‘The Halo Effect and racism in ELT – research findings from Indonesia’ by Angga Kramadibrata

One day, a colleague and I were chatting in the staff room when the rather vulgar issue of salary came up. We were both decrying the fact that at the language schools that we have taught in, Native English Speaker Teachers (NESTs) are paid more than their (quite often) equally qualified and experienced non-native counterparts. Shouldn’t equal experience equal equal pay? He turned to me and said, “You know why that is, right? People don’t go to see Mission Impossible 3 because it’s any good; people go to see Tom Cruise.”

It’s fairly easy to make that leap, to think that NESTs are the ‘stars’ of a language school. Like Tom Cruise, NESTs are paid more, featured more prominently on marketing materials, and have enough good will for moviegoers/students to forgive one or two or three ill-judged decisions (I’m looking at you Mission Impossible 2).

During my ten years of teaching English in Indonesia, I’ve never heard any of my students or my clients actually question the assumption that NESTs are are the stars of the show. No one has ever questioned why is it that classes with NESTs are more expensive than those that are mixed with Non-NESTs? No one has ever requested that their classes should have more Non-NESTs. No one has ever complained that “Hey! We were supposed to have a Non-NEST this week! Not another NEST!”

However, this widely held belief that NESTs are inherently better than Non-NESTs, called the Native Speaker Fallacy, or alternatively the Native Speaker Myth, doesn’t really hold up to much scrutiny. For one thing, Non-NESTs have already been successful at learning English well enough that they could teach it. That experience would count as a positive, right? But, no. In the minds of many people, that is trumped by the fact that another teacher just happened to be born in an English-speaking country.

I could go on, but I’m here to discuss the results of my research, and anyways, I’m guessing people who read this blog are already familiar with a lot of the arguments why this thinking is questionable, so I’m just going to go ahead and refer you to this link with a list of reading material, or to be cheeky, recommend this one to read the introduction on my research on this very topic.

The main issue is, that this thinking is entrenched in the minds of the public. Academics might question this thinking, but the layperson does not. And instead of trying to educate the public, many school managers and recruiters pander to this belief; if you look at ELT job listings there is a great emphasis on being a native speaker and even on having the right Caucasian look (Ruecker & Ives, 2015). To see how far we have yet to go on this, look at this blog’s hall of fame. We congratulate schools who do not have discriminatory hiring practices. This is like congratulating a duck for quacking. Please do not take this as an attack on the spirit behind the hall of fame or the schools who are on it. This is a good start, and every little bit counts, but in a perfect world, we shouldn’t be lauding schools who aren’t inequitable in their recruitment, we should be expecting it.

So how can we rectify this? Well, as Zach De La Rocha puts it, “Know your enemy.”

Last year, I set out to identify how much an English teacher’s perceived nativeness would influence Indonesian students’ attitudes towards them. To that end, I created two animated teaching videos with identical animations and scripts but with different narrators; one using Indian English, the other British English. In addition to that, the video also visually identified them as Asian and Caucasian (though I should say that the pictures used were not of the narrators). Two groups of Indonesian students were then asked to fill in a questionnaire that was designed to elicit their implicit attitudes towards the teachers.

1

Figure 1. NEST video

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Figure 2. Non-NEST video

 

This is what I found – please note that this is only a very brief summary of the findings of the study. To read more on the findings, refer to: Kramadibrata, A.  (2016), which can be accessed here.

There was a statistically significant preference for the British-English-Speaking Caucasian teacher over the Indian-English-Speaking Asian teacher (p<0.01). This preference was also carried over two out of three attitudinal metrics, namely: engagement (p<0.05) and clarity of explanation (p<0.05), but NOT comprehensibility (p>0.05).

This tells us that:

  1. Even with the same exact animations, participants were more engaged with the Caucasian NEST video;
  2. Even with the same script and only a small difference in pace (1.4 words per minute), participants found the explanation in the video with the Caucasian NEST’s much clearer; and,
  3. Even though the comprehensibility of both teachers had a statistically insignificant difference, participants still preferred to be taught by the Caucasian NEST.

