TEFL TESOL Accreditation 101
TEFL TESOL Accreditation 101.
This article has been updated on December 8, 2023.
TEFL TESOL Accreditation 101.
(A list of institutions providing Online TEFL programs ‘Fully Accredited’ status appears towards the bottom of this article.)
This is quite a long article. It is an honest, factual, serious look at the question of Online TEFL/TESOL/TESL accreditation.
If you are researching which Online TEFL/TESOL/TESL course to take, this article should be essential reading for you.
For sake of convenience, and to avoid repetition, we will use the generic term ‘TEFL’ instead of mentioning ‘TEFL/TESOL/TESL’ each time these terms require a mention. These terms do have their differences in meaning, but for all intents and purposes, they essentially refer to the same type of training and this is why most teacher-training programs advertise their courses with one or more of these acronyms listed.
One of the most common misconceptions about Online TEFL courses, and one of the main areas that permit room for the peddling of misinformation, is the heated topic of accreditation.
Over the past few years, Online TEFL programs have discovered that it is much easier to sell their courses if they claim that their courses are accredited.
The result of this ‘accreditation fever’ has been the mushrooming creation of “accreditation bodies” that have been created by savvy business people with little or no background in education.
Some TEFL schools have also jumped on the bandwagon; creating fictitious accreditation websites, in order to make their courses seem more credible – all the while deceiving their customers and perpetuating the ‘accreditationspiracy’.
- Interesting fact: When Trusted TEFL Reviews exposed OTTSA – Online Tesol and Tefl Standards Agency (https://trustedteflreviews.com/2020/02/18/warning-the-ottsa-accrediting-professionals-scam/) MyTEFL (https://trustedteflreviews.com/2020/01/24/the-mytefl-com-scam/) suddenly added a second “accreditation body” to their school website: ITEFLAC – International Tefl Accreditation Council. In our professional opinion, ITEFLAC looks remarkably similar to OTTSA.
- Interesting fact: When World TESOL Academy (https://trustedteflreviews.com/2020/12/06/is-world-tesol-academy-legit/) was exposed for creating their own accreditation body website (ETQC – Education and Teaching Qualification Council) they were then accepted with open arms by another “accreditation body”: Accreditat – Accreditation of Tefl/Tesol and Training. This has led us to question the “stringent process” by which Accreditat hand out their accreditation stamp of approval.
In addition to the above, some Online TEFL programs try to convince consumers that their programs are more credible because they are “accredited and regulated” by AQC, DEAC, Ofqual, QUALIFI. These are not accreditation bodies, they are regulatory bodies. There is, a major difference, and the “Level 5” TEFL course brand (which was only recently created) is just another marketing gimmick to try to convince the consumer that you should take their Online TEFL program.
The truth of the matter is that there isn’t one international accreditation body for Online TEFL courses.
Therefore, we begin this article with the plain unadorned fact that the Online TEFL industry is completely unregulated, and the term ‘accredited’, when applied to Online TEFL/TESOL certification course programs, is purely a marketing gimmick. This, in turn, has created a snowball effect, whereby most people who are looking to take an Online TEFL course now place accreditation status high on their tick box list that a TEFL program must include.
Some government visa agencies, and some language schools, have also bought into the accreditation fallacy; stipulating that their teachers must hold an accredited TEFL certificate if they want to work for them and if they want to be able to legally teach in their country.
I have been teaching for over ten years now, and I have not once been asked whether my TEFL certificate is accredited or not. I have also never been asked whether my TEFL certification was taken online or in-person. I live and work in Austria, where the authorities are sticklers for correct documentation.
So if accreditation means relatively very little, is it completely worthless?
And which accreditation bodies are more trustworthy than others?
Accreditation is important when it provides the customer with an extra layer of consumer protection.
Accreditation can be divided into four main camps:
- An Online TEFL program simply chooses not to capitulate to the pressure of being accredited and remains an Unaccredited provider.
- An Online TEFL program creates an accreditation website itself, for the sole purpose of convincing consumers that they are a credible institution. This is usually a short-term fix because no amount of convincing can hide a subpar product and poor customer service. Trusted TEFL Reviews classes these Online TEFL programs ‘Unaccredited‘ and such programs should be avoided. They should be avoided because the training will be poor, you will have very little (if any) consumer rights, and you could become a victim of fraud.
- An Online TEFL program capitulates to the pressure of being accredited and pays an annual fee to an accreditation body, and in return, they can claim that they are an accredited Online TEFL program. The accreditation body may, or may not, follow through on their promises that they maintain high levels of accountability regarding the Online TEFL programs that they accredit. Trusted TEFL Reviews classes these Online TEFL programs ‘Accredited‘ and such programs should be chosen after due diligence is carried out regarding their (verified) customer reviews on trustedteflreviews.com.
- An Online TEFL program capitulates to the pressure of being accredited and pays an annual fee to an accreditation body, and in return, they can claim that they are an accredited Online TEFL program. The accreditation body ensures high standards of culpability and follows through on their promises that they maintain high levels of accountability regarding the Online TEFL programs that they accredit. Trusted TEFL Reviews classes these Online TEFL programs ‘Fully Accredited‘ and such programs tend anyway to receive consistently positive student feedback. This is not always the rule, though, so always check the (verified) customer reviews on trustedteflreviews.com.
