Should I do a PGCEi?

I’m currently doing a PGCEi through the University of Nottingham. The course is specifically designed for international educators with a focus on improving professional practice. It is an 11-month course which is mostly distance learning, although there is a short face-to-face component.

The course seems popular with teachers who are working at ‘lower-tier’ international schools and who do not hold a teaching certificate from their country of origin. It also seems popular with EFL teachers hoping to transition to international school teaching. However, that’s just a snapshot – my cohort on the course is extremely varied and includes edtech business owners, state-school teachers in Thailand, educational materials writers, and unknown bloggers (*waves*).

Here’s a Q+A style chat I had with a friend on the pros and cons of taking this course. For context, we are based in Thailand, and I currently teach at an international school.

I’m an EFL teacher in Asia at an established school. Why should I do a PGCEi?

No-brainer for me. Improve your understanding of education in international contexts. Open doors to roles that are less precarious than many in English language teaching. Move with the market and the times – don’t delay, sign up today.

Well, I say that. To be fair it isn’t cheap. You’ll need to shell out 4000 pounds.

Blimey. It’s for the privileged then?

Yeah, I guess so at that price. Some international schools or ELT institutions will subsidise it.

Why don’t I just go back to the UK and go a real PGCE?

What do you mean by real PGCE?

One that means I can teach in the UK. One with qualified teacher status (QTS). The PGCEi sounds a bit… fake.

Do you want to teach in the UK?

Not really. I mean, I was thinking of getting a PGCE, doing the NQT year and then maybe getting a job at an international school.

Why don’t you just do a PGCEi and get the international school job straight away?

I could do, but I want the security of being able to teach in the UK if needed.

Okay. Do a real PGCE then. Or just do the PGCEi, and if you decide to go back to the UK then you can do an Assessment Only (AO) route and teach there anyway.

Wait a second. You know a PGCEi is specifically geared towards education in an international context, right? So, if you think you’ll end up teaching at an international school anyway then why don’t you just train to do that?

I’ve heard that the course isn’t that respected. I feel like it would be better to get, you know, something more reputable. I mean, there’s not even an assessed teaching component on the PGCEi…

I think that depends on the course you take. With Nottingham Uni, no there isn’t an assessed teaching component. With Sunderland there is. Warwick (and Derby I think?) have started new PGCEi courses, not sure about teaching practice with them or routes to QTS. Google it.

So why did you choose Nottingham? You just wanted an easy ride?

I’ve got a CELTA, CELTYL, and DipTESOL. They all had assessed teaching practice*. Plus, I’m teaching five days-a-week. I’m already a teacher and I try hard to reflect on and improve my practice – there’s also in-house CPD to help me develop, so I’m well supported.

Having said that, I totally get your point. I know some schools prefer teachers who have done a course with assessed practice. I think it depends on your set up really. The Nottingham course isn’t accepted everywhere.

What do you mean?

Singapore, Hong Kong**… reportedly they don’t value the PGCEi from Nottingham. Although I know of someone (also with a DipTESOL) who took the Nottingham PGCEi and teaches at an international school in Singapore so… there are always exceptions, and there are always people who will tell you that there aren’t exceptions too! Such is life.

It sounds like you’re saying it’s better to get TEFL-Q before you do a PGCEi…

TEFL-Q really improved my practice. I truly felt like ‘a professional teacher’ when I finished the Dip. It gave me loads of confidence and a much better understanding of how to teach English as a second/foreign/additional language. However, it’s certainly not a prerequisite for this course, or even for international school teaching. Those starting off in EAL support are often CELTA-qualified or equivalent, and the PGCEi allows them to step up to EAL (or classroom) teacher roles.

Bear in mind though, I am an EAL teacher. I am not looking to become a class teacher (not yet anyway), so the skills set and qualifications I already have are clearly suited to my career path. I mean, experience of teaching things like IELTS really sets you up to teach IB English B in my opinion. That’s just one example.

So, what if I don’t want to teach EAL? Like, if I want to be a class teacher?

