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Clare Harrison, Assessment Group, Cambridge Assessment English
Since it was introduced in the 1960s, the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages has become an essential English language teaching qualification, trusted by teachers, language schools and governments. Every year, tens of thousands of future and current language teachers take CELTA at over 300 centres in more than 70 countries around the world.
But having been around for so long, does CELTA remain relevant? During this year’s IATEFL conference in Brighton, Clare Harrison presented a number of arguments which attempted to answer this particular question.
In her talk, Clare presented a study which looked at 600 English language teaching job adverts from 60 countries. Results of the study revealed that nearly three-quarters of employers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa request CELTA from candidates, while in the UK, the figure reached 88%. The research was conducted in 2017-2018 and provided strong proof that CELTA continues to be highly desired by employers in the ELT world.
Clare also presented two pieces of research which investigated initial teacher training courses – globally (conducted by the OECD), and in the UK (completed by Sir Andrew Carter) and showed that on the whole CELTA resembles initial teacher training in other fields and areas. This means that the qualification meets best practice of other leading international teacher training qualifications. It also underlines CELTA’s continued relevance for teacher training.
However, the world in which CELTA operates is changing. In many countries English is being introduced earlier in the curriculum in compulsory education.
The explosion of digital technology is enhancing face-to-face and remote teaching, and access to online material is influencing how students can learn and want to learn. Technology also gives people opportunity for more individualised learning.
Finally, thanks to advances in neuroscience, we are starting to better understand how people acquire knowledge.
In addition to these changes, the candidature for CELTA is diversifying – both in terms of candidates’ first language and their level of teaching experience. For example, in 2005, 75% of candidates were speakers of English as a first language, whereas nowadays, the figure is around 50%. As far as teaching experience is concerned, in 2000 only 20% of CELTA candidates had some teaching practice, whereas data for 2016 suggests that 60% of them already have some experience as teachers.
Referring to this ever-changing context, Clare said: “We felt it was necessary not to stand still. We know CELTA is doing well; it is recognised widely and it is famous for its quality. But, will that be the same if CELTA stays the same?”
In order to find an answer to this question and understand what people think about CELTA, Cambridge Assessment English collected opinions from 72 CELTA centres in 16 counties, 240 tutors and (Senior) Assessors in 50 countries, 1,500 current CELTA candidates from 100 nationalities, and 300 potential candidates. The research included 31 employer interviews and 27 interviews with candidates of competitor qualifications.
The study uncovered very high satisfaction rate and very little appetite for change in relation to CELTA. 87% of candidates agreed that the qualification prepared them very well for teaching, while 99% of centres and 83% of tutors said they were happy with its content.
Employers were another group who rated CELTA – or rather CELTA graduates – highly. The graduates were described as more organised, more committed to teaching and more confident in their teaching ability. They were also perceived as having a better understanding of classroom management, teaching techniques, terminology and grammar, as compared to other teachers.
CELTA has been with us for over 50 years now and, as with Cambridge Assessment English exams, regular qualification reviews keep them valuable to candidates and all those involved.
Clare concluded “We have a qualification that people are very happy with and do not really want to see changed. Yet the world is changing and people are going to want to have something different. We are not in a rush, but we are looking at all the options to ensure that CELTA remains relevant to all people who have depended on it throughout the years.”