Now, before we continue, I must say that these conclusions are in no way conclusive. There were only 67 participants taken from one particular context, and used  non-probabilistic sampling. Also, Indonesians aren’t as familiar with Indian English as they are with British English, so this could have influenced answers as well.

With that said, the findings are indicative of the strength of the Native Speaker Fallacy. With most things being equal, it does seem that Indonesian students prefer NESTs to Non-NESTs. This partiality for NESTs seems to be well established in Indonesia, and may cause students to prefer NESTs just because. My position is that this preference is similar to a well-documented cognitive bias that psychologists call the Halo Effect, which is the “widespread human tendency to make unwarranted inferences about a person’s unknown characteristics on the basis of known but often irrelevant information” (Forgas, 2011). In this case, a teacher’s perceived effectiveness is based on whether or not (s)he is a Caucasian NEST (you might also be interested in this post by Nick Michelioudakis where he explains the ‘Halo Effect’ in ELT).

IMG_2122

Design @teflninja

Though it is said that cognitive biases are hard-wired into the human brain and is nearly impossible to dispel, it has been shown that mitigation is possible through awareness. The bias may remain implicitly, but the effects can be diminished by conscious thought. This awareness has already begun to permeate into society. An interesting thing about this study is that the abovementioned implicit attitudes were not necessarily in-line with the data on explicit attitudes gathered through the interviews and questionnaire. Though there is an implicit preference for NESTs over Non-NESTs, many participants could see there are advantages and disadvantages to being taught by either. A few even said that nativeness doesn’t really matter, and that what’s important is a teacher’s personality and how they teach. There was even one respondent who said: “Many people think that local teachers aren’t as good (as native speakers)… that mindset has to change…” (Kramadibrata, A. 2016, p. 291)

The great thing about being human, is that we are able to overcome the impulses from our lizard brain by understanding and using our ability to reason. There does exist a bias in the participants of my study. However, it’s implicit. I believe that when most of the participants actually think about it, they really do believe that there is more to a teacher than her nativeness, it’s just that they are conditioned by the prestige surrounding NESTs. This can be mitigated. Tom Cruise wasn’t always a movie star. People only started to see him in that light ever since he starred in Top Gun, and then that was only really cemented when he did Mission Impossible (the first).

The tide is changing, and I believe that in academia at least, Non-NESTs have already had their Top Gun moment. But we really need to change the light in which Non-NESTs are viewed by the general public, and cement their place as movie stars alongside NESTs. The discourse on equality in TEFL needs to be moved from the hands of academics, and into those of practitioners and students. This is why Marek’s work with the TEFL Equity Advocates and his Hall of Fame is so important. All of us can help make a difference by raising awareness of these ideas and making them less opaque to the general public (there’s a reason that this post is written in a style semi-suitable to the layperson). Student-facing lesson plans such as Anes Mohamed’s on English with an accent can open our students’ eyes on Linguistic Imperialism and perhaps reduce their sometimes unhealthy and unnecessary obsession with achieving a ‘native’ accent. And the teacher-facing training session entitled I am just me by Zhenya Polosatova and Michael Griffin can help teachers become more comfortable and confident in their own abilities while empowering them to discuss these issues with their peers, students, and clients, further spreading the movement.

I’ve been trying really hard to come up with a pithy way to end this post, but I really can’t find the words. There’s just much too much I want to say. But I guess that’s what we need, though. We shouldn’t be ending this post, we should be extending the discussion of this post with our colleagues, our students, our clients, and our managers.

So stop reading, and start speaking out for a fairer ELT.

