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…


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 you 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.





*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 


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