When I decided that I was going to teach English abroad, I obviously started looking into TEFL courses. Naturally, as a recent, unemployed graduate who had just come home from a Southeast Asia backpacking trip, I was looking for a cheap one, and wanting to hurry up and get back out there, I was looking for a quick route.
When I typed into Google “TEFL Course UK”, I was overwhelmed with all the different pages displaying hundreds of companies offering courses, all claiming to be “accredited”. My Google Chrome browser was cluttered with open tabs all displaying company information, course descriptions, prices, reviews, I didn’t know which one to look at first. i-to-i imply that they can help to find you work at the end of the course, and claim to be “internationally recognised”. As this was a course that seemed quick, cheap (it even said it was reduced to almost half price for a limited time only), had a high number of good reviews, and was advertised on statravel, I decided to just purchase it.
The course essentially required me to read their course book (in PDF format) and then answer a number of multiple choice questions. I was allowed three attempts if I failed it, though failing is basically impossible, and even if you do all you have to do is message your “advisor” and they basically spoon feed you the answers.
As well as the online part of the course, I was required to attend an intensive training weekend, where I met a diverse range of i-to-i students of various age, nationality, career background, and ambition. We were given a beginner’s Welsh lesson where our teacher spoke no English, to prove that we could in fact teach students without having to speak their native language. Then, we were shown how to teach basic grammar, and finally in pairs we had to prepare a lesson and demonstrate it in front of everyone, encouraging class interaction.
While I agree that the course has its benefits, such as providing an insight into what to expect in the classroom, some methods we could apply in our teaching, and so forth, I do think that you could find the same resources online for free. You never truly learn until you are put in the situation where you are facing a class of students, and I think that had I taken more time with my decision, I would probably have enrolled on a course that provides actual classroom teaching, such as a CELTA, which can also be done abroad. For example, Language Link in Hanoi offer CELTA training, and then on completion of your contract, refund you the full amount (though it’s taxable in your salary).
What else should be noted is that in Hanoi, it is so easy to find teaching jobs that it is not always necessary to possess a TEFL certificate, though admittedly saying you have one, usually results in a higher salary. In other countries, some institutions actually state in their job advertisement that they do not accept i-to-i as an adequate qualification. So, while this company may be “internationally recognised”, perhaps it isn’t necessarily a good thing. This may also be the reason for their “discount”, but I’m pretty sure that this is a marketing scam, as I haven’t ever seen the course not discounted.
One more thing that I was a little disgruntled about, was that once my course “expired”, I could no longer access the resources on my account. All those PDFs, which I had paid for, were gone, which I would have liked to be able to refer to in the beginning of my teaching career.
To summarise, i-to-i was beneficial for me because it means that i can say I have a TEFL certificate which is all many schools and centers want to hear. It was cheap, quick and easy and definitely gave me an insight into the world of ESL Teaching. However, if you can afford it, or have time to save up for it, I would definitely advise on doing a CELTA, or at least a proper accredited course.