Diploma Disease strikes TEFL


May 6, 2011 by Willy Cardoso

A professional’s skills and knowledge are not confined to time or space formalized by accreditation bodies.

Do you know what makes me sick?


primary reliance on certificates, diplomas, degrees, etc, for purposes of job recruitment and professional status.

Teaching skills CAN BE acquired by experience and informal studies. As a matter of fact, I don’t see so many people disagreeing with that. Besides, millions of teachers have demonstrated that experience and non-formal professional development are most of the times more valuable than formal training.

But there are too many people, and few jobs. OK – use formal qualification as a screening device; it’s the fastest way to limit the number of applications and filter CVs anyway.

Implicit in the diploma disease model is the assumption that employers use educational certificates primarily as ‘screening’ devices – as measures of general ability (intelligence and powers of application) which indicate a person’s likely ‘trainability’ over a whole range of skills, rather than as indicators of the cognitive and other skills which he has acquired as ‘human capital’ through his schooling. (R. Dore)

I can’t argue about that. I don’t like it, but… Business is business, it has to be efficient business-wise even if not effective education-wise.

What ticks me off is when a certain qualification is required for a job and the job description has many other things that are sometimes more important than what that qualification pressumably equipped its holder with.

Teaching aside, let’s take a look at management positions and some examples I saw today at a major job ads website for ELT professionals. (my reds)

Director of Studies required

  • DELTA / Diploma qualification essential
  • Previous management experience not required.
  • The successful applicant will be responsible for the development and management of the teaching staff plus day-to-day running of the academic side of the school

Director of Studies

The role of a DOS incorporates the following:
• With the other members of the management team, ensuring that a high quality programme is delivered, following our guidelines closely
Overall management of the academic programme and the teaching team, ensuring that it is of the highest possible standard so that the students derive the maximum benefit from their course
• Ensuring that lessons and activities are integrated, following our syllabus and guidelines
Safety and welfare of all students at all times

 you must be DELTA/Trinity DipTESOL qualified or equivalent

Assistant Course Manager, duties:

  • To assist the Course Manager in every aspect of the work of the Course Management Department
  • (…)
  • Deputising for the Course Manager by arrangement.

DELTA with teaching experience at all levels


Just three examples out of dozens (these are current vacancies in the UK). In case you don’t know much about DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults) take a look at http://cambridgeesol.org/exams/teaching-awards/delta-modular.html and you’ll see that you can get a fine teacher out of that programme (I guess), but manager???

Notice that this blogpost is not to belittle TEFL Diplomas (not that I like them), but why is it that it became a prior condition to hold a management position? Or better ALL management positions in private sector ELT/TEFL in UK. I agree that a substantial part of the job needs sound understanding of how to teach and its principles, notions of assessment and syllabus design, and many other things included in the diploma, but when it comes to management…

Is it just a problem of terminology or is it that they don’t know the meaning of management? Or do they really think that if you are a qualified teacher you can be a good manager? Or even, is it that they haven’t even thought about why they require such a qualification?

I would love to hear from diploma holders and trainers if in their experience aspects of academic management were developed throughout their courses.

More than anything, I would love to hear from school owners, directors, principals, recruiters, why they demand the qualifications they demand.

This is really a minor example of the diploma disease, but one that deeply affects me as a professional.

Credentialism is all over the place, it’s pervasive, and it corrupts the purpose of getting education. In turn, people who are genuinely interested in learning might get demotivated when their intentions are transfered to standards and their skills are like foreign, depreciated currencies in the jobs market.

Is it really impossible to create schools without the goal of the bread-and-butter, certificate-seeking, lifelessly instrumental motive for learning which, I persist in believing, is steadily eroding the qualityof schooling throughout the world? (R. Dore)

quotes from The Diploma Disease Revisited by Ronald Dore


23 thoughts on “Diploma Disease strikes TEFL

  1. Really interesting post, Willy. For me it makes a great follow up to the comment you left on my blog.

    Thanks very much for taking a look at the qualification issue from a slightly different viewpoint. I will be interested to see if you get replies from those you have mentioned above.

