Worthless?

               “In France your qualifications and experience are worthless”

A French university head of department said this to me last year in an interview. This was in reference to CELTA, MA etc. And surprisingly they still offered me a job.

He then went on to explain that unless you have one of the French teaching test qualifications (CAPES, Agregee) then you are not entitled to teach in France. Later another teacher said that foreigners who do manage to “sneak in” are a “corruption of the system”. In essence, this is a very shrewd barrier to entry in that nothing is equivalent as these French tests don’t exist in other countries. Yet, some do say a PGCE is the same as the CAPES but from what I understand the PGCE is a postgrad course with teaching practice while the CAPES/AGREGEE just seems to be a test, in fact a ‘competitive civil servant on ‘ to be more precise. When I looked into this I was told that I would have to send my original certificates to some ministry to have them assessed to find their equivalents, if they existed. To most of us it would seem that a PGCE/MA is far higher than a teaching test which some say only tests your knowledge of the subject.

So, this seems why foreigners are relegated to PT work and will never get ‘in the system’ in France and get a proper job.  Is this fair? No, not at all but I’m sure it exists in other countries too. In the UK a lot of professors just have MA’s while to teach in schools you need a PGCE/BA Ed. The former means you have knowledge above the students level while the latter means you learn how to teach what you learned at school.

If we really are in Europe and have liberalisation etc shouldn’t we English teachers (and all teachers) be allowed to move and work anywhere? In France I met one women who said she had to redo all her teaching qualifications in French which seems unfair in that perhaps when French teachers go to the UK they are allowed to teach with French ones.

Should we get revenge and refuse all French qualifications as ‘not valid’ based on the sole reason that they aren’t written in English?

So, worthless eh? Well, when the French uni system relies entirely on foreign part-timers who by law can only be employed for 100 hours at each school, often get No contract and don’t get paid for 6mths + I think they are looking at a lot less willing foreign teachers. Not to mention all the problems in getting a house, health insurance and the basics which if you have no ‘real job’ are VERY difficult.

The result may be that foreigners leave, as if you are lucky enough to find a FT contract after 5 years they cannot renew it (or so I’ve been told). So, you may eventually have no choice but to leave or as one interviewer said “after a year you will be free to seek employment elsewhere”. This was because the 1 year contract he offered was unrenewable UNLESS someone high up deemed you were worthy of being kept for another year which he said was “unusual”.

This really sends a message that foreigners perhaps are ‘not invited’ but lots of staff do want us and need us, quite desperately so the big wigs in Paris should be listening. Having recognition of English qualifications would also be nice and not being told, as one blogger was that “without the Agregee we cannot be sure that you have mastered your language”. Hmmmm. Another outlined the extremely low number of candidates who pass these tests but also that she managed to ‘crack’ the test and just gave them what they wanted in the essays. I don’t understand the content of this test/qualification but I would hope that it is not just based on essays or a presentation as I have been told. According to some sources one of them lets you go home and prepare with friends and family.

The future will see but I really do hope Europe sorts this stuff out. An internationally recognised teaching qualification may solve everything and in the future we may even have a European syllabus for every school and course. Wouldn’t that be great especially if it was all in English.

Agregee:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agr%C3%A9gation

An old forum discussion on teacher problems in France regarding lack of recognition.

http://www.completefrance.com/cs/forums/496854/ShowPost.aspx

Note: From what I’ve read you need to send your qualifications to have them ‘equivalised’ as there seems to be no standard.

CELTA, DELTA, MA

I personally think that the path of the educated EFLer is a bit messy and confusing. Why? For these reasons:

1)Some people aren’t aware of/can’t attend a CELTA course so do unaccredited TEFL courses but when they try to get work find their certificates aren’t recognised and have to retrain.

2)The CELTA course is intensive but relies a lot on ‘learning on the job’ afterwards.

3)The 2 years minimum between CELTA and DELTA is supposed to provide you with enough experience and knowledge to make you ‘DELTA material’ but is this true in all cases?

4)The DELTA is a lot longer than the CELTA and seriously serious, expensive and time-consuming.

5)The MA can now be done as a PGCE/DIP/MA with some places giving you 3 certificates but others only one.Yet, the PGCE isn’t really a PGCE and the Diploma isn’t really the DELTA.

6)Some unis will let you skip 1 module if you have enough teaching experience but others will let you skip the PGCE if you have the DELTA.

7)People are now saying that the DELTA is equivalent to an MA.

8)You need the DELTA (MA is not always seen as equivalent) to work as a senior teacher/ADOS but the MA to work at uni or sometimes you need both.

