The majority of teachers in Japan aren’t aiming for a permanent career in education- at least not at first. Many people, however, come to enjoy teaching and decide they want to continue. The problem then becomes that while they have the desire to take on positions with more responsibility (and better pay), a lack qualifications holds them back. So what can someone in this position do?
Many schools now offer masters programs in Education or TESOL through distance learning. With technology such as skype, you can even participate in classroom discussions and have meetings with your advisor without leaving Japan. For those whose schedule and location allow, Temple University and Sophia University offer graduate programs in linguistics and TESOL taught in English. There is a lot of time, expense, and effort involved in undertaking graduate studies while working full time, but for universities and some private high schools a masters is the minimum requirement.
For those who don’t have time to pursue a full degree and are in the Tokyo area, Temple University also offers a Continuing Education certificate in Teaching English to Japanese learners.
Two of the best known certification programs for teaching English to non-native speakers are CELTA and Trinity TEFL, accredited by Cambridge University and Trinity College, respectively. Both require observed teaching and have a set syllabus involving language awareness, teaching skills, lesson development, and professionalism. The courses can be done full-time (4-5 weeks) or part-time depending on the administrating body. The advantage to having CELTA or Trinity TEFL is that they are very familiar to schools and recruiters. Because of the thoroughness of the syllabus they are well-regarded, however, the courses, especially full time, can have a heavy workload. For those in rural Japan, finding a place to take the course can also be a challenge.
In Japan, Shane English school offers the Trinity TEFL certificate in both full and part-time courses. CELTA is offered as a 20-time Saturday course by Language Resources in Kobe.
Online TEFL courses
Those concerned about money and time may opt for one of the many online courses offering TEFL certification. If you’re looking to take an online course, be sure to check the following:
Is this course accredited? Some accrediting bodies include College of Teachers, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, and MEI-RELSA. Universities and colleges may offer their own accreditation.
Does this course involve practical teaching experience? Most good courses will go beyond just having you read theory, so try and find a program with some kind of classroom component (not necessarily on-site, many online courses will allow you to use your current school for the practicum).
How will I be assessed? For a course to be worthwhile there needs to be assessment and feedback. Beware of any course that simply offers a certificate to anyone enrolled for the designated amount of time.
When you go for an interview with a qualification that isn’t familiar to the interviewer, they will ask about these things to make sure your qualification has some merit. While cheap, short, courses that don’t involve teaching are tempting because they are the easiest types of certificate to get, the fact that they are easy to get means potential employers will not be impressed.
Kate Havas is a coordinator for EduCareer, a new service from Global Partners.
Photo by Rex Pe / used under CC license.