  2. duncan foord says:

    As someone who has done a Diploma course and is now a provider of the Trinity Dip TESOL I have to say I disagree with you Willy. Teachers who take a Diploma course make a commitment to themselves as teachers and to their profession. They commit to discovering and learning more about ELT and reflecting on their own classroom teaching in a disciplined and systematic way. As a result i think they are more likely to provide confident role models in leadership positions than teachers who have not done this. I agree that the Diploma experience does not equip them for all the challenges that the management posts you list might generate, but it certainly addresses key areas of teacher supervision, mentoring and development which tend to feature in most DOS jobs.

    • Thanks for your comment, Duncan! It’s good to hear from a course provider’s perspective.
      I agree with you when you say teachers who take a Diploma course are commited to their own development; however that doesn’t make them good managers. As I said, I am not saying Dips cannot contribute to the knowledge-base of a DOS, quite the contrary, it’s one of the short-term qualifications that will make a difference in this kind of career, especially in small schools where the DOS basically does everything related to teaching and learning (which was my experience). But wouldn’t someone with a degree in English language and teaching and a postgrad degree in human resource management (or something like that) be just as suitable for the position?

      Or maybe, instead of a Diploma, something more affordable and specialized? Some well-know training centers also have courses in ELT management (yours included 😉 )
      What I just can’t understand is this unjustified monopoly of two awarding bodies.

      I hadn’t read the Trinity Dip TESOL syllabus specs to write this post, my mistake. I’d read it before but not looking for management related items. Anyway, I found this:

      – basic principles of mentoring and providing constructive support to less experienced teachers in the classroom
      – aspects of educational and general management relevant to the development of good professional relationships in the workplace

      Good, but maybe not enough as prescribed, though I believe different centers might emphasize different things.

      I wonder why no-one asks for or even talk much about the IDLTM (International Diploma in Language Teaching Management)

  3. Though I accept your point Duncan, I think there are other ways in which educators can make a commitment to themselves as teachers and to their profession these days without going down a formal qualifications route. For example, the ELT blogosphere has more teachers who are committed to discovering and learning more about the profession and reflecting on their own classroom teaching in a disciplined and systematic way than you can shake a stick at, and not all of them are pursuing (or planning to pursue) a formal qualifications route.

    I’m sure that Diplomas do benefit many teachers, and if people want to do them then that’s fine, but I think as much (if not more) depends on personality and other life experiences that people have to offer in determining whether or not people make good managers; as Willy says, good teachers don’t always make good managers, and of course the reverse holds true as well.

    I’m not a fan of credentialism either, Willy, but employers hold all the cards and can demand whatever qualifications they like I’m afraid, which means that if you want to work within the system, you have to play by their rules. You’ll find a similar framework exists in pretty much all the professions.

    In my experience, the only way to circumvent these kind of things really is to either get so good at what you do that people headhunt you and they get past caring about the bits of paper, or go freelance and run your own show 🙂


  4. Hi Willy and everybody,

    The main problem I see is when the piece of paper you hold becomes more important than what you can actually deliver. I agree with what Sue said, there are many different ways for you to show that you are committed to your practice that go way beyond the scope of formal education. I also see Duncan’s point – anyone who’s willing to spend that amount of money on a DELTA course is likely to be a fairly interested in becoming a better teacher. The point I’d like to make is slightly different.

    Surprisingly, when teachers are really good at what they do, they tend to be pulled off the classroom and put into management. Great teachers aren’t necessarily going to be good managers, and vice-versa. I liked it when you mentioned the IDLTM – a lot more sensible than a DELTA for the position of a manager. Going back to what I’m trying to say, managers should be able to spot factors from a much wider perspective than simply observing teaching skills. They are the people to put the right people in the right place. If you put the right person in the wrong place, he or she won’t deliver. Simple as that, huh?!

    The main advantage of certifications might be the fact that it’s much easier for you to get someone who knows what they’re doing. Yet, this is probably something that good trainers and DoS should be able to spot after a week or two of pre-service training. If all the candidate has to offer is a piece of paper, he or she will certainly show that during a well structured pre-service session, right?