Design: @Teflninja

Design: @Teflninja

References:

  • De La Rocha, Z. (1992). Know your enemy. Rage Against The Machine [CD]. New York, NY: Atlantic Records
  • Forgas, J. P. (2011). She just doesn’t look like a philosopher…? Affective influences on the halo effect in impression formation. European Journal of Social Psychology, 41(7), 812-817
  • Kramadibrata, A. (2016). The Halo Surrounding Native English Speaker Teachers in Indonesia. Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 5(2), pp 282-293. DOI: 10.17509/ijal.v5i2.1352
  • Ruecker, T., & Ives, L. (2015). White Native English Speakers Needed: The Rhetorical Construction of Privilege in Online Teacher Recruitment Spaces. TESOL Quarterly, 49(4), 733–756. http://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.195

Angga KramadibrataAngga Kramadibrata is an EFL teacher and teacher trainer based in Bandung, Indonesia. He holds a Masters in English Language Teaching and is currently trying to not let his predilection for procrastination delay too much his completion of the last module of the Cambridge Delta. His interests include the teaching of pronunciation, teacher identity, and student attitudes towards language learning. Apart from that, he is particularly fond of DC Comics, his daughter, and incredibly spicy foods.

0 thoughts on “‘The Halo Effect and racism in ELT – research findings from Indonesia’ by Angga Kramadibrata

  1. eltnick says:

    Hi Angaa. I simply LOVED this study! It’s simple, straightforward, easy to understand and easily replicable. I am sure that were we to conduct similar studies on teachers’ perceptions of NEST – NNEST speakers for instance, we’d get very similar results.
    Re the likelihood of change in the future however, I am not quite so sure about how possible it is for us to overcome our biases through conscious effort… I somehow feel that lots of the support we get in our field is more due to the fact that declaring in favour of equity in TEFL is the PC thing to do. I am not saying I blame colleagues – I too may be biased against, say, women or black people and not even be aware of it.
    My thinking on this point has been very much influenced by two books in particular (both of which I strongly recommend): “The Righteous Mind” [J. Haidt] and “Why Everyone (else) is a Hypocrite” [R. Kurzban]. Both writers argue that far from being the decision-making centre of the brain, the conscious part simply offers post-hoc rationalisations of decisions taken elsewhere.
    This is not to say that I am pessimistic about the future; it’s just that rather than focus on changing people, I would channel my energies towards changing things in such a way that our innate predispositions cannot function (or at least are severely restrained). What I want to say here is that rather than try to create non-nepotistic politicians for instance, I would just try to create a framework which would make it almost impossible for them to favour relatives…
    Anyway – this comment is rather longer than I intended it to be… 🙂 Congratulations on this excellent post once again.

    • Angga Kramadibrata says:

      Thanks for the positive comments, Nick! I really appreciate it.

      From what I’ve read (and I’m not trained in psychology so to whoever is reading, please feel free to say that I’ve got it backwards), these cognitive biases are hard-wired in our psyches. They don’t really change as much as we can minimise their effects through consciousness, and raised awareness. Perhaps we can’t change what our lizard brain thinks, but at least we can change what our conscious brain does. This, I believe is what matters. Most of the processes in our brain is automatised, and we can’t really do anything about most of it. But to paraphrase Dumbledore, it’s not what we are capable of doing, it’s what we choose to do.

      I think by educating people we could help the general public make informed decisions about their English language learning, thereby helping them think beyond what their lizard brain tells them.

      But of course, I agree with you inasmuch as we do need to create a framework that doesn’t allow this type of behaviour. The Hall of Fame here is a great start to this. We need to put pressure on language schools so they will start using non-discriminatory hiring practices.

      But then again, the way that this discourse often revolves around the labelling and the comparing of Nest and Non-Nests is also quite disheartening. We shouldn’t be separating the two, and the implication that here I’m saying that Indian English isn’t a native variety is also a form of discrimination.

      “The rationale for using the Indian variety of English is that even though it isn’t regarded as norm-making (Kachru, 1992), it is still a native variety, and as such might be more useful in exploring the attitudes towards perceived nativeness and the ‘thorny intertwining’ of English and whiteness described by Motha (2006, in Ruecker & Ives, 2014, p. 496).” (Kramadibrata, 2016:287)

      I didn’t say to the participants that we were looking at attitudes towards Native or Non-Native teachers, but participants in the Indian English group did say that the teacher was a Non-NEST. And that is why I believe that we should look at educating. They can’t make informed decisions because they aren’t well informed!

