December 13, 2012

7 Things to Consider When Choosing a TEFL Program

Few professions are better than Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) if you're the type of person who loves to learn about different cultures, meet new people, and travel the world, because English is still one of the most sought-after foreign languages globally.

You can spend your weeks correcting spelling and conjugating verbs and your weekends touring the French countryside or enjoying the gorgeous vistas of Prague. But if you're going to do it, chances are that you'll need to get a TEFL Certificate.

Thankfully, there are lots of schools that offer them, and most programs are incredibly quick - around four weeks. Pick a good program and you can be ready to teach English in a foreign country in little more than a month!

The key phrase there, however, is "pick a good program." How do you know if the schools you're looking into are good or not? Here are 7 things you should consider when looking into different TEFL programs - and don't be shy about asking questions and expecting answers; reputable schools should be forthcoming if they want your money.

What does the program actually teach you? Sure, you'll earn a TEFL Certificate, but if you leave your training not really knowing what you're doing, your chances of finding a job are slim - and keeping it is probably even more unlikely. You want a curriculum where you're going to learn how to manage a classroom, put together a lesson plan, engage in appropriate classroom behavior, and, of course, actually teach.

What will your teaching practice be like and how many hours will you get? One of the biggest positives of going through a good TEFL Certificate program is that you get a chance to practice your English language teaching skills. Typically, schools will offer a mixture of three different kinds of practice teaching:
  • Public - You will teach at one of your school's courses that is open to the public
  • In-company - You'll head out to a local place of business and teach English to a group of their employees
  • One-on-one - You'll teach students privately on an individual basis

Some schools, however, only offer some of the above options. And others don't offer any of them, instead limiting your "teaching" to practicing with your classmates. Obviously, that's not an ideal situation, and you should keep looking if a school tells you that's how you'll be practicing. The other important thing to note is how many hours of this practice you'll get. Industry standard is usually 6 to 8, but some schools offer upwards of 12, and higher is always better.

Who recognizes this school's TEFL Certificate? Sadly, not all certificates are created equal, so you have to make sure that the school you're considering has an internationally recognized program. Otherwise, your job options might be limited to whatever language schools your program is attached to. Not the kiss of death, but certainly not good for someone who might want to travel more and work and live in several different places.

What degrees or other qualifications to the people training you have? Reputable schools almost exclusively employ trainers with at least an MA in English, Education, Linguistics, or some other field that's related. Unfortunately, not every school out for your money should be considered reputable. Ask this question early on to weed out programs that aren't worth your money.

What is included in tuition? Look at a dozen different schools for TEFL programs and you'll probably find that most of them seem to cost about the same. That, however, is just how it looks on the surface. Some programs have hidden costs that most people don't think to look for, like internet access, teaching materials, and money for making copies. And on the flip side, there are many programs that offer "bonuses" such as a well-stocked library, on-site teaching resources and…

Is there "settling in" support? This is a huge one, especially if you're traveling to a foreign country to take the course. Lots of schools consider it part of their tuition package to help you find temporary housing while you're in the program, but the quality varies widely. You want to ask about the area of town where the housing is located, how close it is to the school and public transportation, and just how nice it is in general.

How easy is it for graduates to find jobs? When people graduate from well-respected programs, they are usually snapped up very quickly. Lots of out-of-work recent grads, however, is a sign that the school may not have the best of reputations. Ask for the school's recent employment statistics, but also try to track down recent grads to speak to them about how hard it was for them to find work.

About the Author: Samuel Clemens is a former educator who has been writing about study tools and student resources for many years. You can find him reviewing college essays for companies including GradeSaver. 

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