This is a fairly unconventional take on TEFL course accreditation. Despite the fact that I think it goes pretty deep in regards to TEFL accreditation last I knew it doesn't even rank in Google, not on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd page.

Why not? 

Because it defies convention and what the "experts" are saying. I was listening to some podcast yesterday and this search engine specialist suggested that if you go against what the experts in the field are doing then you won't rank in Google.

I was a little troubled by that.

Since I've written this I've noticed other course providers have written posts like, "Why TEFL accreditation matters".

The idea behind "accreditation" to prevent scams might be a good one, however it's not black and white and it can be used just as easily to scam you. 

Is "accreditation" a sign of quality or all that it appears to be?

This post is going to focus on why accreditation doesn't matter (in TEFL).


"...Accreditation is the carrot. Put up with the lectures and the tests and we’ll give you the certificate, the scarce piece of paper that is (supposed to be) worth far more than the effort you went through to get certified." - Seth Godin


First I thought I'd share this...

"Why accreditation doesn't work"

I found an interesting PDF called Why Accreditation Doesn't Work by ACTA (an independent, non-profit organization).

Here are a few points that it makes.

Accreditation:

  1. does not guarantee educational quality.
  2. contributes to overpriced education.
  3. undermines institutional autonomy.
  4. involves an exchange of money.
  5. is mostly a secret process.

The article above refers to accreditation and higher education, yet I can see how these apply to TEFL accreditation as well.

1. Accreditation does not guarantee educational quality.

The thinking goes something like "Oh, it's accredited then it must be fine". Or maybe like this, "Nestle is a big company and this breast milk replacement looks good... I trust them..." Later on her baby dies.

Too often we assume, place too much trust based on outward appearances and actually know little of what is inside.

On the "rare occasion" that a course providers accreditation is suspended it's usually because the institution failed to pay it's bill rather than any educational flaw.

2. Accreditation undermines institutional autonomy.

As I was looking through the ACCET accreditation process I started to get the feeling why would I want someone like this to inspect my course and deem it worthy or not. I don't think we share the same values, so why should I succumb to their values. Or try to fit into their mold and then pay them for it?

One size doesn't fit all.

3. Accreditation contributes to overpriced education.

In-class TEFL/TESOL/CELTA courses can range anywhere from around $500 to over $3000 depending on the course. That's a lot of money considering the fact that most people only teach English abroad for a year or two and have college debt to begin with.

I definitely thought that the course that I first took was way too expensive considering what I learned. Accreditation comes with a fee and that fee is only going to increase the cost of the course.

Yet, in TEFL you buy an "accredited" course on Groupon for less $50.

4. Accreditation is mostly a secret process.

These so called inspections of courses are done so privately.

5. Accreditation involves an exchange of money.

Accrediting programs need courses to continue. The TEFL/TESOL course providers are their customers.

 

"Keep in mind that “accreditation mills” also exist..." - parchment.com


But...

You are NOT in college anymore. 

TEFL is not college and actually these certificates carry far less weight than any degree.

99% of TEFL courses have ZERO affiliation with any college. Don't be fooled into thinking otherwise. Many of these courses will try to look as if they are some prestigious institution, but it's all for show.

Basically how I see it is that all courses model CELTA (affiliated with Cambridge University) on the surface.

Did that accredited degree you went into thousand of dollars of debt make a difference?

Didn't you get a degree to get a job? And is TEFL what you went to school for?

The whole point of accreditation was originally to act as a gatekeeper for financial aid and protect your investment.

40% of graduates work in jobs that they could do without a degree. Another study shows that another 40% don't do anything related to their degree.

There's no financial aid in TEFL and did your investment pay off?

Here you are again looking for an 'accredited' TEFL course like it's going to make a difference because that's what the system taught you to do.


"Accreditation is still fundamentally a private non-governmental body that sets its own standards and membership rules." - source


Membership rules...

That's right you got to pay to be a member.

