I was checking my Facebook account when I came across a post in one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of advertising a job opening in one of the English schools in Turkey. The job advertisement was short and lacking important information such as working hours, salary, etc. Since the advertiser said we could contact him for further information, and although he did write “native speakers will be preferred although not limited by them”, I said to myself “why not message him to ask for more information; since he said it is not limited to native speakers, I might still have a chance; do not be too proud of yourself” (having to write that now I realise how much negativity did this particular thought hold?!)
So I sent my message, within days I got the response which I was not hoping for!
This is my message
I would like to know all the information about your job opening for English Teachers. I am CELTA qualified with grade B but I am non-native.
This is his response
Thanks for your kind applications but we have to prioritise native speakers first. I am hoping to contact you again after those applications.
This is my reply
Thank you for your reply, I no longer have interest in the job. You stated that you have to prioritise native speakers, but being a native speaker doesn’t necessarily mean you are a good teacher; what you should prioritise instead is qualifications, not nationality. Look at those leading centers around the world like British Council or International House, which don’t discriminate, but offer jobs to both NNEST and NEST, based on their qualifications of course. Again thank you for your reply.
I have got to tell you it took me couple of hours to respond to him as I was angry that he did not even give me a chance to send my CV. This is not ”preference for NESTs” as he stated in his post, because you need to have two options in front of you to say that you prefer option a) to option b). On the other hand, not even giving a chance or considering reading a NNESTs’ CVs before deciding whether to accept them is called discrimination. In addition, I think he should have put himself in my shoes as he himself is a non- native English teacher. Sadly, I did not get a reply to my last email.
This is not the first time and I do not expect it to be the last, as I have been through even worse situations. This preference for native speakers is almost everywhere in ELT. For example, I was once interviewed by the manager of one of the local centres here in my own country, Libya. None of their teachers had a CELTA, nor did they know what this certificate was. After I finished my interview and explained my qualifications, the manager said that they are first trying to bring NESTs. Only if they could not attract them, they would offer me the job, to which I said “if you think a NEST is better than a NNEST how come you think you are good enough to interview them since you are a NNEST yourself?!”.
I normally do not speak about this issue of inequality in ELT. However, this most recent case happened to me right after seeing Adam Beale tweet about it (you can read the write up of the Twitter conversation in Adam’s article Stand up and be counted here), so I thought why not do something about it as well. I tweeted screenshots of the messages and TEFL Equity suggested I wrote my story, which might encourage more teachers to stop turning a blind eye to the favoritism native speakers enjoy in ELT.
Finally, I would like to thank all the teachers around the globe who are trying to speak up against it. And for those who still do not want to take action perhaps because they think it is not their problem, turn the table: imagine I am the native and you are the non- native, would you like to be ignored or turned down just because of your mother tongue?. If not, then these are my suggested ways to help fight it:
- Fight the “industry demand excuse” by educating students about it.
- Collect your learners’ opinion about it by conducting a survey.
- Discuss the matter with your employer.
- Write about it and suggest ways to fight it.
- Respond to it by sending email to the discriminatory employer.
- Do a webinar or a workshop and explain it.
My name is Karima Ennouri. I am secretary and I have just started a new job as part time EFL teacher. I am also responsible for managing and organizing English courses in a training centre based in Libya. I’ve been teaching officially but not constantly since doing my CELTA in March 2015 in Turkey. I am constantly trying to learn new teaching approaches as well as gaining more experience in teaching. I am also looking forward to continuing my professional development and starting my own blog.