If you want to become a class teacher, like say a Year 4 Primary teacher or something, I’d suggest these two routes:

  1. Start off in EAL (or other) support. Develop subject knowledge in class while assisting and hone the teaching skills. Do the PGCEi on the job, then apply for class teacher roles.
  2. Get a job at a lower tier international school where PGCEi isn’t a prerequisite. Develop your skills – if they are following IB/PYP or National Curriculum then awesome. Get the PGCEi to help you get better jobs.

There are other routes of course. Like nepotism.

Or go home and get a real PGCE…

Do that if you want. If you really have a hang up, or if you’re trying to cover all bases or something, just do it.

Maybe I will. I mean, I can’t see myself getting a job at a good school without a real PGCE…

Okay.

Can you?

I know five former TEFLers who have taken the Nottingham PGCEi. Two currently work at top-tier international schools – one is a class teacher (Year 3) the other is an EAL teacher at one of the most reputable schools in Asia. Two of them work at, I guess, ‘second-tier’ international schools, and one continues to work in an EAL support role by choice.

Let’s say I do a PGCEi in Thailand though, and then I apply to work at international schools. I’ll be local hire, right? So I’ll miss out on a lot of perks. Those hired from abroad get loads of benefits.

Yes, true. Although the pay and conditions at many international schools is still great, regardless of whether you’re local hire or not. It’s just usually better if you’re not.

Think about it though. If you land a role with a school that’s part of a chain, and they have schools in other countries, then there might be opportunities to move around a bit. If you do that then I guess you won’t be local hire. But look, this is hypothetical. And anyhow, the question of pay is unlikely to be the big motivator if you’re in education, right?!

But what I don’t get is this. Why would a good international school in Thailand choose to hire me, as a PGCEi qualified teacher, if they can hire someone from the UK with QTS?

You mean you, who has worked in Thailand for 3 years? And a school where, say, 30% of the intake are host nationals? Some of whom may have started their education in the state school system which you might be familiar with?

You will cost the school less if you are local hire.

You’ll probably have a good understanding of education in international contexts through your training.

And other reasons… I mean right now with the whole COVID issue recruitment is tough for some international schools. They might look closer to home, and if they find some gems then they might be more inclined to keep recruitment local again. Who knows, that’s speculation on my part.

However, one thing seems very clear to me. Demand is growing for international school teachers in regions like SE Asia. The higher-end ELT institutions like the British Council are pricing themselves out of a market where learners have far more access to EMI education now. The cultural capital of the English language and the value of IB and GCSE qualifications (among others) are a big draw. That means more opportunities for teachers.

Well, you sound convincing. Mind you, that all sounds a bit… I’m not sure you can make claims like that without solid evidence.

Fair comment. I’ve read a lot of research about international schools recently, but that was mostly my opinion. Check out this post I wrote for Nexus Education though – it gives you a feel for the international school market. It’s not simply some elitist bubble like some people might perceive it to be. There’s more to it than that. It’s evolving, and quickly too (in this part of the world at least).

Fair enough. I just don’t think qualified teachers will take me seriously as an educator.

Okay. I get that. I’ve felt that myself from time to time.

And…?

Er…

 

Updates:

*I’m not saying that the assessed practice on courses like the DipTESOL is comparable to the PGCE. They are very different. Even after various training courses and on the job experience, I still wouldn’t say my training has been anywhere near as rigorous as that you’d get on a PGCE, especially as I’ve never done a formal equivalent of an NQT year either. The PGCEi does not offer a grounding in specific aspects of NC or IB as international education is far broader than that. So there’s a lot that can be said for doing the PGCE instead. PGCEi trained teachers do rely on recruiters being pragmatic and perhaps open-minded. A lot of international school recruiters are though. I am a case in point (one of the lucky ones!)

**@YouTuber79 tweeted that in Hong Kong they don’t issue visas to Nottingham PGCEi holders, but that’s not the case in Singapore. Thanks for the comment.

