Discussion Topics

The Native English Speaker Teaching Scam (Part 1)

January 22, 2021


There is a clear form of racism – based on your country of origin – apparent in international teaching today. Recruiting educators can be based on their passport, rather than their skills, qualifications and experience. This is discrimination that everyone involved in international teaching must protest and actively renounce. The issue is as blatant as it is pervasive.

Job advertisements for international schools regularly specify applications by Native English Speakers (NES). The definition is itself is dishonest, as the commonly used NES job requirement only applies to 10 countries (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the 4 countries of the United Kingdom and the United States).

54 countries have English as their official language and 43 are ignored as NES. The United States does not even have English as its official language. Yet job advertisements from recruiters and international schools can be written like this without sanction:

Why are advertisements phrased this way? One explanation is the historic, systemic bias in the NES definition to stop Black and other People of Colour from applying for teaching roles. Using data from the CIA World Factbook, the 10 NES countries listed in this job ad have a population identifying as white (on average) of 75.5%.

The 43 other countries with English as their official language, not mentioned in the job ad and deliberately ignored by the NES definition, have a population identifying as white of 6.8%.

This may just be a coincidence, but notice this ad puts the discriminatory country of birth requirement ahead of both qualifications and experience.

Dismissively called Non-Native English Speakers (NNES), international teachers from outside the 10 preferred countries do not even have the chance to prove whether their skills, qualifications and experience are sufficiently matched by their English language ability.

The onus on reforming the system falls to those who benefit, particularly those educators, school leadership and recruiters, including me, who have the ‘right’ passport. NES must be banished from all job ads and hiring practices in international schools. My next post (The Native English Speaker Teaching Scam ‘Part 2’) will address how to overcome the four main barriers used to defend the systemic bias in international teaching recruitment.

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. We provide international teacher career coaching and support services. Our products include the $1 Job Club, a curated list of progressive international schools and recruiters. We are active advocates of NNES teachers and are passionate about creating the same job opportunities for all international teachers.