Note: We mainly use the term TEFL on these pages but in most cases the terms TESOL/TESL could equally well be used.

Frequently Asked Questions

Courses for Teaching English to Young Learners

I am a native English speaking graduate who wants to teach kids abroad. What qualifications do I need?
The first thing that you will need to do is a 100- to 130-hour TEFL certificate course with at least six hours of observed teaching practice. The most well known of these are specific to teaching adults but are still the usual initial qualification for future teachers of English to young learners. Although it can be difficult to find a course, you can then take a two-week supplementary qualification such as the Cambridge Young Learner Extension to the CELTA. There are also less well-known TEFL certificates that are partly or fully about young learners, but some schools might not accept them as accredited courses.  

I (only) want to teach kids. Should I choose a TEFL course that specifically trains me for that?
You could, but none of the most well-respected courses do. Strangely perhaps, you are more likely to get a good job teaching kids with a well-known TEFL certificate that has nothing about young learners in it than you are with an obscure TEFL certificate that is partly or mainly about teaching kids. If you can find a Young Learner (YL) Extension to the CELTA course, that would be widely accepted and very worthwhile.

What is the best qualification for a local primary/elementary/secondary/junior high/high school teacher who wants to improve their teaching?
If your level of English is high enough (Advanced or above), a normal TEFL certificate course (e.g. a 4-week Cambridge CELTA course) is probably the best option. Although it is likely to be mainly or completely about teaching adults, the main techniques that you learn (e.g. avoiding L1, eliciting and language games) will be useable with all ages. There is also the similar Cambridge ICELT, which is specifically designed for teachers who work in schools. It can be difficult to find a course, however, and it is usually organised through school boards or education departments. The same is true of the Trinity equivalent. Cambridge also has a lower-level qualification that is popular with school teachers, the TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test). Another tactic is to approach a well-respected provider of teacher training in your area and see if any of the courses that they provide (e.g. short courses on Classroom English or Using Songs and Music) are suitable and of interest. Schools that provide well-known certificates in teaching adults, e.g. the Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL, will also usually have short courses and/or one-off workshops for people who teach young learners. You could also think about doing one of the many short teacher training courses that are available in English-speaking countries during one of your longer holidays.

Why can’t I find a Cambridge CELTYL course?
The course was scrapped from January 2011, perhaps because it was never particularly popular or due to a lack of qualified trainers.

Is there a CELTA equivalent for people who want to teach young learners?
The Cambridge equivalent, the CELTYL, has been scrapped. The closest alternative that they offer is the (usually two-week) Cambridge Young Learner Extension to the CELTA, which is taken after a normal TEFL certificate course. Some lesser-known TEFL certificate courses are partly or fully about teaching children, but the lack of recognition might affect your chances of employment with the best schools, despite the more specific content. If you are already working in a school, there is also the similar Cambridge ICELT.

Are the Cambridge ICELT and TKT specific to teaching kids?
No, although both of them are most commonly taken by teachers of young learners and the Cambridge ICELT is designed to be adaptable to all kinds of teaching situations.

Is it worth taking the Cambridge Young Learner (YL) extension for the CELTA?
Yes, but it is very difficult to find and few schools specifically ask for it. A few schools train you for this qualification or similar as you work, so these are jobs that are well worth looking out for if you want to teach children.

I don’t have a CELTA. Can I still take the Cambridge Young Learner (YL) extension to the CELTA?
You can if you have an equivalent qualification, but at the end of the course you will be given a certificate by the course provider rather than one from Cambridge. It's probably still worth it, especially if you explain to potential employers that your certificate is exactly equivalent.

Are there any well-respected courses specifically in teaching teenagers?
No, but most techniques learnt on a normal TEFL certificate course can be used with teenagers and many courses on young learners at least give teenagers a mention.

Can I take the Cambridge Delta/Trinity DipTESOL if I only teach kids?
Yes, but you cant do the observed lessons with very young students.

I have lots of experience teaching English to children but no qualifications. What should I do?
As long as you have a first degree (= bachelors degree), you should be able to get on a TEFL diploma or MA in TESOL course.

Is it possible to take an MA in teaching English to children?
Yes, you can do an MA in TESOL partly or wholly in teaching young learners.

I can’t find any courses in teaching young learners near me. What should I do?
The best option is probably to travel away for a couple of weeks to study elsewhere, e.g. to do a summer teacher training course in an English-speaking country or the Cambridge Young Learner Extension to the CELTA over two weeks. None of the many online certificate courses in teaching young learners are very well recognised, but you can do a distance MA or diploma (as long as you can find someone to act as a local tutor) partly or wholly based on your young learner experience. Going to national and international conferences should also provide lots of ideas. TEFL magazines and journals also have sections on young learners, and there are lots of books on the topic. A good basic reading list might include:

  • Children Learning English (Jayne Moon)
  • 500 Activities For The Primary Classroom (Carol Read)
  • Young Learners (Sarah Phillips)

There are also numerous online resources related to teaching young learners.