  5. Diarmuid says:

    Hi Willy
    The reason that DoS’s need to have diplomas is probably more to do with the exigencies of the accredititation bodies. Accreditation UK expects managers to have a higher level qualification than the grunts in the field.

    My organisation is actually quite enlightened and has sent the managers on a year long management course. I supposed it’s quite useful – if nothing else, every couple of months we get to go to London for two days.

  6. dingtonia says:

    Great, thought-provoking post, Willy. I am DELTA qualified, and I honestly cannot remember any input about managing staff – new,experienced, stroppy, nervous, maverick or otherwise; timetabling – a weekly nightmare; interviewing and recruiting – some years, up to 20 teachers for summer programmes, most sight-unseen as they come in from overseas: annual appraisals – how to do them, what to ask, cover and discuss; observation techniques like giving feedback; handling students’ complaints – another nightmare that keeps me awake many a night. So, no, I am/was totally untrained to be a manager. And sometimes I think I am terrible at it.
    So why did I do the DELTA? Because our school needed BC accreditation and to get it, the DoS needs to hold a Diploma. I don’t want to hog your blog (ha ha ha!) I’m going to do a blog myself on The Tragic Story of My DELTA…..have a look in a bout 30 mins.


  7. Luke Meddings says:

    Great stuff Willy.

    I have to say I don’t remember anything on management on my Delta (which might say more about my memory than it does about the course) – although, like Candy, I did this so I would be qualified for the Course Director job I was already doing.

    My personal experience is that teaching and management require very different skill sets. I just ended up hiding out in the classroom – couldn’t wait for teachers not to turn up to class – I’ll cover!!

    However I also think there is also too much of a division between ‘teaching’ and ‘management’ in most schools which leads to both parties under-estimating and misunderstanding the challenges faced by the other. A more integrated approach to certification might help. Maybe..

    One problem is that education and systemisation are incompatible. Systems exist to systematise, and education exists to problematise. Or should do. Teach independent thinking (tick box 345b). Education done properly can’t fit a system. Systems run properly can’t accommodate true education.

    Candy’s blog is up now – http://ydnacblog.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/the-tragic-story-of-my-delta-as-promised-to-willy-cardoso/

  8. Richard says:

    Good points, Willy. I’d have to concur with the other DELTA comments from Luke and Candy, I did the more recent modular version on one of the first courses run with that framework. There was nothing on management or mentoring, or very much on techniques and approaches for observation, nothing outside the peer obs stuff we were required to do. As a result, a course I’m just finishing now on my MA in Teacher Education has been hugely eye-opening.

    It terms of credentialism, you’ll appreciate (but won’t like) this example. At the summer school where I have worked for a while now we were inspected by the BC last summer and this is what came out in the wash. A DoS at another site did not have the DELTA, though the centre manager does and it was thought that that would fulfil the regulations. The company was employing her for a second year in the role because she is very good at her job, well-liked by staff and an excellent manager of people. However, this came up in their report and they insisted that no DoS should be employed without a DELTA. As a result, this year she cannot be employed in that role as the BC have said they’re going to return for spot checks and this was a fairly major failing. I believe that the company have been attempting to work something out because they don’t want to lose her.

  9. Dear Willy

    Interesting post, asking some very pertinent questions! The main question underlying your post as I see it, even though it is not actually explicitly asked, is what kind of knowledge and skill a Director of Studies at a language school should have. The answer that you seem to take for granted, even though the question is never really explicitly asked, is that a Director of Studies or Academic Manager is primarily a manager, essentially not different from other managers and that the type of knowledge and skill that would help them do their job effectively mainly has to do with strategic, tactical and operational management, marketing, budgeting, business planning, and the like. Based on this (unstated) belief, you question the relevance of the DELTA or the LTCL Diploma to educational/academic management in the foreign language education context.

    As a DELTA tutor with twenty years of experience, and, perhaps more importantly, as someone who, for a number of years, held the position of Academic Director of a large chain of (200) language schools in Greece, I would seriously question the underlying assumption that a Director of Studies is primarily a manager in the sense that a sales manager or a himan resources manager is. Even in the ads that you have cited, it is clear that the required abilities are of a different order:

    responsible for the development and management of the teaching staff. To me this suggests that the DoS has to be able to supervise, appraise, train teachers, which in turn suggests that she/he has to have enough knowledge and experience of teaching EFL to be able to do that.

    day to day running of the academic side of the school. To me, the “academic side” suggests things like timetabling, syllabus design, management of teaching resources, assessment, etc.

