Get Involved by James Taylor

We can all do something to help the campaign for equity in the TEFL industry between native and non-native teachers. Read on to find out what you can do…

If You’re A NNEST

If you’ve been turned down for jobs because of your nationality, don’t give up. Make sure potential employers know the qualities you have, and if they still don’t want to employ you, then you probably don’t want to work for them anyway.

Get organised. Form a group with other local teachers and put pressure on employers. Speak to your local association (see below) and ask for their support.

If you’re in the EU, remind the employer that advertising that includes native only restrictions is illegal (more information here).

If you’re a success story, share your story. Tell everyone about how you managed to do the thing you love and contact Marek so he can put it on the blog.

If You’re A NEST

Speak to your management if you know they have a NEST only policy and try to make them rethink it. If you’ve profited from a policy based on a prejudice, then you have a responsibility to try and stop it.

If You’re A Student

Trust the people who organise the lessons and teach them – don’t ask for a native English teacher. And if they only employ natives, you could tell them that English is an international language and you would like to hear a variety of accents, as well as have a great role model. If you do this, you may well help some wonderful local teachers in the process.

If You’re An Association Member or Organiser

Take a stand, just as TESOL France has. Earlier this year, they refused to accept any more job adverts that insisted on NEST’s only. Why can’t your association do something similar?

Speak to your members, and ask them for their feedback. Find out how widespread the problem is in your country, and if it’s an issue, discuss with them what can be done about it.

If You’re An Employer

You are the person that we’re trying to persuade. Decide what kind of school you want to run, one that wishes to offer the best quality lessons for its students and to play a positive role in the local community, or a short-term profit machine. Employ the best people based on the qualifications and experience, regardless of their birthplace, whether that’s thousands of kilometres away or around the corner.

Speak to your students. You might claim that they only want NESTs, but what is this based on? What I’ve found is that they aren’t really that fussed and that they know the truth, which is that the only thing they need is a great teacher. If you believe it too, everyone will be better off.

And everyone can contribute by…

…challenging this prejudice head on. If you see anyone advertising a native only position, or perpetuating some of these myths, send them to the TEFL Equity Advocates blog so they can see examples of how their thinking is becoming outdated.

…joining one of the FB support groups to keep up to date.

…share this blog and its articles with your colleagues, whether via email or social media.

…give a presentation at your local conference on why non-native teachers shouldn’t be discriminated against.

…write a statement of support and send it to the blog, where you’ll be added to the roll call of supporters including Jeremy Harmer, Luke Meddings and Peter Medgyes (see Support us section here).

This situation won’t change overnight, but every small push by every one of us will eventually make a huge difference.


James Taylor: Originally from Brighton, UK, I have taught English as a foreign language to adults in Brazil, South Korea and Belgium. Currently based in San Jose, Costa Rica, I teach adults at Centro Cultural Britanico. I am the current President and a co-founder of BELTA, the Belgian English Language Teachers Association. You can also find me moderating #ELTchat, a weekly discussion on Twitter with teachers from around the world, presenting the #ELTchat podcast, mentoring teachers for iTDi, blogging and taking photographs. You can read my blog here.

11 thoughts on “Get Involved by James Taylor”

  1. James, you write a very positive post with some very practical suggestions that we would endorse, and yet, for some odd reason, reading your post brings to mind a very nice essay by Oscar Wilde about the folly of altruism (read as sympathy and charity) as a response to the problem of poverty. The crux of that argument is this: “Just as the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves, and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by those who suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it, so the people who do most harm are the people who try to do most good.”

    Part of the problem, perhaps, is the way things are being framed here. You highlight prejudice as the root of the problem. Employers are seen to have a prejudice, and we must speak out against this when we see evidence of it, and we should push for a ban on pronouncements (adverts, etc.) that express that prejudice. But this risks narrowing our view of things so much that the essence disappears from view.

    When the British conquered India it was not because they had a prejudice against races that were less lilly-white than themselves.

    English as an international language has not been severed from its roots in British conquest and in the rise of the US as the single world superpower, and in the spread (by force of arms where necessary) of a single economic system. It would be interesting to speculate what would have to happen in order for it to be severed, but at the moment the connection is still intact, is it not? The English language functions as a cornerstone (minor perhaps, but a cornerstone nevertheless) of that edifice of international power.

    The inequality within the ELT profession reflects the hierarchy within those relations of power internationally. What that hierarchy needs now is to become as invisible as possible. Framing the problems of international power and justice as ones of personal prejudice adds to that invisibility, leaving us all focusing on the personalities of employers, ignoring the system that those personalities must advance if they are to ensure their economic survival (and the ELT business in its current form is all about economics, is it not?).

    Oscar Wilde argued that instead of trying to alleviate the plight of the poor, we should be fighting the system that creates poverty. If we could disinter Oscar Wilde and get him up to speed with the NEST-NNEST debate, I wonder if he would argue the following: Instead of trying to alleviate the plight of those teachers who are suffering a form of inequity, we ought to be fighting the form of globalisation that creates and thrives upon inequities like that.

    Just a thought. The sun is hot, and beyond a certain temperature the clarity of one’s thinking begins to display a marked deterioration.

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  11. I think that no matter what the reasons beyond NEST-nNEST argumentation, it should always go back to what is quality education really means. It mean having qualified teachers over nationality or passports. It’s common sense, that if you have trained, experienced and qualified teachers, you will produce quality students. As a result, you will have better education system.

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