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The path of an English teacher: What international certificates do you need to reach the highest level?

Published: 24/05/2019

By: International House Lima

English-Teacher-International-Certificates

If you are an English teacher, discover how you can become a senior accredited instructor to teach classes in Peru and around the world.

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You began dabbling with English and later the language became part of your life. Now, you feel that teaching English is what inspires you most and that you have finally found your true calling. So you think: “I want to get a good job as an English teacher.” But then you ask yourself: “What path should I take to reach the highest level in my career?”

According to studies conducted by the Ministry of Education and other institutions, levels of English language proficiency in Peru remain low. But if we look beyond this worrisome scenario, we see that this represents an opportunity for you: a national emergency is underway that requires better-prepared English teachers. Moreover, this coincides with an international market that is seeking professionals with adequate training.

To meet this demand, teachers need higher levels of international certification in English language proficiency, which must go hand-in-hand with knowledge of teaching methods. This is the only way that you will stand out as a teacher in either Peru or the world. You will find personal, professional and job satisfaction. You will achieve your dream of becoming a recognized teacher and be in the position to move up the ladder at any institution, armed with great qualifications and the accompanying good salary.  

“Instructors with this profile will find that doors open immediately: they don’t go to the jobs; the jobs find them. In Peru, teachers with this kind of preparation are a rarity and as such, always find employment,” says Thimoty R. Kanashiro, exams and teacher trainer at International House Lima (IHL) and the only approved Peruvian CELTA tutor who holds, among other qualifications, the C2 Proficiency certificate and Delta from Cambridge University. 

Real opportunities
Of course, if you wish to become a world-class English teacher, you need to follow a path. As such, your questions are valid.  Thimoty went down this road fifteen years ago when he discovered that teaching was his passion. Based on this experience, his first recommendation is that prior to studying teaching methodologies, you should work on achieving a high level of language proficiency. This seems counter-intuitive, but it isn’t.  

In Peru, those who have the opportunity to follow an English language program at an institute or university generally graduate with a B2 level of English; some of these teachers go on to teach at institutions of higher education but maintain their same level of language proficiency. In the Common European Framework of Reference for languages - one of the international standards - this level of instruction is considered upper-intermediate.  In fact, the level required is C2 - represented by the Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) exam– which requires demonstrating absolute proficiency in English similar to that of a native speaker of English.  

So why is it important to have a C2 level? There are two resounding answers: “To guide and teach students, you must have more knowledge than them” and additionally, “because this level allows you to approach teaching as a career given that  proficiency must be achieved before taking methodology courses such as those offered by Cambridge University,” says Thimoty, head teacher at IHL. But this process can be either intensive or progressive, depending on the possibilities and needs at any given point in your professional development.

School teachers
If you are a school English teacher you know that great opportunities are available. According to the Ministry of Education, 2,000 additional English teachers are needed each year to cover a growing demand at the primary and secondary school levels. As you may recall, English is a compulsory course in schools and by 2021, 39,000 English teachers will be needed to teach courses.

But the idea is to have a better-prepared teaching staff given that currently, 2 out of 3 English teachers at the primary school level have a basic level of proficiency while 3 out of 10 secondary school instructors lack any kind of certification. For this reason, the Ministry of Education has ramped up requirements through a national plan “English opens the doors to the world.” In this context, if you seek to achieve higher status as a teacher and improve your job prospects in terms of salary and time-served, a decisive first move is to achieve B2 level and certify this progress internationally through Cambridge B2 First (FCE).

Obviously, your ultimate goal must be to fully dominate the English language and improve your teaching knowledge. The most recommendable path to achieving this entails studying the Certificate in English Language Teaching – Primary (CELT-P) and Certificate in English Language Teaching – Secondary (CELT-S), which are practical certificates that are recognized around the world for primary and secondary teachers, respectively, who  wish to improve their abilities to teach the English language.

You can also take the Train the Trainer course if are a coordinator and one of your duties is to train English instructors. But there is one thing to keep in mind: these courses must be requested by schools, so you should get together with your colleagues to ask your institution to make the proper inquiries.

Instructors at institutes and universities
If you teach English at an institute or university, it is even more competitive. According to the consulting company GFK, there are more than 40 institutions that teach English in the country, the majority in Lima.  And in these academic spaces, the average English level is generally B2, which is equivalent to upper-intermediate.  This shouldn’t be surprising given that, as we have already seen, this level is the same level that the average graduate of a language program at an institute or university achieves.  

Nevertheless, unlike their colleagues at the primary and secondary school levels, an English teacher at an institute or university is subject to additional job pressure to demonstrate a more solid academic background to move up in the ranks; ask for a raise; and renew contracts. “There are institutes that expect their instructors to improve their linguistic abilities. And the only way to achieve this is to take international exams,” recommends Thimoty, an instructor at IHL and a certified instructor for teacher training courses offered by Cambridge University.   

If this is your case, then your first step is to validate and certify your B2 level through Cambridge B2 First (FCE). But this is not enough for the context in which you work. You must go further to reach the C1 level through Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE). With this certificate, you demonstrate a high level of proficiency in English and an ability to be successful in academia and in the job market. You also show that you are capable of living in English-speaking countries.  

Your best bet is to obtain C2 level through Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE). With this, you will demonstrate that you possess exceptional proficiency in the English language. And as we indicated earlier, this marks a before and after in your teaching career. Once this level has been reached, you have the key to success in your hands: you can study for the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CELTA) and the Diploma in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Delta), the highest certificates for English language instruction in the world.  

CELTA and Delta: Teacher trainer
CELTA is the world’s most widely recognized certificate for teaching methods for language instruction. This is the first step that every individual who wishes to consolidate their knowledge of English, and achieve recognition as an instructor locally or around the world, should take. The program is highly intensive and is directed at native and non-native speakers. The preparation offered is considered as rigorous as that offered by bachelor’s programs in Great Britain. This is very important given that 7 out of 10 employers require teachers to have a CELTA certificate.  

Delta is the final level of certification available and constitutes the highest level achievable for English language instruction around the world. Holders of this title become senior instructors who are in the position to train other teachers. The Delta course has three modules and is equivalent in rigor to a Master’s degree in Great Britain. Only a very select number of teachers reach this peak in English teaching knowledge.

Thimoty, for example, is one of these individuals. Thanks to this knowledge, today he is an examiner for international exams and the only Peruvian instructor authorized by Cambridge University to provide CELTA training. But of course, Thimoty had to travel abroad to obtain the Delta qualification given that no one in Peru offered this course ten years ago. Today things are different: IHL is currently offering the first module of Delta and next year, it will begin to offer the second.  

It is true that institutes are currently offering methodology courses and universities are preparing teachers to provide foreign language instruction, but CELTA and Delta are in a different class. “Local programs are offered at an English level below C2 but moreover, our difference lies in the international certificate that we offer: an individual with CELTA or Delta can work in more than 100 countries around the world – explains Thimoty. On the contrary, the certificates offered by other institutes in Peru only provide recognition at a local level. Bachelor’s or master’s degrees in foreign languages are highly theoretical, while CELTA and Delta are equipped with a strong practical component.”  

The path to become an English teacher is clear. You just need patience, perseverance and ambition to achieve a successful teaching career. You must avoid, at all costs, remaining in your comfort zone. Remember that your role is to educate students and motivate them to certify their level of English through international exams. You cannot presume to be a guide in the classroom if you haven’t first reached the necessary level. Perfect your English and obtain the certificates necessary to be recognized as a Senior Instructor around the world.

By: International House Lima