    With the other members of the management team ensuring that a high quality programme is delivered. To me, this suggests that the DoS is responsible for the quality of the courses from the academic/educational point of view, while, clearly, the rest of the management team contribute to the high quality of the programme by drawing upon their own areas of expertise in, for example, marketing, finances, human resource management, etc.

    Overall management of the academic programme and the teaching team. Again, the emphasis here is on academic and teaching. To me, it suggests, once again, that the DoS should be able to design, implement and evaluate syllabuses and courses, select materials and resources, select and evaluate teachers, etc.

    In my experience, successsful language school academic management presupposes, and constantly makes use of, a different set of abilities, which are certainly not expected to have been developed by “managers” in general. Interestingly, the core abilities an academic manager is expected to demonstrate can actually be very explicitly linked to learning outcomes specified in the DELTA syllabus (I indicate in brackets below exactly which learning outcomes in the DELTA syllabus document relate to each):

    – designing (or supervising the design of), implementing and evaluating syllabuses and courses (Module 3: 2.2., 2.3., 3.1., 3.2)

    – selecting and evaluating course materials and resources (Module 1: 5.1., 5.2; Module 2: 3.1., 3.2., 3.3., 3.4.)

    – planning and implementing assessment of learners (Module 1: 6.2., 6.3, Module 3: 6.1)

    – selecting, training, observing and evaluating language teachers (module 2: 6.1., 6.2., 6.3., 6.4)

    I would then argue that, in terms of the course syllabus and content, the DELTA does indeed prepare teachers for most of the core responsibilities of a Director of Studies. This is not to suggest that DELTA holders are necessarily accomplished academic managers, but it does suggest that they evidently have a lot of the knowledge and skill that an ELT academic manager needs. That schools require candidates for DoS positions to produce evidence (: the DELTA) that they have such knowledge and skill is quite understandable. After all, the alternative you seem to suggest would be more acceptable, i.e. a qualification in “management,” has nothing to do with any of the special skills and abilities that an ELT academic manager needs.

    • Hi George,
      Thanks for your interpretation of my post and the questions not stated here, I appreciate it. It’s also good to hear from course providers and experience Diploma trainers, really, it’s important to know how all parts see the issue in questions and not to be limited to a teacherly point of view only.

      Let me clarify some things:
      You wrote:
      “the main question underlying your post as I see it, even though it is not actually explicitly asked, is what kind of knowledge and skill a Director of Studies at a language school should have”

      Not really, George, that is not what I aimed at, though it was good to read your description.

      I’m talking about the jobs market, how oddly it behaves, who has a stake, what are the discrepancies between what employers ask and the reality once on the job; and how our fixation on certificates and diplomas and subsequently over-reliance on them can be detrimental to our profession. Ultimately, the point was for me understand why the British ELT industry works this way, because now I live here; and it’s completely different from what happens in Brazil, where I worked as an academic manager for 3 years and had to do everything you mention in your description of expected skills of an academic manager/DOS

      Then you wrote:
      “The answer that you seem to take for granted, even though the question is never really explicitly asked, is that a Director of Studies or Academic Manager is primarily a manager.”

      Again, not I did not do it.

      I said:
      “I agree that a substantial part of the job needs sound understanding of how to teach and its principles, notions of assessment and syllabus design, and many other things included in the diploma, but when it comes to management…”

      There, I said that the essence of the job is grounded on English Language Teaching, but that it’s not all there is to it. So I’m questioning where the rest is.

      Then you continue:
      ” Based on this (unstated) belief, you question the relevance of the DELTA or the LTCL Diploma to educational/academic management in the foreign language education context.”

      George, I respect you very much based on the things you write and on your acute critical eye in discussions like this, but either I totally failed to get my message across or you misinterpreted my text.

