A Look Back: History and Impact of TESL Certifications

Image source: TESL Ontario

Written by Reza Mazloom-Farzaghy, Accreditation Services Manager – TESL Ontario

Hard to believe, but TESL Ontario is turning 50 this year! Throughout the years, the association has made great strides in the area of setting professional standards for certification of English language educators.  We invite you to join us for a look back on the history of certification at TESL Ontario.

Getting Started – From Concept to Reality

It all started with a funded project, “Standards and Certification Project”. This project kicked off in 1994 with funding from Ministry of Education and Training; Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation; and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The goal of the project was to develop standards and certification for the recognition of ESL teacher qualifications and teacher training programs in Ontario. The TESL Ontario certification services for teachers and training programs officially started in April 2001.

Credibility and Professionalism Through Teacher Certification

Over the years, TESL Ontario certification has become the industry standard in Ontario and it has also attracted the attention of ESL practitioners and employers outside of the province. TESL Ontario certification is widely recognized by private and publicly funded employers in Ontario as well as many international employers. To enhance the professional recognition of the certified teachers and to further solidify their status in the ESL job market, we developed the OCELT (Ontario Certified English Language Teacher) professional designation, which was officially registered with the government of Canada in 2017.

Expanding Certification Services

Recognizing the importance of certifications in the ESL field, TESL Ontario worked to expand our certification services to include ESL teacher trainers. From 2001 to 2009, teacher trainers were first recruited by training providers and then referred to TESL Ontario for evaluation and approval. In 2010, we developed the TESL Trainer Certification and application procedures. This new service allowed interested individuals to apply for certification before applying for TESL trainer positions to teach theory and methodology courses, supervise practica, or work as an academic coordinator. Certified trainers play an essential role in the success of accredited training programs and new teacher graduates.

Registration of OCELT in 2017 and the extremely positive feedback we received from the ESL community paved the way for the development and registration of additional professional designations aimed at educators in a variety of employment settings. So, in 2018, we developed CTESOL (Canadian Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages) certificate and professional designation for the graduates of recognized short-term TESL programs, most of whom were attracted to private sector in Ontario, and private or publicly funded sector in other provinces and territories. The official registration of CTESOL as a professional designation for teachers and as a trademark for the TESL Ontario accredited short-term programs was completed in 2021.

Member feedback indicated a need for an internationally recognized certification. International employers favored certificates that carried the word “international” and provided some details about the certificate holder’s training. This led to the development of an international version of the OCELT certification, as a result the ICTEAL (International Certificate for Teachers of English as an Additional Language) certificate and professional designation was established. ICTEAL, which is automatically awarded to all OCELTs at no cost, was officially registered as a professional designation in 2021.

Verification of Certification

In order to add an additional layer of authentication to TESL Ontario certifications, online registries were created to provide employers with a method of verification.  The online registries also allow certified members to access their certification record and print their certificate.

Impact on the Profession

TESL Ontario certifications have served to elevate and enhance the recognition of the ESL profession in the province, and the subsequent impact has been considerable.

  • TESL Ontario’s professional designations serve to standardize profession-wide criteria, creating more knowledgeable and self-confident educators, thus ensuring a more consistent educational experience for learners
  • TESL Ontario certified members are highly-trained educators with well-developed teaching skills who are equipped with the tools to empower their learners
  • TESL Ontario certification, awarded on the completion of specialized training and dependent on continuous professional development, has improved educators’ levels of preparedness and professionalism
  • ESL employers throughout the province and beyond recognize and trust the legitimacy of TESL Ontario certification, actively seeking out these designations in their recruitment, knowing that TESL Ontario certified members come equipped with the skills, knowledge, and ability to best serve their audience of learners

TESL Ontario certifications provide a trustworthy and respected keystone for ESL education employers, educators and, most importantly, learners.


One thought on “A Look Back: History and Impact of TESL Certifications”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *