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Choosing a TEFL Course
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Teaching English Abroad

Choosing a TEFL Course

The TEFL Institute, Bangkok

I undertook my TEFL Teacher training while in Thailand, attracted not only by challenge and employment opportunity, but by the sheer enthusiasm and appetite Thais have developed for learning English. Even young Thais in the remotest areas seek to practice their linguistic skills at every opportunity.

Thailand has become a popular choice for English teacher training and the number of courses available has increased significantly over recent years (see TEFL training in Thailand). With the options varying considerably, a prudent selection can seem a daunting task:

  • Time: How many office hours does the syllabus cover and what percentage of them will I actually be teaching?
  • Cost: How does this relate to the price of the training—does it represent value for money? What exactly is included in the fee?
  • Qualifications: What certification will I qualify with at the end of the course? Is it numbered and registered against forgery?
  • Syllabus: What exactly will I be learning in terms of teaching methodology? Does the course also look at classroom management, student and teacher psychology, lesson planning, cultural issues and grammar? In what proportions?
  • Group Sizes: Do I see this as an opportunity to network or do I want the biggest share of the tutor’s time possible?
  • Location: Where do I want (can I afford) to live for the duration of my studies?
  • Work Placements: Do the course providers have employment contacts for successful graduates? How have the CVs of their alumni developed after their training?

After careful consideration of all the above, I chose The TEFL Institute, Bangkok (www.teflthai.com), impressed by their attitude and philosophy towards learning teaching. Fortunately, I found it to be a massively positive experience, not least I am sure, due to the fact that I found a course that emphatically provided the answers I needed to the questions above.

  • Time: The TEFL Institute offers a 5-week, 120-hour course (some courses offer a more intensive 4-week program). The extra week certainly helped me better absorb the material and reflect on my progress.An accelerated program may appeal but give careful consideration to how it could affect the quality of your study time.

The proportion of time engaged in practice teaching on the course was also attractive. Eight hours of supervised teaching in one-on-one, small group, and Thai school situations were supplemented by responsibility for in-class presentations and seminars. Although teaching theory is invaluable, it’s standing up at the front yourself that the learning curve steepens and a tangible sense of progress develops. The rule here is simple—the more chance you get to practice what you are learning the quicker you progress.

  • Cost: Prices for full-time courses generally range from $1000-$2000depending on the duration. The TEFL Institute has priced itself very competitively for full-time training, but it was their attention to additional details that really seemed to provide value: high speed wireless Internet access, CV and career advice workshops, a fully stocked library of new TEFL related teaching materials, and discount ordering for personal supplies. It certainly pays to look into the small print of a course description to see what you’re really getting for your money.
  • Qualifications: In additionto the various distinctions between the teaching certificates and how they relate to specific teaching roles it is also worth investigating what opportunities are present for further professional development after graduation. If remuneration is a primary short-term concern, the opportunity to study further may be worth considering as the high-earning teaching jobs usually require several years of experience or additional educational qualifications.

Is the course affiliated to any other institutions of further education that will recognize your achievement? Is there an opportunity to further your training beyond the basic certificate at a later date? The TEFL Institute (as a subsidiary of United Educational Consultants (www.uecthai.com)) is affiliated with The University of New York State and, as such, offers Asia’s only graduate level TEFL program. Degree holders are able to use the course as credit towards a multi-disciplinary master’s degree.

  • Syllabus: In addition to the techniques and theories of teaching a foreign language, most courses will cover classroom management strategies, address the technicalities of English grammar, and look at the student-teacher dynamic. Enquiring as to the relative proportions of these in the syllabus is a good idea. For instance, having to teach grammatical principles can be intimidating. On top of the basics of teaching methodology and the relationship between teaching style and student interest, what else is covered? The TEFL Institute runs seminars on Asian cultural differences—a big help in trying to understand why some of the difficulties in the Thai classroom arise and how best to build rapport with your students. They also focus in depth on lesson planning, handy when you soon discover what a huge proportion of your time it takes up. Examination and coursework requirements should also be a consideration, particularly if tests aren’t your favorite passtime.
  • Group Sizes: On the UEC program, the group sizes are limited to six. The small group size certainly helped us to bond. The mistakes became less embarrassing and comfort developed in seeking advice from each other. A larger group size provides the opportunity to meet more people and develop contacts, as well as offering a larger audience for in-class work. Both have their merits to be carefully considered before making a choice.

As with many experiences, it is the evaluation and critique of your efforts that provide you with the clearest path forward. Having only six students in the class allowed everyone to receive detailed personal appraisals of their teaching attempts on a frequent basis. The honest and constructive criticism was certainly one of the main reasons we were able to progress so quickly. Larger groups do not always allow the tutors to analyze and evaluate on an individual level in so much depth.

  • Location: Be sure to give some serious thought to where you want to spend the duration of your training. Although for many the course itself will be the primary consideration, a month does give an opportunity to really get a feel for a place.
  • Work Placements: If you harbor plans to teach immediately after training, selecting a course with good contacts in the workplace can be a big help to you. Enquire about any schools they may have a relationship with. Also ask if you can be put in touchwith graduates from the program—they can act as great referees for the course, give you some insight into what it was like finding work after qualifying, and give you their experiences of how the course has influenced their development as teachers. A lack of contactable alumni speaksvolumes.

By way of a summary, in addition to considering the above in terms of your specific requirements, I would urge you to try and get a feeling for what the overall philosophy of a course is. Is it “learning to teach well” or “buy a certificate?” Which of these is going to benefit you the most? It depends on what sort of a teacher you want to become. What I liked particularly about The TEFL Institute was how they saw their role within the local community. UEC have developed strong relationships with other Bangkok institutions of limited resources that benefit from English tutoring, students making use of their skills at both Fatima Centre (a shelter for abused women) and The School for the Blind. It very much struck me as an institution run by people trying to not only develop strong teachers but also to give something back to their host environment.

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