      See my comment to Duncan – I am not undermining or even questioning the relevance of a TEFL Diploma in relation to anything, much less to academic management. I’m just saying that it is not the only way to measure somone’s capability to do jobs like this; therefore it shouldn’t be the only qualification accepted and required to do jobs like this in the UK.

      So, the “unstated” and “not explicit” you mentioned is exactly that, I didn’t mean it. Apart from your introductory interpretation of my post (which I don’t agree but respect, in the end I wrote all of this to know how others see it), the rest of your comment makes sense to me and makes me reconsider some opinions I have regarding diplomas, but which are not exactly related to my argument here.


      • Thanks for clarifying that you didn’t mean to suggest a “managerly” qualification might be more relevant than a Diploma. I am sorry I misinterpreted you: I must have been misled by the (red) emphasis you placed on the references to managers and management in the job ads!

        We don’t actually disagree that getting a DELTA is not the only way to prove that you are capable of doing the job of the DoS – in fact, as your own examination of one regulator/accreditation body (the British Council) shows in your comment below, it isn’t even the only qualification accepted and required in the IK.

        I don’t disagree either with you and other colleagues that have commented here that a DELTA or equivalent qualification does not guarantee that you can do the job of the academic manager: there are clearly other skills you need, in addition to those you develop on a course like the DELTA. What I am arguing is that the kind of knowledge and skill the DELTA aims to develop is essential, though not necessarily sufficient in the context of academic management.

        The discussion on reliance and over-reliance of the ELT industry on certificates and diplomas is definitely an interesting one. There are definitely reasons (some real, some ideological, some social) why the DELTA, for example, has the recognition that it has and, consequently, a gate-keeping function in many contexts. Language tests for learners, such as the IELTS, also have gate-keeping functions, which in some cases can have much graver consequences on individuals learners’ lives (cf. the use of IELTS and other high-stakes exams to control immigration in the UK and Australia).

        However, in the case of prospective teachers and Directors of Studies demonstrating measurable competence in their professional duties, I wonder what the alternative to some sort of recognised qualification would be: an ad hoc measure of their professional competence developed by their prospective employers, perhaps? And why would that be a better, more reliable alternative? With a diploma such as the DELTA you do at least get some kind of external validation of the value of the qualification, i.e. you get some measure of the qualification holder’s competence that has been shown to be reliable. And when using the DELTA or similar qualifications to draw conclusions on the suitability of a candidate for the post of senior teacher or director of studies, you are at least using the DELTA for the purpose for which it was intended; which is not at all the case when the UK Border Agency uses academic English test results to determine whether an unskilled worker can be granted a visa!

  10. Thanks everyone for commenting and sharing experieces!

    I sort of thought, naively, that being required to have a Dip in order to apply for a management position was more of a bottom-up occurance, something schools do because others do too, and then eventually becomes “best practice” without further critical consideration (like many of our industry’s best practices).

    But as some of you pointed out, it is more of a top-down thing which comes from accreditation bodies.

    Here’s what I found:

    page 26

    T4 The academic manager or academic management team will have an appropriate professional profile to provide academic leadership:
    ■ they will be academically and ELT/TESOL qualified as appropriate to the range of courses on offer; at least one person will have, as a minimum, a TEFLQ diploma-level ELT/TESOL qualification
    ■ they will have at least three years’ full-time relevant experience (at least one person in the case of a team).

    T5 There will be a valid rationale for the employment of any academic managers without the appropriate qualifications or experience.

    So, we can see it’s very easy to blame it on those above us.
    BUT – BUT – BUT

    it’s not as simple as that – With a bit of extra effort and less conformism let’s take a look at the following:
    same document – page 48

    Examples of ELT/TESOL diploma-level qualifications are diplomas in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages accredited by the QCA at level 7 of the National Qualifications Framework; PGCE in ELT/TESOL.

    Other qualifications that providers may consider to be diploma level (provided that they meet the validation,
    entry requirements, teaching practice and input criteria listed above) are:
    ■ university ‘diploma in ELT/TESOL’ courses
    ■ overseas qualifications (equivalent to a PGCE, BEd or MA in ELT/TESOL) which qualify teachers to teach ESOL in state educational institutions in their country of origin.

