The Native English Speaking Teacher

Scam #2

By Oliver Escott (Staffroom)

My previous blog post (The Native English Teaching Scam #1) described the deceptive and possibly racist distinction between Native English Speakers (NES) and Non-Native English Speakers (NNES) in international teaching job advertisements.

Why does this practice persist? Four common and interconnected excuses are used by stakeholders:

Parents, the customer, want NES teachers.

Schools require NES to market ‘internationalness’ to parents.

Recruiters can’t or worse, won’t, recommend NNES to schools.

Some countries have regulations restricting visas to NNES teachers.

The first excuse is either a genuine concern about the quality of the language of instruction (English) or racist attitudes held by parents. Qualifications like IELTS are internationally recognised and allow teachers to prove their English language capability. Racism from parents requires schools to lead their community and educate parents about the benefits of diverse staffing. The parent is the customer, sure, but racist attitudes cannot define the makeup of the faculty or, most distressingly, imbed negative world views in their children.

The second excuse deals with the historical image of White, Western teachers being fundamental to an international school. The irony of international schools defining themselves in this narrow, anti-global way defies the meaning of ‘international’. The missions of accreditation agencies IB and WASC states international-mindedness is a core value, demonstrated by diversity and inclusion, in the classroom as well as the staffroom. While accreditation agencies could and should do more to enforce this mission, schools can take the lead now, rather than perpetuate an outdated image of international schools.

It has been well established that recruiters are facilitating discriminatory practices, mostly, they say, to meet client demand. An influential recruiting agency, Search Associates, admitted after the George Floyd protests in 2020 that they needed to review their own practices. They have removed the NES requirement from all their job advertising and are working to increase diversity within their business model. If it is simply easier (and therefore more profitable) to place White teachers from the 10 ‘approved’ NES countries, recruiters must examine how they can overcome this unfair and profit-driven motivation.

The final excuse is the most difficult to address, particularly during a pandemic.

Despite the 10 NES countries having laws outlawing discrimination on the basis of country of birth, hiring practices in the global context follow the countries in which they operate. Countries, like China, can have hard to change regulations, particularly when they wish to protect and promote their local citizens in the education industry. However, enough pressure from all stakeholders can change regulations, as some Chinese provinces have already done.

I believe international schools and their leadership must guide this change.

They can strongly influence parents and recruiters, as well as eventually the countries they are located in through best practice and promoting equity.

Does your school have tolerance, respect, equality or global mindedness in its mission or values? These don’t just apply to the students. International schools can start through a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) statement on their website.

Great schools and recruiters like here, here and here already do.

By Oliver Escott (Staffroom)


Oliver Escott

Oliver Escott is the Director and Co-founder of Staffroom, whose core purpose is to help teachers create a job and life they dream about.

Staffroom provides international teacher career coaching and support services. They are active advocates of NNES teachers and are passionate about creating the same job opportunities for all international teachers. 


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