      But perhaps this difference in opinion between you and myself is a good thing. The people who agree with you about making frameworks could focus on that, making people think about the issue more. And the people who think that raising awareness should do just that, and try to give the public a better understanding. A two-pronged approach might work better than just one.

      • eltnick says:

        Thank you Angga for your reply. Yes, I totally agree with you – there is no reason why we could not have a two-pronged approach towards the same goal. After all, I think we all agree we need to try to put an end to this kind of discrimination if we can. Hope we get to meet at some point so we can discuss these things at length. 🙂

  2. Nicky Sekino says:

    The controversy of native or non-native speakers does not seem to end and the decision to give more value to native speakers over their non-native counterparts is often given by employers. It is only natural for the victim of such injustice to complain particularly when there is a difference in salaries, which is in favor of native speakers of English as Kramadibrata indicates.

    If employers pay more to native speakers based only on the fact they are native speakers of English, it indicates that the native speaker status works as a commodity.

    Simply put, someone being a native speaker of English is a commodity, which is outside the pedagogical consideration of English, but of a business concern.

    In other words, native speakers of English should also question this preference for native speakers of English because their value is not given for pedagogical reasons but for business reasons.

    I wonder if this malpractice only exists in the world of English education.

    • Angga Kramadibrata says:

      Hi Nicky,

      Thanks for the comment! I couldn’t agree more with what you say, a teacher’s nativeness is a commodity. Though to be honest, I think it’s more than that. Though I hold an Indonesian passport, having grown up in Australia, I’m a native speaker of English. I mean when I first came back to Indonesia, I could barely speak a handful of utterances! So my school did consider me as a native speaker. That said, even with the experience and the qualifications I have, the amount of effort I had to put in to prove that to students, parents, and clients was in a word… exhausting. Thing is, foreign teachers who were fresh off a Celta were not asked to do anything of the sort.

      So in my mind, this whole debate surrounding native/non-native speakers is, in Indonesia at least, just a proxy for foreign, Caucasian teachers / local, Asian teachers. A sad state of affairs, but one that my experience teaching here has shown to be true more often than not.

    • Carl says:

      Nicky, I agree with you that human characteristics can themselves be commodities. No amount of academic or ethical considerations about value, I don’t believe, will trump individuals’ freedoms and predilections to ascribe value to characteristics they perceive. It is true that many of these evaluations result from historic cultural dynamics, but then all manner of important present phenomena are predicated on earlier ones. I see no reason human tastes must be different. We are constantly judging one another. If some arenas of judgment (mate selection, friendship…) are open to prejudicial motivations, others are likely to be, as well, regardless our moral reasoning. I don’t think humanity will ever overcome this, so long as there are obvious physical differences among us.

  3. ald220486 says:

    Thank you very much for this enlightining posting, Mas Angga. I’m so proud knowing that an Indonesian such as myself can actually write this wonderfully! It’s very inspiring.
    As per the matter at hand, I agree with both your conception and ELTNICK’s. For the long haul, there needs to be a paradigm shift over the fallacy i.e. nNEST is less credentialed than is NEST. But in addition and more importantly, we need to create a system in which the desicive factor isn’t mainly (if not merely) one’s colors; I’d suggest a portfolio mano-o-mano to name an instance.
    Anyway, people change as the world rolls, and luckily students have gained better consciousness over their development: at least in the school where I teach. Last couple of months, for another time with a different lot, my students complained that what they expect–a felt improvement in their English–failed to exist having been taught by the NEST. Despite their fondness of the selfies frequently made with the teacher, they realized that that’s not why they were there.
    That however hardly surprised me, we, the local teachers, could most of time triumph in incorporating laughters into their learning as we were able to relate to their humor–not to mention their horror and/or depression in EFL learning.( I wish I could be bothered pitching in some renowned statistic re how dopamine expedites learning.)
    In sum, we should stop ogling the digits($) and rather start the marathon of achieving the nativeness and making use of the hindsight of having conquered the language to relay to our students. On the employer’s end, we should stop venturing in EFL business and running a beauty peagent instead…so to speak.

    • Angga Kramadibrata says:

      Hello there!