My main issue is that the DELTA is not an MA but there is a lot of similarity on the courses so here are my ideas on how to simplify things:

1)Combine the CELTA with some DELTA EP and basic linguistics/teaching/learning methodology but with a very short EA and some elective options. This would make it longer and provide more time to solidify the teacher and make ones who are capable of working in many contexts.

2)Offer a 2 term MA TESOL/TEFL to all CELTA holders covering advanced linguistics, advanced teaching/learning theories, electives and research methods and then a dissertation.

3)Develop a 2/3 year PhD/Doctor of Education in EFL/ESOL which can be designed around the student, covering different elements of EFL like material design or course development  but have more courses and a shorter thesis as in the Dedu (Doctor of Education).

This seems simpler are there is a clear path and making 2) and 3) distance courses would open it up for most teachers. This should also make career development simpler and thus pay.

I also like the idea of post-CELTA development courses. At St Giles in London they used to offer these to bridge the gap between the CELTA and DELTA and I think it’s a great idea to keep developing, meet other teachers, swap ideas and to help keep up-to-date.

Master of the Universe

An average day in 2010 when..

I receive an email with my MA TESOL diploma attached. Woopeee me thinks and after about an hour of disbelief I decide to tell me boss. Will it entitle me to a pay rise/promotion/serious praise/an embarrassing hug I wonder?

“Hello, I just got my MA diploma”

“Oh, you finished?”

“Yes”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Er, no,…So, does it mean I can apply for a pay rise?”

“No, but you can send it to the admin department anyway but they’re closed”

Balloon deflated!

Since this event I wouldn’t actually say it’s helped me directly. It does make me eligible for the famed British Uni EAP jobs but even though I fill the criteria there seems to be something else I don’t have. Actually, if you look at a lot of MA TESOL tutors/teachers very few have a PhD and some don’t have the DELTA or some do but don’t have an MA in TESOL/TEFL (because they’re still new topics). What they often do have is good experience and that seems to beat the qualification in some places. However, I have applied for similar jobs and now the majority of unis do demand a Phd or you to be doing one.

Was it useful?

I work outside the EFL industry so to speak so being English and having a ‘certificate’ is enough, anything else confuses people but when I was in Asia you HAD to have an MA but in anything. In fact, having one in teaching English was not seen well as it wasn’t a subject. Teachers would ask me “what’s your field?” and I’d say “teaching English” and the reply was “but what subject do you teach?”.

What the MA has done for me is just give me an extra that some people don’t have and it shows you know what you are talking about. Having an MA also makes me eligible for Asian jobs if I ever decide to go back, or at least a higher pay rate/flight reimbursement.

Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of what I studied on the MA, probably as I did it intensively in about 14 months distance. But now I’ve started looking back and realising what was actually useful and wondering how it can move from ideas to practice.. Yes, there were some great practical stuff but there were so many courses and they were so long that it was hard to transfer everything to my teaching.

Would I recommend people do an MA in TESOL?

Yes.

Is distance learning effective?

Very much so if you have the time and are in a place to do all the research.

As a matter of fact, I’d say I benefitted more from it being distance as I did all the mini-tasks, research activities and dissertation on MY students which was invaluable.

If you’re thinking of doing an MA TESOL I’d really look around to find one that’s exactly what you want and affordable. Look at the options, schedule and decide if you can take a year off or do it distance and still squeeze it into your life. It’s not easy and you will have to sacrifice your social life, Twitter, FB and a  lot of sleep. For me the courses were easier to manage as I studied intensively and then took my time on the assignments or split my studying between mid-course tests/assignments/projects. However, when I was writing up my research I was working 6 days a week until 6/7 pm which meant I had very late/early nights/mornings and wrote most of the paper in the bathroom as I kept everyone awake typing.

With these kind of challenges and sacrifices the main question is ‘will it help you and your career?‘.

Last thoughts

What I find interesting is that many big EFL names don’t have an MA. For many the DELTA is enough and for many schools it is so. Yet,  I think there has to be a secret to why these people get to the top, given that some may even have less experience than people reading this. What is their ‘secret ingredient?’. I really feel it’s that they work on their teaching, they read, they experiment, they live the ideas and principles. What we read on my course remains just ideas or text to many of us but these people put it into practice. This is why my reference sections always have lots of ETp or ELTJ or BESIG journal references and less and less academic books and conference papers. However, a sure fire tip for any MA paper is to include a Scott Thornbury quote and the newer the better. When I did this it blew tutors for six because they were still reading old books so a 2010 quote from his blog was the newest thing they’d ever seen. Try it!

Question

Would you, did you, have you, will you do an MA TESOL?