TEFL accreditation and college accreditation differences

TEFL accreditation is far less formal. 

Again you are not in college anymore. 

Accreditation isn't a requirement or a law, because there is no 'one' governing accreditation for TEFL courses (in fact I counted at least 23 different TEFL accreditation bodies and some of those are fake)

Many of these accreditors are not even directly related to TEFL. 

"What’s Accreditation Again?

Like many of the government’s tentacles, accreditation is simply a process of colonization and control." - source

BUT in TEFL...

Most of the accrediting bodies in TEFL (like 98%) are not governmental.

Aside from CELTA and Trinity TESOL most TEFL courses have no affiliation with universities or colleges (despite what these courses try to look or sound like). In TEFL most of the accreditors are often private businesses associated with education, but not strictly TEFL.

Are all TEFL courses accredited?

No.

Do they have to be?

No, there is no law for that.

It's not standardized or regulated.

But I read that I should take an accredited course??? The person who probably told you that has an accredited course to sell. As you read above accreditation doesn't guarantee quality.

To you (the consumer) it's just a superfical label and no more.

Right???

Most people are just checking to see if a course is accredited or not and they go no deeper than that.

My experience teaching in Asia

I started looking for jobs on ESL Cafe and other sites primarily in Eastern Asia in 2004. And I'll tell you what. The majority of employers just take TEFL and TESOL certification at face value.

If it's important to them they'll only check your resume to see if you have it. And it usually doesn't go any further than that.

I personally never had an employer ask me whether the TESOL course on my resume was accredited or not. Aside from images of the certificate sent in an email I also never had an employer ask to see my actual certificate. The only question that I did get about my course was about how many hours the course was.

One time.

If you look at the job ads what will you see? The main qualifications to teach in Eastern Asia are to be a native speaker and to have a degree. TEFL/TESOL certificates - if mentioned in the job ad are usually noted as preferences. And I can't recall a mention of accreditation or an accredited TEFL course.

Also let's consider this from a different point of view...

Do you have a degree?

Has any employer ever ask you if your degree was accredited? I don't think so, it never happened to me anyways. 

So to whom does TEFL course accreditation matter?

It's just a word to the average consumer and no more.

It's a little line that will go on the bottom of your certificate.

Accreditation in TEFL works the same way that reviews do and just like them can be easily faked.

It matters to the sellers and to the buyers: TEFL course providers and to those searching for a course. You can find other articles out there by accredited TEFL courses that responded to this article saying "it matters".

Of course to them it matters because they are paying for that. If I was paying some anonymous 3rd party middleman $2000 a year then I'd say so too.

To the TEFL providers it matters because they are competing for your money. For the buyers - probably you, it matters because you were told that it matters.

But who told you that it matters?

The TEFL course providers.

Before it was the universities that told you that accreditation matters, but did it make a difference? Did you get a job with that degree you paid thousands of dollars for? Did you learn more because of it?

How about that accredited degree you have?

Eh?

Get a good job with?

Sorry if I sound snarky, yet it happened to me too.

If accreditation really mattered why do nearly half of all graduates work in jobs that don't require a college degree? Why is there so much student debt?

It's all about making you feel safe and secure.

It's the system, but it's broken.

Employers...

Long story short the majority of employers (at least in Eastern Asia) are not going to inquire whether your course is accredited or not because it's not their business. 

Want do employers (in Asia) actually want?

Is it a teacher with a highly accredited TEFL certificate?

Nope.

Go here for the answer.

And I hate to say it, but many employers in Eastern Asia are also not going to recognize the difference between a certificate that came from: CELTA, "Frank's TEFL", or the TEFL certificate you bought on Khoasan Rd. in Bangkok.

If it's on your resume then it's good enough for them if it's even required - most of the time.

But wait.

Won't CELTA or this other highly accredited certificate get me a better job?

It's possible, but not that likely based on my experience teaching in Asia.