    Master’s degrees in ELT/TESOL (or related subjects).
    MAs in ELT/TESOL or related subjects can be considered diploma-level equivalent provided that they meet the validation, teaching practice and input criteria listed above. Where the teaching practice (only) criterion is not met, a teacher with this qualification may be considered diplomalevel qualified for the purposes of the Scheme where there is evidence that he or she has undertaken at least five hours of systematic observation of lessons by a fully TEFL-qualified academic manager or teacher trainer post-qualifying.

    Please note: the above does not apply to certificate or diploma-level qualifications without a supervised teaching practice component. In the case of an academic manager who is diploma-level qualified by virtue of an MA in ELT/TESOL (or ELT/TESOL related subjects), this qualification will be considered to be acceptable whether or not it contained five hours of observed teaching and feedback. However, in this case, the academic manager will have had experience of observing teachers and of being observed. The minimum three years’ full-time relevant experience will also be required for criterion T4 to be met.

    Academic managers
    Please note that under T4 there are requirements relating to experience as well as to qualifications for an academic manager.

    ELT/TESOL management qualifications
    Qualifications in ELT/TESOL management are normally considered appropriate qualifications for academic
    managers only, provided they meet the validation requirements stated above.

    I can conclude that there are options and ways besides DELTA and Trinity Dip. However, they are the easiest ways for employers to get what they need in terms of compliance, and many times for employees too. The easiest, not the best, nor the only one – simply the easiest.

  11. Anthony Gaughan says:

    The Delta may prepare you to do some of the work of a DoS in that it sharpens your observational skills and theoretical background, but having been an ADoS and now “heading” my own department (of two people including me, in an amusingly flat hierarchy!), I don’T think anything in my Delta experience prepared me for this.

    Not a criticism of the Delta per se or of my tutors (shout out to David Carr and Jenny Parsons – hope you are both well!) just an indication that “the industry” should be a bit more discerning.

    Of course, market pressures can operate both top down and bottom up. Accreditation bodies apply pressure by giving Dip-level qualifications pole position and thus relegate QTS, MBA etc to “also ran” status; schools allow this to influence their thinking and also pragmatically speaking, a dip-holding teacher can always be put to good use in the classroom whereas a manager might not.

  12. Dear Willy,

    The claim that anyone can be a good teacher just by pursuing professional development opportunities on their own is one that , perhaps, merits an altogether new discussion. But briefly, sure, if you want to meander for a few years before you get somewhere, yes this is a possible path.

    A good course, however, shortens the time of ‘getting there” both for the benefit of this teacher’s learners as well for the teacher himself/herself.

    Your impassioned shout against credentialism assumes that all those who enter the field of TEFL.are keen, autonomous and self-driven, good at all Web 2.0, networking and web search skills &/or academic pursuits. It assumes they have a passion for their job and thus will do anything in their power to improve.

    Do you really, truly believe that this is the reality? It certainly isn’t in my corner of the world where the majority of teachers are apathetic and complacent.

    As a DELTA course provider and tutor of this programme since 1990, I can verify what others have said that there is no syllabus component which addresses education management issues. However, as George Vassilakis has pointed out in his comment, it does cover issues that are essential to the academic role of such a manager and so, a very good credential to seek by employers – more below why.

    As you yourself have pointed out, there is an alternative Diploma for ELT managers and, by now, quite a few good courses and M.A.’s which have this focus and colleagues who have graduated from such courses are bound to know more about school leadership, administration as well as marketing strategies – which a DELTA, or even the MA you are currently following (a credential, may I add, hmmm, hmmm…)

    But in the absence of a sufficient number of good ELT manager trained professionals, why does a school requiring its managers to have the DELTA or its alternatives sound like a bad call? I wonder!

    Sure, there are exceptions to all rules, but they are the exception and thus a very tiny percentage.

    Why should schools look for the needle in the haystack?

    Why should an institution prefer to hire someone with no solid ELT background or experience of observing others and having been observed?

    The analytical skills and reflection processes DELTA candidates go through are extremely valuable to them. Having also been at the receiving end of observations, they will certainly feel more empathy with a teacher they are observing, because they themselves have gone through the process of being critiqued and will, on the whole, be more supportive and understanding of a developing teacher’s difficulties and needs.

    (Anywhere I have mentioned the DELTA, what I am saying is equally true of the Trinity DIp as well as a good MA with a practical focus and observation included, such as the one that Martin Sketchley is currently following)

    Etc. etc.

    I actually don’t think I have contributed much to the discussion – others have covered all my bases much better,

    But I am quite concerned that your post encourages the view that anyone can do anything and if you want to be a teacher you will be a teacher (somehow) and if you want to be a manager, you should be given the job despite your lack of any viable proof that you know the job – or at least parts of the job.

    • Much of what you argue against my views I tried to clarify in my response to George.

      You said, “meander for a few years before you get somewhere”; I don’t like the way you put it, but I’ll leave this aside because as you said it’s an altogether new discussion.

      I’ll answer you questions.
      – “Do you really, truly believe that this is the reality?”
      Of course not. Did it sound like I think so? – I don’t have as many years in the field as you, but among the 100 teachers I’ve had under my supervision, many were apathetic yes, and many were great. Great without a certificate most of the times, since the credentialism I talk about hasn’t reached Brazil.

      – “Why should schools look for the needle in the haystack?”
      They shouldn’t. What I’m trying to say is that they should at least consider job applicants who have equivalent qualifications. What I see here in the UK is that many employers don’t even read you CV if you don’t have the DELTA, and even say on the ads: ‘Don’t apply if you don’t have the DELTA’

      – “Why should an institution prefer to hire someone with no solid ELT background or experience of observing others and having been observed?”
      They shoudn’t, that would be crazy; and I don’t know why you ask me this question. My point is that ‘solid ELT background, etc’ doesn’t always mean DELTA, that’s what I’m saying.

      I loved you last paragraph!!!

      Please allow me to comment further:

      “…your post encourages the view that anyone can do anything” – Yes, absolutely. But as my argument developed, no. You can’t be a DOS in the UK without a diploma at a BC accredited institution for example. My ideology would have me believe that, but pragmatically, it’s impossible in the actual context.

      “and if you want to be a teacher you will be a teacher (somehow)” – Yes, definitely. the ‘somehow’ is important, because it can mean: by going to South America

      “and if you want to be a manager, you should be given the job despite your lack of any viable proof that you know the job…” if viable proof means DELTA and DELTA only, yes – but of course if you don’t have any other way to prove, no. However, I’m not arguing about ‘being given the job’. And even if I was, just a diploma is not proof of anything. What I’d like to see is more variables when screening jobs applicants.

      and yes, my MA is a credential, like all forms of formal education. The only problem is that I don’t know yet where I can get in with this ticket; mainly because I’m not doing it to get in somewhere, I’m studying the things I believe will make me become a better educator.

      Thanks, Marisa! Always a pleasure to exchange views with you.

  13. dingtonia says:

    Would that everyone who entered any field of endeavour was “keen, autonomous, self-driven” and competent in all requisite skills! No one would ever need training again! But there are those that ARE – yet the doors of EFL, in the UK at least, remain closed to them.

    And certainly there ARE teachers who are “apathetic and complacent”, DESPITE rigorous training, and lo! the doors shall be opened unto them because they have the requisite piece of paper.

    And I was a manager long before I had the viable proof and even with the proof – which suggests I “know my job” – there are times when I’m rubbish at it. I’m betting Willy, sans DELTA or Dip or any other of the desired qualifiactions, was a damn fine DoS.

    Wiily, I believe, is asking for some measure of common sense to prevail and someone who is clearly keen, autonomous and self-driven, should be welcomed with open arms to replace those who are apathetic and complacent – qualifications notwithstanding……..

  14. Another aspect of this narrow focus on having the ‘right’ qualification which is perhaps relevant is that, daft as it may seem, the DELTA is not considered a full qualification for teaching English in the UK funded sector these days.

