Discussion Topics

The Native English Speaker Teaching Scam #2

February 7, 2021


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 ads. Even if this distinction could be rectified, what advantage does an NES have over an NNES teacher in an international school? Four common and interconnected excuses are used by stakeholders:

  1. Parents, the customer, want NES teachers
  2. Schools require NES to market “internationalness” to parents
  3. Recruiters can’t or worse, won’t, recommend NNES to schools
  4. 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 but racist attitudes cannot define the makeup of the faculty or, most distressingly, imbed negative worldviews 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 state 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agencies could and should do more to enforce this mission, schools can take the lead now, rather than perpetuate an outdated image of international schools.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.

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. 

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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. 

continue reading