What can we do to promote equal professional opportunities for NS and NNS in ELT? How can I get involved?

Two days after Silvana Richardson’s brilliant plenary: The Native factor (read more about it here), there was an equally fascinating Q&A session. However, since it was impossible to address all the questions posed by the audience then and there, Silvana and I decided we would continue the discussion on this blog. We gathered all the questions and divided them into four groups according to the emerging topics:

  1. NS and NNS labels: a false dichotomy? – read the questions, the comments, and join the discussion here.
  2. Proficiency: is there a minimum level for a language teacher? – read the questions, the comments (99 and still counting), and join the discussion here.
  3. NS and NNS identity: issues of self-confidence, language ownership and authority. – read the questions, the comments, and join the discussion here.
  4. What can we do to advance equality in ELT? How can I get involved?

This is the fourth post with questions on the topic of what can be done to promote equality in ELT. We’d like to invite you to answer the questions below in the comments section. We’ll then gather the answers and post a follow-up article also including our comments.

What can we do [516775]
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  1. What can be done to address this problem on initial teacher training courses?
  2. How can we encourage other teaching associations to get involved?
  3. What’s the next step – what can we do? How do we organise?
  4. How can I change the parents’ or headmaster’s attitude towards NESTs and NNESTs?
  5. How do we deal with a government that wants NESTs and has strict visa restrictions for NNESTs from abroad?

If you’d like to get involved in TEFL Equity campaign, check out the Get involved page here for ideas about what you can do. And feel free to get in touch too.

If you’re interested in reading up a bit on NS and NNS issues, native speakerism or English as a Lingua Franca, check out the Reading List section with links to academic publications that are freely available on the internet. If you prefer to watch something, check out Videos section for a selection of talks and interviews.

7 thoughts on “What can we do to promote equal professional opportunities for NS and NNS in ELT? How can I get involved?”

  1. Elizabeth Bekes

    “What can be done to address this problem on initial teacher training courses?”
    Provide facts and figures concerning the ratio of NESTs and NNESTs – not everyone is aware. Reflect on the potential strengths and weaknesses of both; urge them to play to their strengths and improve what is less than excellent.

    “How can we encourage other teaching associations to get involved?”
    Ask TAs to give an account of their local experience. Conduct a fresh survey to get reliable data in the IATEFL / EFL / ESL community (make sure you include those who have no opportunity to fill in a quick questionnaire on the Internet). IATEFL could fund a research project on the topic and should be its lead manager.

    “What’s the next step – what can we do? How do we organise?”
    Analyze the data, identify the problem areas, gather ideas on what could be done at local, regional, national and international level. Take legal action when discrimination can be proven and publicise the outcomes.

    “How can I change the parents’ or headmaster’s attitude towards NESTs and NNESTs?”
    Nudge. Urge. Be an example of professional excellence. Stay a lifelong learner. Let parents and principals observe your classes. Support your colleagues in their CPD. If possible, set up NEST-NNEST pairs to team teach: parents/managers will be happy, your students ecstatic.

    “How do we deal with a government that wants NESTs and has strict visa restrictions for NNESTs from abroad?” Pass.

  2. Good employers already know that there is no link between native speakerism and teaching competence. It’s bad employers (who are less open to reasoned arguments) who are the problem. Ultimately, one day these employers may need to defend their practices at a tribunal.

    There’s always work that needs to be done though. In the UK, the TUC (Trades union congress) promotes the appointment of Equality reps, who can raise issues of inequality with management. The TEFL industry needs a lot of organising to get to this stage.

  3. Just out of interest, for the countries where only native speakers are granted a visa to teach English, are there exceptions made to this for people who are exceptionally well-qualified? Are NNSETs able to get visas to do teacher training, be school managers or other activities? It seems to me that visas being restricted to native-speakers only in places like Japan and Korea are facilitating the low end of teaching. They’re not insisting on native speakers with qualifications and experience, just native speakers full stop, to fulfill a demand in the private sector for white faces in classrooms.

    Convince these countries that they should be taking professional standards into consideration more an that non-natives are equally/more capable, and rather than increasing opportunities for non-native teachers to go into these markets, you might actually just convince them that they already have the skills they need in the country, and that they’d do better to just use the talent they already have in the country. It’s worth mentioning that in Japan and Korea, the native English teacher is actually a cheap option compared to a fully-qualified local teacher. The average Korean teacher takes home over $47k a year. A haegwon isn’t going to pay that.

    It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of countries are pretty right wing when it comes to immigration. They might be willing to tolerate a limited amount of immigration from countries of relatively similar economic status, but extending the allowable list to much poorer countries might be politically unpopular.

  4. I’ve been reading all the blog posts TEFL Equity Advocates have published and the comments section is always very, very interesting. At the moment I’m conducting research on NNESTS in Dublin, so as you can guess, this subject is very close to my heart.

    I want to address question 4 specifically, “How can I change the parents’ or headmaster’s attitude towards NESTs and NNESTs?”

    I believe that a lot of students and parents only perpetuate the native-speaker fallacy due to blunt ignorance. If we show them (and also headmasters, of course), through research findings and literature, that the quality of the lesson is not associated with country of origin of the teacher whatsoever, things might change. People tend to think native-speakers are better teachers, but when confronted with facts coming from serious research, they tend to open up their minds. Another alternative would be what Elizabeth Bekes suggested, which is to pair up NESTS and NNESTS to teach a class. It’s not ideal, but it should make everybody happy (students have more exposure to different varieties, both NESTS and NNESTS are employed and managers won’t get complaints).

  5. As others have said, it is largely about managing expectations. It’s ignorance that allows this to continue. I don’t work in the UK much but I wonder if students (and their parents) have a greater expectation of native speakers when they come here and if there is more resistance therefore to a NNS. I’m not going to support or excuse it but I know competition is fierce and I can imagine owners of schools not wanting risk losing business.

    One school I have worked for in central London is very clear about the mixed nationality of its teachers, in its marketing and face to face if students complain. It is full to bursting, has an excellent reputation and lots of very successful learners.

    So there is no excuse.

    The visa issue is a more difficult one to tackle but I think the larger EFL organisations could try to approach it through diplomatic channels. Although, they can of course just employ teachers of English that are native of the country concerned, often called local teachers, which also has a negative connotation in some parts of the industry and often means a lot less pay than their imported counterparts. Lots of work to be done.

  6. Pingback: “Five ways to speak out against the discrimination of ‘non native’ English teachers” by Katherine Bilsborough – TEFL Equity Advocates

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