      Thanks for the comment! There is a lot of truth in what you say, and I’ve seen that a lot myself. I think the thing to remember is at the end of the day, nativeness doesn’t add or subtract to your ability in teaching a language. Some of the best teachers I’ve seen have been native speakers, and some of the worst have been native speakers as well. The same thing goes for non-native speakers. Same thing goes for educational background. Some of the best teachers I’ve seen have come from economics, geography, chemical engineering! And some of the worst from English literature, or English linguistics!

      The issue is, that there is an implicit tendency to prefer native speakers because intuitively, it makes sense that people who know a subject, are best suited to teaching it. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily ring true. Just think of Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. Yes, I know he’s a caricature of a character, but in every bit of humour there’s always a grain of truth. As knowledgable as the character of Sheldon is, you wouldn’t want him to be your teacher.

  4. TeamBritanniaHu says:

    I agree that, for most posts, in most countries, there should no longer be any need for discrimination in favour of NESTs. However, we cannot ignore the fact that positive discrimination in favour of recruitment and in-service training of qualified NESTs, to work alongside indigenous teachers of English, has assisted and accelerated the development of communicative English language teaching in many countries, including Hungary (where I have worked for ten years), where English was/is taught purely as a foreign language in state-funded schools, using the first language rather than the target language as the main medium.

    The issue is not the ‘stardom’ of NESTs, but that their weakness is their greatest strength, i.e. that they cannot use the L1 of the students in the classroom, so that students know that they have to use the target language as the medium. In this case, in my research and professional experience, the use of NESTs can have very positive outcomes and is fully justified by the host schools. That is what they need, and what their pupils and parents need. Their fellow ‘bilingual’ teachers also enjoy a positive experience in their own language development and the sharing of communicative methodologies, including bilingual ones, involving team-teaching and collaborative planning. To describe these forms of linguistic and methodological discrimination ‘racist’ risks undermining the whole argument in favour of equitable treatment. As a NEST married to a non-NEST I am opposed to any discrimination in terms of basic pay and conditions between us (this works both ways as some of my qualifications are often disregarded by employers), but I do expect to be given roles commensurate with my experience, qualifications, knowledge and abilities in the target language, not just because it is my native language, but because of my ability to communicate at all levels with minimal use of the L1. English is, of course, an international means of communication for millions more than speak it from birth, but its forms,grammar and vocabulary are based on thousands of years of development into standard forms, spoken by ‘natives’. If we deny their usefulness and describe it as ‘racist’, we are arguing for its replacement with a neutered language which does not exist, even in ‘esperanto’. Most linguists agree that that will never work. We are where we are because of linguistic imperialism, but we are in danger of making the same mistake as the Rhodes scholars who, rather than adapting the resources given to us by the past, simply want to knock it down and pretend it never existed.

    • Angga Kramadibrata says:

      Hi there!

      Thanks for the comments, this does make one think, doesn’t it?

      Regarding your first comment, I actually do make that point in my journal article. I guess that trying to condense a 7,000 word research report into a 1,500 word blog post intended for non-academic audiences can only cause more issues.

      “Another possible reason for this attitude is that historically, Non-NESTs, especially in less economically advantaged places such as non-white neighbourhoods in post-Apartheid South Africa, are quite often not as well trained as their NEST counterparts (Chick, 1996). Some argue that even now, many Indonesian English teachers lack the requisite mastery of language and pedagogic training to teach effectively (Sholihah, 2012; Dewi, 2011). In contrast, Indonesian regulations require foreigners to have both a degree in languages and a practical teaching qualification in order to teach English in Indonesia (Menteri Pendidikan Indonesia, 2009). It is easy to see why many of the students at these schools would welcome a well-trained and fluent NEST.” (Kramadibrata, 2016:283)

      I totally agree that having foreign experts coming into Indonesia has accelerated the amount of knowledge that we have regarding ELT, and that we should keep that flow of knowledge (but also have some flowing outwards as well).

