching Assistant’s wages are awfully low. Therefore my questions are:

    1) Considering my experience, which includes a lot of practical teaching experience, do I really need a TEFL?

    2) If yes, then would a weekend TEFL be sufficient?

    3) Might an on-line TEFL course be OK?

    .......I'm looking at weekend and online tefl courses on the Cctus website, is this an acredited website / are the courses legitimate. How am I supposed to know?

    4) Are there schemes in China where I would be able to ‘train on the job’ and, as a result, receive a recognised TEFL qualification, which I could go on to use in Japan, for example?

    Please help, I’m starting to panic as I plan to leave in December! I would be extremely grateful for any advice.



  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:


    It strikes me that you have several options. As you have some teaching experience, you could probably find a post in China on the strength of that and your BA (see:http://www.teach-in-china.cn/details.php). But you might consider doing a distance-learning DELTA (http://www.thedistancedelta.com/information/brochure.cfm). This requires a two-week attendance in September but thereafter you work on a distance basis. This would have the advantage of the study flexibility you need and would give you professional training support as you worked. The final qualification woulld be superior to the CELTA.

    Alternatively, you will find an excellent accredited TESOL course delivered online by visiting: http://www.traininglinkonline.co.uk/tesolcertificate.html

    Hope this helps.

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