    Up until 1997, all that was required to teach ESOL to adults was a CELTA, but then the UK government decided to shift the goalposts and for a brief time we had something called the CELTA Part 2, IIRC (a qualification which was supposed to be roughly equivalent to a DELTA). That was scrapped after a year or so, leaving the poor unfortunates who had paid hundreds of pounds to obtain it and sweated blood over it with a certificate that was only fit for lining a budgie’s cage.

    Next, the government seized on the bright idea of standardising FE qualifications, and introduced a new qualification framework for the UK FE sector, which meant that everybody who started teaching in adult education after 1997 had to obtain a ‘one size fits all’ type of qualification, with a level 4 subject specific qualification tacked onto it in the case of ESOL.

    The regulations are horrendously complex but unless I’m very much mistaken, someone with a DELTA who wanted to teach ESOL nowadays would be expected to take a top-up qualification before they would be considered qualified and possibly even have to submit a portfolio as well if they obtained their qualification a long time ago… Oh, and if you haven’t got a level 2 qualification in maths and english, forget it! No matter how well qualified you are in other respects, the absence of either one of those will result in the door being slammed in your face.

    Go figure, as they say!

  15. Adam says:

    Hi Willy,

    glad to have finally found my way to your blog. I greatly enjoyed reading this post as it reminded me a little of something I wrote recently…


    A well qualified teacher, a great education manager does not make.

  16. […] Dogme Challenge ← Diploma Disease strikes TEFL […]

  17. Kariv says:

    I can not possibly agree more Will. I taught ESL in Viet Nam for a year after getting my TESL certification but i was too poor to afford 4 years of university and im not a fan of indentured servitude (Student debt) I am grateful to the companies that hired me without the “proper” documents and gave me the chance to gain experience in the field.

    When i came back to Canada and tried to find work as an ESL teacher no one would even give me a second glance. They asked if i had a university i degree to which i replied “I have real world experience. in addition to working as an ESL teacher I have also dedicated my time and money to help organize a volunteer based English speaking club in Saigon with other teachers and it was always crammed full of eager students.” In turn i got this: “We only hire people who have a BS or greater in addition to TESL certification.”

    in response to Marisa:

    “I am quite concerned that your post encourages the view that anyone can do anything and if you want to be a teacher you will be a teacher (somehow)”

    Yes heaven forbid someone might get the idea that they could acheive something if they put their mind to it! I suppose someone who grew up tinkering with cars and can assemble a hot rod blind folded deserves to get spat on while an Automotive Mechanic fresh out of school with his ticket will get hired on the spot these days? That is the greater concern here.

    Why should they look for the needle in the haystack? I dont know, maybe because it’s supposed to be about delivering a quality service to the students and not hiring just anyone with a $20,000 square of toilet paper. I cant beleive you were writing all of that a straight face, probably a quivering upper lip too.

  18. Wise Willy,

    I’ve just completed the Trinity Dip and there was no valuable academic management input that would help me run a school. I entirely agree with you that ‘Diploma Disease’ is concreted into the profession…and that is primarily why I did the Dip – to aid my own career progression.
    The only thing I would say is that anyone who takes the Dip or DELTA seriously is probably someone who takes TEFL seriously and is able and willing to read extra-curricular literature on syllabus design, HR, ‘management’ or whatever is needed to be able to take the first steps in the DoS field.
    One would hope that a decent School Director would consider a non-DELTA CV, but plenty of management experience (as you have), but I fear that in practice, this scenario rarely happens.

    • Bren,

      Thanks for that! I hoped to hear from someone who’d just taken a diploma to say, with no strings attached, how it is (bearing in mind differences between training centers).
      Although it is clear, for me and you, that there is no valuable academic management input there, I also agree with you that someone brave enough to take a TEFL diploma would be likely to engage in self-study on other areas, like management, if needed.

      I’ve spoken to some of our fellow teachers and what I see is that those taking the Dip or planning to, are doing it mainly because with it (“it” being the paper) they can: a) make more money, b) move up to training, c) move up to DoSing. Others also mentioned they were doing it (or will do it) because it’s a natural progression.

      What intrigues me is that no-one said they’d do it because of a genuine interest in learning more about teaching and becoming a better teacher. I am sure that they do consider this, a lot, but for me it’s just weird that they don’t mention it.

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