Prior to doing my first teaching certificate abroad, I never really took my choice of schools or courses seriously. Unfortunately, this mistake is not only expensive but also results in loss of time, opportunity, and skill. Currently, I teach a fair number of students who wish to pursue graduate-level education but often seem convinced that they can go to any school, and it will be fine; it won’t. The school you attend really matters, and before spending thousands of dollars, you want to be sure the school can deliver. In this post, I describe my own transition from low-quality to high-quality schools/courses and then provide three ways to determine quality.
My undergraduate experience was marked by a conspicuous absence of academic rigor and professional relevance. Thus, rather than applying for skilled work after graduation, I stayed on at Starbucks, working as a shift supervisor and waiting for something to happen. Nothing happened, except I did lose my job, and then started working at the grocery store. Not being content to remain there, however, I decided to pursue my love of language learning and desire for travel via English language teaching abroad. I also resolved to find the best school I could to help me become an English teacher. The principles I used to find my school (Oxford House Barcelona) are simple but revealing and can be applied to most school searches regardless of the field.
Three keys to determining school/course quality:
Determine which courses/schools have the best reputations. To do this, you should find out what third-party websites say about the school and, more importantly, what its graduates say: Did they have a positive experience? Did they have plenty of job opportunities after graduating? Did they like their professors? Here are reviews of OxfordHouse Barcelona. Notice how detailed they are—obviously, the students liked their course and were willing to take the time to say so.
Pay attention to the school’s application: Does it only ask you questions about your own life, or does it probe you to gauge your experience in and knowledge of your intended field of study? Usually, high-quality schools ask these kinds of questions. This is especially true of graduate-program applications. If the application doesn’t have any work requirements (e.g. art portfolios) or subject-specific questions, watch out!
Inspect the assessment: To do this, you can sometimes find past exams online or ask the school to provide you with syllabi from the courses that interest you. When looking at the projects/tests/papers, consider whether they look easy or rigorous. Also, ask yourself whether the assessment requires you to engage in the kinds of tasks that you’ll need to do in your career. If you cannot honestly say that the assessment is challenging and professionally relevant, then the course/school is almost certainly not worth your time.