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Phuket Lifestyle – TEFL Courses: the good, the bad and the cowboys



PHUKET: Phuket has no shortage of expats who want to live and work here. Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) is a popular way to achieve this goal, which means that the competition for these jobs are fierce and wages are somewhat lower than those in other urban areas of Thailand.

One way to improve the odds of finding quality employers is through earning a TEFL certificate. Phuket is home to no fewer than five certification courses, but not all centers are reputable.

One way to identify Phuket’s quality courses from those known by industry insiders as “cowboy courses”, is to ask the right questions before making any monetary commitments. Such questions are not limited to, but should include the following:

Is the course accredited?

Each training course should be accredited by an independent institution. These will typically be institutions of higher learning. Accreditation should provide information relating to regular moderation reports and customer satisfaction. Anyone wishing to stay in Thailand should also ask if the course is recognized by the Ministry of Education.

How long has the center been operating?

It takes time to perfect a training course and you don’t want to get stuck with a provider that is going through a learning process of its own. Additionally, the longevity of an operation speaks to the levels of recognition the certificate carries. There’s no point in holding a certificate from a course employers aren’t familiar with.

What are the trainers’ qualifications?

Experience is paramount here, but also look for a variety of teaching locations and disciplines—business vs academic English, young learners vs adults, and so on. Qualifications such as advanced diplomas and degrees are also important, but nothing can substitute for real-world experience.

Will I be teaching real English foreign language (EFL) students with real materials?

Believe it or not, some centers will have you teaching fellow trainees or creating your own materials. These are gimmicks and should serve as warning signs. Courses should supply trainees with real EFL students who possess a variety of English language abilities. Teaching materials should be plentiful, modern and mirror those found in real settings.

What is the pass rate of your course?

Specific figures cannot indicate a good course, but one answer indicates a bad one: Everyone passes. Enrollment in a TEFL certification course should not automatically bring with it a certificate, because not everyone is capable of passing course requirements. Despite their best efforts, trainers are not miracle workers and cannot turn water into wine. Some trainees are not fit to teach and sometimes it takes a training course to prove that.

Ask to speak with former trainees. Any course worth its salt is going to have a lengthy list of past trainees who are satisfied with their course and willing to share their experiences. It’s best if these comments are published on an independent website or provided via email. However, be wary of internet forums where anonymous individuals can make overly positive or critical comments. These people may be shills or have an ax to grind.

Finally, beware of course providers that guarantee employment; it’s simply impossible to do that in an honest fashion. If a job market is saturated with teachers, or if local qualification requirements exceed a TEFL certificate, how can a course guarantee employment? And in regions where demand for teachers is high, guarantees of employment are redundant.

The fact of the matter is that most courses which “guarantee” jobs have systems that place graduates with employers who are typically unfit to keep their own teachers for any amount of time. This may be due to poor pay, poor working conditions, unreasonable management or a combination of all three factors. In addition to this, the course will often shave wages off the top in the same way a recruiter does – they just don’t tell you that.

While the list of Phuket’s TEFL certification courses is lengthy, a few good questions and a savvy approach will easily separate the island’s cowboy operations from its quality courses.

— Eric Haeg


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