The truth is:

  1. Experience teaching English (especially in the country you are applying to) trumps any certificate pretty much all of the time.
  2. A teaching license trumps any certificate pretty much all the time.
  3. Your personality and how you present yourself often trumps any certificate.

See the link above on what employers want for more.

Accreditation isn't about learning


"No institution seeks accreditation to improve the education it provides." - Jamin Hübner


Accreditation isn't about learning.

It's about money.

Your money.

It's all about getting an extrinsic reward - that certificate so that you can get a job, right?

If you are looking for an accredited TEFL course then you are more concerned with getting a job than actually learning.

You might want to learn a bit too, but I didn't think the two accredited courses I took were any good.

Most courses are general courses and if anything they focus more on teaching adults, but if you are not going to teach adults then why take a course focused on that?

Here's a course especially focused on teaching kids (young learners in Asia).

If you want more than a certificate and you want to learn what to do and how to teach when you step in the classroom then you need more than just a certificate. You might assume that any TEFL course online or not might teach you those basics, but that is not true in my experience.

Comments on accredited online TEFL courses

Here is a quote from a couple on Youtube about their "accredited" TEFL course that they got on Groupon.

"It was a refresher course with all the rules to English. It didn't actually teach you to teach English, but... (Other person laughing) Yeah it didn't really teach you at all on how to teach English, but yeah a good refresher on all the English skills." - 2canucksabroad on Youtube

For your information I've taken 2 accredited TEFL/TESOL courses: one online and one hybrid in-class/take home course. And I completed that online one that said it was "120 hours" in 8 hours.

And it's not just me.

"I finished a 150 hour course in about 20ish hours. And I actually read/did most of the stuff. If you just rushed through one it might take you 10 hours, maybe less." - Zoidburg747


accreditation fails to ensure quality

- George Leef


"...but extremely difficult to discern whether students are actually learning anything."

Let me translate this for TEFL

It's a lot about looks: "Internationally recognized", "120 hour courses", "accredited", etc.

Does the TEFL course appear to be a reputable institution?

Yes, many appear that way and the teacher trainers (if they actually have them) may be highly credentialed too.

But what are the results of taking many of these accredited courses? Like I said above I took 2 different courses and I learned nothing that I could remember from one ($40) and very little from the other ($1000) that I could apply to my teaching.

Why don't some TEFL courses have accreditation?

There can be different reasons why they don't have it.

Some of them may be:

  1. They can be a new provider and may not have attained it.
  2. They may choose not to seek accreditation because they view it as a violation of their religious or academic beliefs. 
  3. They could be a scam.
  4. They may prefer autonomy (here, here).
  5. They may not be able to afford it or have financial problems.

1. They might be new

The whole process of accreditation can take a good deal of time depending on the organization.

2. They may prefer autonomy

An accreditor is a middleman just like a recruiter or a real estate agent is. Someone who is totally anonymous and wears the guise of prestige, but it's ironic because no one knows anything about them.

They don't ask questions they just think "oh, it's accredited".

3. They may choose NOT to seek accreditation

They could be a religious based TEFL course accredited by god himself, LOL or they may see it as a violation of their academic freedom.

Freedom?

Yes, more please.

As mentioned above accreditation undermines institutional authority.

So they may not believe in the system (amen brother) or have other religious/academic reasons. I have seen ads out there for "Christian" TEFL courses.

4. There's money to pay

As mentioned above accreditation involves an exchange of money. They may not be able to afford it or they may not want to pay for it. Some TEFL accreditation bodies (companies, lol) can charge $1-2000+ a year for accreditation.

And are most courses going to change that much every year?

No, they won't.

So it's just a way for the "accreditor" to make more money.

5. They could be a scam

This is often assumed and it's possible as I currently know one TEFL course scam going on now by a course that's not accredited, but there are other TEFL courses out there that have been around for a long time that aren't accredited as well. 

And accreditation is easy enough to fake online so it easily goes the other way too.

