Monday, July 2, 2012

Bringing the water to the horse

I have absolutely powered through this online TEFL course. It's supposed to take 120 hours, they give us 75 days, but I'm on the second last unit just a week after I started it. That said, it's vac right now and I am using the course as a distraction from the fact that I have no money to spend on the hundreds of amazing shows that are currently being put on in town, or the delicious food available at the festival grounds. I also read incredibly fast. But still. I thought it would take longer.

The course I've chosen includes units to prepare you for the TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test), which is an internationally recognised Cambridge qualification that you can do at your nearest British Council, and various other venues. Unfortunately the one most convenient for me would only let me do it if I could round up three other suckers to take it with me, so that's on hold for now.

But it got me thinking - TEFL, TESOL, TKT, and other such qualifications: Why are these not part of our PGCE course? Why aren't they offered as an extension to the course? Surely it would improve the reputation of the course if people could walk away with not one but three qualifications? I think of this along the lines of computer programming qualifications. As far as I know (and I might be misinformed), representatives from Microsoft and other such businesses visit our university each year to administer tests that earn our postgrad Computer Science students extra qualifications, which make them more competitive in the work place and better at what they do.Clever, aren't they?

This TEFL course has taught me so much already. Even if I wasn't planning to travel overseas, I find myself wondering why we aren't all encouraged to do it. And I also find myself wondering why people from the British Council don't pay a visit to our university to administer the TKT course and test.

Let me paint you a pretty verbal picture to explain why the way things are at the moment does not make sense to me:

Billy Bob, Mary Sue and Lindsay Lohan are all hungry. While all of them live within walking distance of a shopping centre, this shopping centre has no restaurants or grocery stores. As such, each of them is required to  walk 25km to the neighbouring farms in order to get food at the source.This is silly, so instead they resort to cannibalism, and eventually kill each other off. I think this example got away from me a bit.

Grocery stores make sense, don't they? The food comes to a mutually beneficial and convenient location where there is high demand for its products.

I'm not talking about bringing a mountain to Mohammed. I'm just thinking of how much better these language schools and organisations would do financially if they sent ONE rep to each varsity with an Education department, once a year (without our having to beg them to come), in order to test 100 willing, paying candidates, rather than put up a website and hope that maybe 10 of them will find it, 5 of them will sign up and 3 of them will show up for the course.

The demand is here. Students have a relatively flexible schedule (compared to professional people) and we're all in the same place, at the same time, wondering what we're going to do once we've graduated. We're also pretty happy to pay for any kind of course that earns us another acronym on our CVs.

Or even better, why don't the universities send their Education professors on the required courses needed for them to administer the course themselves as part of the PGCE course? Then instead of the travel expenses once a year, it's a once-off qualification fee, which a) makes your PGCE course more desirable than those offered at other universities, and b) means you can charge more for the course, thereby making more money and luring in more students, including part-timers who are just there to take the TEFL/TESOL & TKT courses.

I can definitely see some business opportunities here, but at the same time I've been banging my head against the wall with frustration at the fact that we still have to trot off to horribly spread-out language schools and government offices in order to get these handy qualifications.

It just seems so silly to me. Am I missing something?