You might be wondering if and why you should bother advocating equal professional rights for ‘native’ and ‘non-native speaker’ teachers. I addressed this point in the opening of my plenary at BBELT 2017 conference in Mexico.
Below you can also see a list of 8 points that will hopefully highlight why it is indeed important you take action against the discrimination of our non-native colleagues.
I have used the following acronyms:
- TEFL – Teaching English as a Foreign Language
- EFL – English as a Foreign Language
- Up to 70% of all job ads around the world advertised on-line on tefl.com, the biggest search engine for TEFL job seekers, are for ‘native speakers’ only. This means that as a ‘non-native speaker’ , regardless of your experience or qualifications, your application will be rejected on the spot. And it means that if you’re a ‘native speaker’ , you’ve been given (and perhaps taken) an unfair advantage over a ‘non-native speaker’ which you might not even have been aware of. Wouldn’t you prefer to be given a job because you’re a great teacher, rather than because you’re a ‘native speaker’?
- Having your CV turned down as a ‘non-native speaker’ , despite being more experienced or highly qualified than a ‘native speaker’ , can be quite humiliating. I’ve met many ‘non-native speaker’ teachers who after years of trying, have simply given up and lost all their self-confidence. They started to believe they actually were inferior and unfit for the job. We can’t let this happen!
- Discrimination against ‘non-native speaker’ teachers has been the skeleton in the TEFL’s cupboard for decades. Schools have sold courses by marketing ‘native speakers’ as the only way to learn a language, marginalising and relegating ‘non-native speaker’ teachers to the status of bush-league teachers (read Larissa Albano’s post on it here). And although things have been changing for the better, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. I’d like the industry to acknowledge the problem and take steps to eradicate it, as organisations such as TESOL France or CATESOL have (see Anti-discrimination statements).
- For years students have been told that only ‘native speakers’ can teach them ‘correct’ English. But let’s have the courage to acknowledge the fact that we’ve been lying to them all along (read my post about it here). Both ‘native’ and ‘non-native speakers’ can be equally good teachers, and our students can benefit from being taught by the two groups.
- After all, we all care about our students, don’t we? We all want them to learn, improve, and have a great time in class, don’t we? Yet, we allow the industry to discriminate some of our colleagues, who could make fantastic teachers. We let recruiters choose teachers based on their nationality rather than teaching skills. Let’s stop being so permissive! Let’s act! Read James Taylor’s post here to find out how you can get involved.
- Many ‘non-native speaker’ teachers do not realise that there are numerous colleagues who strongly support their cause. They do not know who they can ask for help. And so they often accept their inferior status in the industry. I feel this needs to change. ‘Non-native speakers’ should know that we support their rights, and that they’re not alone. Leave your own message of support here.
- Many ‘native speaker’ teachers would also like to work in an environment that promotes equity of all teachers. I have many ‘native speaker’ friends who have already expressed great support for this campaign, and even written posts for the blog. So I hope that we can all campaign here together for a slightly more equal world which will benefit us all. Visit Support us page to read the statements of support for the movement from some of the most renown EFL professionals, such as Jeremy Harmer, Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury.
- Finally, inaction is the worst form of action. On any given day numerous colleagues of ours are discriminated, their CVs end up in bins without being even glanced at. We have a moral responsibility to speak out for their rights and to defend them.