Feature image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay 



Categories: General, reflections

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11 replies

  1. Hi there! I am currently pursuing pgcei from the University of Nottingham. While the course is considered second to “real” PGCE, I find it really fulfilling. I am from India, hoping to relocate and get an International job in the Middle-east. I realize the teaching jobs are really competitive there but I am going to try anyway.

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  2. Call it whatever you want. It doesn’t give you QTS so the majority of internationals aren’t going to give you the job. Ones that do accept the ipgce are few and far between. Very simple.

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    • Thanks for your comment, John. That certainly seems a widely held view, especially among teachers who hold QTS.

      One could argue that it is a tad misplaced. In the Nexus article I shared I summarized some recent research that gives a deeper insight into the background on international school teachers. It also mentions a typology of international schools which outlines just how varied the international education market has become. It may be rigid to suggest that a majority of int schools do not accept this qualification – data from a wide range of recruiters and schools themselves would be required to make that claim.

      When it comes to hearsay, I think it’s natural to side with the known. QTS is transparent, whereas PGCEi operates in more of a grey area. It is easier to just say ‘it’s not accepted’ and only scratch the surface, when in reality there may be much more going on. Trailing spouses may be accepted at int schools as teachers by acquiring an international Pgce, there may be exceptions for local hires, mid or lower tier yet still reputable schools may accept it, Type C schools aimed more at host nationals may also take a different view.

      That being said, I think your point of view is equally valid and may be the case at some, rather than a majority, of international schools is a fast expanding market.

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  3. Great article! Thanks for writing it. I have a question… I’ve been looking for all the universities who offer iPGCE… how come there be such different prices on it? Nottingham is actually more expensive than Sunderland but yet as you said it doesn´t have assessed teaching. Now the University of Derby offers the iPGCE for around 3060 euros, while the University of East London costs 1700 euros… I could imagine it is like getting your TESOL with CELTA or another one… but such wide difference? Any thoughts on that? I am not British (I am not a native English speaker so will never get to the Top Notch Schools lol anyway… I am currently working in a small international school as a Reception teacher).

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    • Hey, thanks for the comment. Unfortunately I don’t have much insight into the cost thing. I’m certainly not sure how Sunderland would charge so little given the course includes assessed teaching, and Notts would charge so much. I think the Notts course has been around a while so maybe costs are higher based on reputation. Again, just assumptions from me.

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  4. Hi Pete,

    Thank you so much for your detailed explanation of the PGCEi, I really appreciate it. I hope you can help me with my dilemma.

    I previously posted on Reddit and after getting feedback, I realised I need to work more in order to get a teaching job in an international school. My dream job is to be able to live in different countries and teach in different countries around the world.

    I am from Malaysia and despite stereotypes etc; it’s really hard to explain my situation as a Malaysian and I feel like a lot can relate with me. I’ve been using English as my first language since birth, I did not learn the language, I acquired it and it is the language I speak with my family, friends, etc. So basically, my mother tongue is English and Cantonese because I acquired it and not so much learnt it explicitly. I’m very much a native English speaker just not from a “native English speaking” country. I just wanted to point this out because when I post on any forum, people just assume I’m from the UK or America or something and suggest I get a local teaching certificate like the QTS or one in America. I don’t think it’s applicable for me as I’m not from any of said countries and I do not plan to stay in any of these countries because I still prefer living in Asia, East Asia, specifically. Some people even suggest I be open to teaching in a “less desirable” country like Vietnam, but I just can’t see myself living there and that isn’t what I want.

    I have spoken to my previous lecturer and he suggests I take a PGCEi to be able to work in international schools. I currently have a BA in Education (TESOL) from a British university and a CELTA cert which I also completed in the UK, and I am kinda still a fresh graduate (2019). But My lecturer pointed out since I didn’t opt for the extra teaching year that would make my BA into a BEd, I technically do not have a teaching degree. He also said that because education is regulated all over the world, some countries won’t recognise a BEd unless it’s from their own countries. But he said that many international schools in Asia recognise PGCEi as a teaching degree tho.