Accreditation can be used to scam you

Since people assume that the word "accredited" equals quality or a good reputation then know that accreditation can also be used to scam you for money.

The term "accredited TEFL courses" is frequently used by TEFL course providers. While many of them may have it others may lie about their accreditation or be both the TEFL course provider and the accreditation bureau themselves.

The blanket statement "internationally recognised TEFL courses" is similar.

Here's something similar to that note about colleges.


“For example 83% of the board for Middle States Commission on Higher Education is comprised of people that work for institutions that they then accredit.” - The College Accreditation Scam


The term "accreditation" can also be used as well to market online universities.

Here is an example:

"With our high quality, self-paced degree programs you can get an accredited degree for around $6,000 #EndStudentDebt"

Maybe it is true and it's not a "scam".

I guess in the USA we assume that higher education comes with a price. We assume the more you pay the better the degree and education that you'll get.

In the TEFL world it may be:

"Accredited TEFL courses offering internationally recognized certification for just $49 on Groupon."

But wait a second so you are saying there is no value to accreditation?

You'd like to think so and we are taught to think that it matters. But did it make a difference? Here you are now your accredited degree looking for a job in TEFL. And that's fine if that's what you want to do, but if you are like most other teachers abroad you will only do this for a year or two max.

Even at it's best accreditation is still an archaic system. It's education and it's slow to change. Accreditation is about convention. It's not progressive. It's about fitting into someone else's mold and...

  1. Who's that someone else?
  2. How much do they make?
  3. What do they do?
  4. And does anybody accredit them?

The bottomline

A highly accredited certificate isn't going to make a difference in the kind of job you get most of the time. And you can buy a super cheap $20 certificate that is "accredited" if all you want is a carrot. And you can take an unaccredited course and it's unlikely that an employer will care.

Certificates are not the best qualification to have according to employers.

But why are you in this?

If you are in the stage of preparing to go abroad then I bet your primary concern is taking a course to get a job. While it may be hard to do now I would start thinking more about what your every day life is going to be like. 

You're going to have to teach and if you are not prepared then you are unlikely to enjoy your experience abroad which is going to have you looking for another job before you know it.

So I would take a course to learn how to do your job and not just get a job. And maybe even take a course after you start teaching.

And you may assume that if a course is accredited that it would help you do that. And maybe it will. But it's not because of the accreditation. And maybe it won't because most education is not practical.

Related:

Accredited TEFL courses... Oh really, by who?

"Accredited TEFL courses" is a buzzword in the TEFL course industry. It's easy to fake and it's to trick anyone online. But TEFL accreditation varies quite a bit. On the high end you may have courses that have an affliation with some government entity then you have a private businesses (some that are made up of the owners from a few different courses), a few single one person businesses and then you have fake accreditations.

Conclusion

TEFL accreditation "can" be a marker of a quality TEFL course. But accreditation isn't all that it seems and doesn't guarantee quality for the different reasons mentioned above. There is more to it than that.

A TEFL course is not required to be accredited, there's no one accreditation for TEFL and just because it isn't doesn't necessarily mean that it is low quality. And just because it is accredited doesn't mean it is quality, especially if you want to learn.

I wouldn't rely on TEFL accreditation as a marker of a good TEFL course or not. I would try to test it out, research the company or perhaps see what people (especially experienced teachers) are saying about it.

Is ESLinsider accredited?

No. I really don't want to be part of a system that I don't believe in. Perhaps it's my independent streak or experience, but I looked into it and even contacted several accreditors in TEFL and...

Yeah, like I said I don't want to try to be part of a system (and actually there isn't much of a "system" in TEFL), but I just don't want to bow down and pay some middleman for their accreditation and possibly conform to their methodologies.

Part of the reason why I started ESLinsider had to do with the lies I see other courses tell and with the fact that I didn't learn much from the course I took, so why would I try to fit in and follow their mold?

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