Institutions providing Online TEFL programs Fully Accredited status include:
ACCET – Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training | https://accet.org/
ACTEFLC – Accreditation Council for Teaching English as a Foreign Language Courses | https://www.acteflc.com/
OISE – University of the Toronto Faculty of Education | https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/
TESL Canada | https://tesl.ca/
University of Cambridge’s English Language Assessment | https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/
Online TEFL courses that are directly accredited by a Ministry of Education also enjoy Fully Accredited status.
The following Online TEFL/TESOL programs (in alphabetical order) are Fully Accredited and internationally recognized:
TEFL/TESOL online programs that win the Teachers’ Choice Award are granted the ability to enjoy a whole year’s free exposure on Trusted TEFL Reviews, where they may post, for example, any current course discounts or promotions on the Trusted TEFL Reviews website.
You can check to see whether an Online TEFL/TESOL Program is Unaccredited, Accredited, or Fully Accredited by clicking on their category in the sidebar. The mention of which accreditation status they hold is clearly stated at the top of their category page, above the program’s review(s).
Unaccredited courses are identified with the statement, ‘Is [Online TEFL Program] accredited? No.‘
Accredited courses are identified with the statement, ‘Is [Online TEFL Program] accredited? Yes. The certification awarded is Accredited.’
Fully Accredited courses are identified with the statement, ‘Is [Online TEFL Program] accredited? Yes. The certification awarded is Fully Accredited and internationally recognized.‘
If you are having difficulties locating a program’s category page, you can easily locate it by clicking on their live link in the TEFL Course Directory: https://trustedteflreviews.com/tefl-course-directory/
Important information about Ofqual and TQUK-regulated courses:
Ofqual and TQUK are often (incorrectly) claimed to accredit Online TEFL programs offering a ‘Level 5’ certificate. Some Level 5 programs even go as far as to claim that the Level 5 TEFL certificate is the same as the CELTA certificate. ‘Level 5’ refers to one of the levels on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In other words, it’s a United Kingdom qualification that means very little to anyone outside of the UK. Furthermore, a qualification assessed at Level 5 doesn’t mean that it is “equivalent to the CELTA qualification”. Instead, it means that the level of education, knowledge, and skills required to complete the course is the same as that required to complete the CELTA, i.e., to be over 18, and to have a level of English and education that is equivalent to the average UK high school graduate.
Ofqual and TQUK are regulatory bodies, not accreditation bodies.
Ofqual and TQUK are regulatory bodies, not accreditation bodies.
A TEFL program can be regulated by Ofqual and be accredited or fully accredited by an external accreditation body, but this is not always the case.
A number of Ofqual-regulated TEFL programs blatantly lie to their customers by claiming that they are Ofqual accredited, or lie and claim that they are Ofqual regulated and fully accredited by another body that only regulates courses.
Ofqual and TQUK-regulated courses should provide you with a high level of TEFL training (although this is by no means guaranteed) but Ofqual and TQUK are by no means of the stretch of the imagination accreditation bodies.
One final point is that the accreditation industry in itself is highly competitive.
An argument that we often see is that a certain accreditation body should be taken more seriously than another simply because they have been in operation for longer.
This is absolute hogwash.
It doesn’t matter if an accreditation body has been in operation for one month or ten years.
What matters is whether the main accreditation members of the body are master’s-degree educated (in the field of Education), have years of credible experience in the field of TEFL and whether the accreditation body honors the rights of consumers.
Too many self-proclaimed “established” accreditation bodies have been set up by private individuals, with no university education and little to no experience in TEFL, and with just one mission: to make money and to hell with standards.
And our last (important) point:
When you apply for an English teacher job, online or abroad, IF your employer does ask whether your certificate is accredited, they sure as hell won’t ask WHICH company accredited your certificate.
What DOES matter, and what is ESSENTIAL, is that the Online TEFL course that you took actually taught you how to teach English.
Help with finding teaching work after the course should also be a priority, but NEVER pay any company to help find you a job. And NEVER accept a job placement agreement. There is so much work available and an Online TEFL program that will help you find work, as a free service when you pay for the course, is the preferential route.
Yes, you can save your money and buy a 120-Hour Online TEFL course for under $100 US, and you can enjoy the short-term-lived, feel-good emotion that you “got TEFL certified”, but the real proof of the pudding comes when you are sat in front of an experienced interviewer or stood in front of an actual class of students, and when you will very quickly realize that the course you completed in under a day has, in no way, whatsoever, prepared you for any of this. And then, inevitably, you won’t hear back from the school and you will, inevitably, have to begin a new search for another Online TEFL course to take – one that will properly prepare you for the job you want to train for.
Therefore, in conclusion to this TEFL TESOL Accreditation 101 article, always aim for a fully accredited Online TEFL program.
Quality 120-Hour Online TEFL courses begin from around $200 US. Pay anything less and you will be selling yourself and your future students short.
This ‘TEFL TESOL Accreditation 101’ article was written by Mia Williams, co-owner of Trusted TEFL Reviews (TTR) | Best Featured TEFL Articles
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