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Here are three superficial TEFL course standards. 

1. Accreditation

How is accreditation superficial?

Well, you may assume that accreditation is a marker of quality, but why is that? Is it because it has been vetted by a 3rd party and deemed sufficiant? Probably, but what do you know about that accrediting party?

Probably nothing.

Seriously what do you know about that accreditation agency? Do you know anymore about them than you do the TEFL course provider? 

If you are starting to catch my driff accreditation goes on behind the scenes. Is accreditation more valuable to you than a review? Or is it the same? They are kinda similar in a way, but accreditation costs money.

How do you feel about paid reviews? Well, accreditation is a paid review hopefully done by someone who knows something.

Here are some facts about accreditation.

  • It does not guarantee educational quality.
  • It undermines institutional autonomy.
  • It "often" contributes to overpriced education.
  • It is mostly a secret process.
  • It involves an exchange of money.

Some of these ideas are taken from ACTA's pdf called Why accreditation doesn't work. I put the word "often" in quotes as you can apparently buy accredited TEFL courses on Groupon for $8-90.

Here are some other points in regards to TEFL accreditation:

  1. There is not "one" overarching body for accreditation in TEFL. In fact I found 23 different TEFL accrediting bodies. That suggests that they are just an extension of the TEFL industry. And as already mentioned accreditation costs money, hmmmmmm.
  2. There are some fake TEFL accreditations. And it's easy to fake too. You just build a website, add an official looking name use words like "excellence", "reputation", "assessment", etc. Then create an acronym for it like SLP or ACCT and before you know it you might have a business.

Is there any value to accreditation?

Maybe some are more "reputable" than others. Maybe there are some pioneers for accreditation, but that just seems to contradict the purpose of accreditation.

Why try to get someone's (an accreditors) opinion whom you know nothing about on a course that you know nothing about?

My experience...

I took two different TEFL/TESOL courses that were accredited. One in-class prior to teaching in Taiwan and another just to see what a cheap course on Groupon was like and how it compared to the ones I had created. I didn't think neither one of them was any good for preparing me for what I did.

Sure I might have learned a little, but these were just general TEFL courses. And that's the thing with accreditation. It's there to make courses fit within "their" standards whatever those standards may be.


You really have to think about who is doing the accreditation. Do you know what they did? Do you know anything about them? Did you know that they were paid money to accredit that business?

"...they are in bed with the people they regulate..." - Douglas Barlow

That's why accreditation is a superficial standard. There is so much we don't know about "them".

2. TEFL course "hours"

It is the case in a course like CELTA that there are actual classroom "hours". For example, a CELTA course is typically 4 weeks and includes 8 hours a day, 5 days a week of instruction so they can say it's a 120 hour course.

And there are some other courses out there like that and then there are the imitators.

There are a lot of courses out there that are not like that. The first course I took gave me what they said was a 60 hour certificate after 2 days in a classroom. That's right 2 days which might have been around 7 hours a day.

And after those 2 days they gave me a certificate that didn't actually say anything about the "hours".

Then there was a take home part of the course which was basically studying English grammar and teaching theory. After I completed that I would supposedly get my 120 hour certificate, however I never did as it was completely boring and I left for Taiwan.

There I soon learned that studying English grammar and teaching theory wasn't very helpful for teaching English to kids.


I haven't even told you about online courses.

There are basically two kinds of online courses: asynchronous and synchronous courses. One holds classes at a certain time and the other is basically an open course where you work on it when you want which is basically like all of the online TEFL courses that I have ever seen.

So the whole "hour" thing is basically a lie when it comes to online TEFL courses. For example, earlier I mentioned that I tryed out a Groupon course to see what I would get for my money. It was a 120 hour course and guess how long it took me to complete?

8 hours.

That's right and it's not just me or that course. Take a look at some of these comments that I found on Reddit.

"I believe the course I'm taking is considered a 120 hour course, but I feel like I'm FLYING through it. I've been at it for 3 days in my free time, maybe for a maximum of 7 or 8 hours, and I'm supposedly already 60% finished. Note that this course has no in-person classroom component." - curryo

"I took that same course back when I was going to need it (just for appearances, obviously), and I similarly finished it in a couple hours." - Jeyoc

"I can’t recall the exact number of hours put in, but it was far less than 160. I put in a few 2-3 hour sessions over the span of 7-10 days." - wjfitzy

Want more?

Check out this article on TEFL course hours.

3. "Internationally recognized"

Quite a few courses claim to be "internationally recognized" which is basically an empty blanket statement without much meaning. There is no stamp that grants this status.

I mean it might give you a feeling of security and certainty, but it's actually just a house of cards most of the time. Sure there is the chance that some school out there has heard of that TEFL course provider, but most of the time they haven't.

It really depends on the school.

Think of it like this...

How recognized is your degree? I mean what promises came with your degree? It's regionally recognized? Did it guarantee you a job where you live?

In the end

TEFL courses try to look so official as if they are like colleges. But they are not. And even colleges are failing to fulfill their promises. Maybe most TEFL courses are just an extension of the education lie.

Some courses out there might be more reputable, such as a CELTA. But in some places like in East Asia I'd say it is not actually that popular amongst schools. 

There are lots of imitators out there all selling the same story about how official, accredited and internationally recognized they are.