      With regards to the NEST’s weakness as being their biggest strength, I’m rather more ambivalent. For starters, we can also argue that sharing a language with a learner can be as beneficial as not. Those who do could more quickly identify potential problems learners might have, they could more easily understand when communication breaks down and help students overcome it, and their shared culture could help them understand their students better, helping lower their affective filter.

      We could go back and forth with this, saying NESTs could be better than Non-NESTs, and then vice versa, but at the end of the day, we should look at a teacher’s is qualifications, knowledge, and experience more than the country and language they were lucky enough to be born in. That said, I have to agree that crying ‘RACIST!!!’ is not the best way of garnering support. It does smack of alarmist propaganda, doesn’t it? To be honest, I never intended for the word ‘Racism’ to be in the title of this post, and I concede the point.

      However, I’d like to talk about standard Englishes for a bit. Let’s just be frank and say that yes, there is a very big preference towards using Standard American or Received Pronunciation (well, let’s just call it that as opposed to the Queen’s English, shall we?) as standard English. This can be seen in how coursebooks tend to focus on displaying these varieties as ‘canon’. Though having this as a guide is useful pedagogically, it can be extremely detrimental to the psyche’s of the teachers and students who in all likelihood, will never reach a ‘native-like competence’ in their use of English. Non-NESTs are often plagued with insecurities that even though they are trained and knowledgeable, they’ll never be as good as their NEST counterparts because of a fluke of their birth. Students are more likely to beam with pride at the comment ‘you sound just like an American’, than ‘you speak so clearly that anyone could understand you.’

      I agree that we shouldn’t tear down the varieties of English we have already, but we should also look at the varieties of Englishes arising in different places. We shouldn’t put so-called ‘native’ varieties on a pedestal while seeing the ‘non-native’ varieties as lesser. What makes the native variety of Indian English or Nigerian English or Singaporean English lesser than American English, British English, or Australian English? Is it because of comprehensibility? I dare say that a Singaporean could understand an Indian much better than they could a Brummie (Yes, of course that is a rather extreme example, but hey!). And anyways, when non-natives and natives meet in the real world, they don’t automatically turn to the ‘native’ variety when communicating, “they co-construct a set of linguistic norms out of the language resources they bring, which is sufficient for their immediate communicative purposes.These norms are highly variable and hybrid, changing for different communicative contexts and interlocutors” (Canagarajah, 2015:13). Does this mean that ‘native’ norms are useless? No, of course not. They have their place, but my contention is that they should not be the first among equals.

      As Max Weinreich put it “A language is a dialect with an army and navy.” The reason we are here is because, as you rightly put it, linguistic imperialism. Yes, crying ‘RACIST’ doesn’t help as much. But that said, there is a fetishisation of ‘native’ varieties of English and this does cause a fetishisation of nativeness to the extent that qualifications and experience are sometimes seen as not important. Ruecker and Ives (2014) found that English teacher job advertisements in East and Southeast Asia seem to focus a lot on nativeness and even having the correct Caucasian look. You might be lucky enough to live and work where that isn’t true, but I don’t. I myself am a NEST but even then I’m discriminated against because of my Asian look and my Indonesian passport. Of course, not all schools are like this, but again as I said in the post, we are still lauding those who do, instead of condemning those who don’t. That, is what needs to change.

      _____
      Canagarajah, S. (2015). TESOL as a Professional Community: A Half‐Century of Pedagogy, Research, and Theory. TESOL Quarterly.
      Ruecker, T. and Ives, L. (2014), White Native English Speakers Needed: The Rhetorical Construction of Privilege in Online Teacher Recruitment Spaces. TESOL Quarterly. doi: 10.1002/tesq.195

  5. Joe says:

    One thing I wonder is how much is made of qualifications of teachers when it comes to marketing courses. It’s very difficult as a student, particularly at a low level (or as a parent, where you don’t actually see the teacher), to know whether a particular teacher is able to speak a decent standard of English. In Vietnam, where I work, a lot of people’s experience of learning English is of learning from someone who is intermediate level at best, so that’s probably what they associate with nNESTs. The NEST guarantees at least that they will speak the language to a particular level. But obviously the CELTA or DELTA do that too. But how much do the customers actually know about these qualifications? I think the lack of trust in schools to hire qualified candidates and their failure to communicate industry standards to parents and students could contribute to the NEST obsession. Especially in countries where people are always worried about getting ripped off by businesses.