    I currently work in a private English centre (Eikaiwa) in Japan. I realised after working a while that what I’m doing now does not align with my career goals (This is my first ever “real” job after graduating). I really want to work in an actual school, more specifically an international school. At first, I thought I’d be qualified to work in an international school because I would be in Malaysia and most of my classmates are working as one in Malaysia. But, experienced teachers on Reddit are telling me that I don’t seem like I’m qualified. On top of that, I probably won’t be an ESL teacher in these international schools in Japan because they don’t really need one (people have told me the intl schools here would be as if you take a student out from America and put them in the school, they’ll be receiving the same edu as in America) and I personally don’t mind, I still enjoy teaching English.

    I was wondering if getting a PGCEi would be better than getting an MA in Edu in my case? Or should I do the PGCEi and consider getting an MA in the future? I also wouldn’t mind pursuing a career in teaching ESL courses at a university and that also seems desirable to me in the future.

    I just want more opinions from other people in the profession before I make a decision, what seems like a good plan for my career goal in the long run or, well, what’s best for my current goal? I’m really starting to doubt myself, I was so confident to be able to handle a class by myself and get better at teaching, I’ve observed so many lessons, did mock lessons etc. I even did a lot of internships during my summers while doing my degree in both international schools and private institutes. Now I realised I still need so much qualification and things being said like I’m not qualified enough etc, really breaks my heart. I really enjoy teaching and all these schools want “experienced teachers”…. but how will I ever get experience if no one is willing to give me an opportunity to gain said experience? On top of allllllllll these qualifications and things you need to be a teacher, the pay ISN’T that great????? Am I just suppose to work for free/ paid with biscuits until I’m suddenly experienced enough??? because it’s really feeling like that. I’m really feeling kinda crushed and demotivated at this point…

    I really hope you can give me more advice on this. Thank you so much.

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    • Hi Sylvia! Thanks for the message and lots to unpack there.

      It sounds like you’ve sought advice from various angles which is useful. You said that feedback on Reddit has suggested you need to work more – do you mean get more teaching experience or generally work harder in some way towards your goal? Eg get further qualifications?

      You mention that people often get confused about your lack of desire to work in, say, UK/America, leading to advice that doesn’t really fit. Gaining QTS from such countries can certainly be ‘capital’. It’s highly recognized on the international school circuit and in some cases you may encounter elitism or exclusivity regarding that. However, a) it can very expensive, especially if you are an international student, b) it isn’t necessarily a practical course to do in your case c) it is certainly not the only way to find work at an international school d) it is often billed as the ‘best’ route, which is misinformation.

      There will be so many different international schools you could work at that align with your own ethos as a person and as an educator. There is no ‘benchmark’ of (eg) a UK QTS to become an international educator. I know teachers based in Spain, China, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Italy, Korea, and UAE who work at international schools and hold a PGCEi from my institution (Nottingham).

      Said teachers have various backgrounds, nationalities, and L1s. At my current school, a Thai national with a PGCEi teaches Psychology A-Level, a PGCEi holder from Malaysia is the school counselor, a PGCEi holder from Sweden teaches PE… etc

      With this in mind, I agree with your previous lecturer. A PGCEi will definitely be a foot in the door for you in Asia, most specifically South-East Asia but still elsewhere such as Korea/Taiwan and definitely China. You could progress onto an MA from there, which should also increase your employability.

      If you are interested in staying in ESL and have a CELTA, then courses like the DELTA or DipTESOL may be of interest.

      One way you could start off at international schools might be to use your CELTA. Go in as an EAL instructor/assistant/teacher, prove your worth, and maybe even get funding for a PGCEi…?

      You mentioned finance, and teaching not paying well. IMO International schools pay well for PGCEi qualified teachers. The pay scale for teachers at my school starts at 4 times that of a teacher at a local government school (I’m stating a fact – there are of course issues with that point).

      I can’t give you definitive advice I’m afraid, but I hope this answer is food for thought. Happy to share more if needed!

      Like

  5. Hello Pete,
    I am currently doing my PGCEi course with the University of Nottingham and I just want to thank you for all the useful feedback and your personal experience shared on the platform. Thank you. EXTREMELY HELPFUL!

    Liked by 1 person

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