    It’s also worth mentioning that even the governments are getting in on the act, with many countries refusing to give visas to anyone who’s not a native speaker. Hilariously, I even know someone who had to get a British passport to teach in Indonesia, because they didn’t recognise Ireland as an English-speaking country. So even governments will reject a well-qualified teacher on the grounds that they’re not a native speaker from a selected group of desirable countries.

    • Angga Kramadibrata says:

      Dear Joe,

      Thank you for the response. You’re absolutely correct when you say that in a lot of contexts, having a native speaker does guarantee a good level of English, at least. I remember high school in Indonesia where the teacher had worse English than at least half of the class. There are a lot of contexts in which further training is needed to ensure that teachers actually have a sufficiently good level of English.

      You make a lot of valid points there, and the frustration that your Irish friend faced is something that I see quite recently here. It’s absolutely disgraceful at times.

    • Angga Kramadibrata says:

      Hi Joe,

      Thanks for your response. You’ve made a lot of cogent points that I couldn’t agree with more! It’s frustrating that the bias that our students and parents feel can influence our HR practices this much. And yes, we definitely do need to communicate better with the market. I see the injustices of this institutionalized discrimination on a daily basis, and I kind of feel that I’m part of the problem because I’m not doing enough.

  6. Lakshmi Kala Prakash says:

    Hi Angaa,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and research on this topic. Your blog is clear and easy to understand. The research conducted by you is of course timely, yet not exclusive. This is an issue that continues to test the resolve of those against discrimination in more ways than one. As an EFL teacher and Ph.D. Candidate, I can see how interdisciplinary forces would be needed to arrive at some possible solutions for the future. The recent Plenary Presentation at IATEFL online by Silvana Richardson does put the underlying demons in a clearer light and offers subtle suggestions for the future. Most notably the need to reduce the dichotomy especially from a market perspective and move towards ‘Multilingualism’.

    Keep blogging and sharing!

  7. Carl says:

    I am an African descended man of US citizenry in my forties with three degrees, all from US Ivy League universities, including a terminal doctorate, and an accredited certification in TEFL. The horrible US economy this year motivated me to seek a teaching post outside the US, for which I believed, wrongly, I’d be a very attractive candidate. Months and literally hundreds of applications later, many requiring costly investments in ancillary professional services, I have not a single job offer. Language schools from Asia feel comfortable admitting to me that my obvious African heritage is a problem for them, despite my decade of college teaching experience, my multiple graduate degrees, my fluency in English, my many years teaching English with outstanding college and client reviews, and my accredited TEFL certificate. The latest recruitment office in Hong Kong (two days ago) relayed to me that the hiring team there found me, from my professional photos, to be “scary.” Please note the direct quotes around that adjective. I have had no luck acquiring an assignment in Latin America, Eastern or Western Europe, the Middle East, or any part of Asia. I am just not what the market is seeking.

    I could easily become incensed at my professional treatment and call my experience an injustice. However, I have to recall that whenever I spend the money I earn on a product, I am judging another person’s work as insufficient for me, assuming I pass over one person’s product for another’s; I am commodifying others’ livelihoods. So while I would enjoy teaching English abroad for a few years, and I wish humans reasoned ethically differently, I am mature enough to understand that my wants, and the ephemera of my particular ethical worldview, do not dictate the way the world actually works. My skin color (as a proxy for my overall phenotype) and my age prompt potential employers’ and clients’ evaluations of me, and their evaluations are no more of necessity associated with empirical evidence of objectivity–such as my teaching effectiveness–than my own when I decide to purchase a BMW 5-series versus a Honda Accord (at least, in my fantasy world). Human beings are inherently judgmental. That’s not a moral statement. It’s an evolutionarily behavioral fact. It just so happens that in this particular judgment scenario I happen not to win the ubiquitous and inevitable game of judgment.

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