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agencies could and should do more to enforce this mission, schools can take the lead now, rather than perpetuate an outdated image of international schools.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. 

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Teachers on the Move

Teachers on the Move – Writing Applications

January 25, 2019


There are no guarantees in this world, you could be the best teacher, highly qualified and experienced, write an amazing application, and still not achieve an interview.  Here is the deal – there is no simple answer to the question: ‘What do recruiters want to see on your resume?’ But there are some simple truths.

In this day and age, administrators are busy people, school life is demanding on a day to day basis, then there are development plans and wait – recruitment??  The popular schools receive thousands of on spec applications, all year round. Some schools use HR to filter them, others use agents, often even a combination of factors. So, for example, I know for a fact that I didn’t make a short list because I didn’t have a particular qualification, even though I can do that job better than most people with the qualification.  Why? Because a locally employed HR person had a checklist. I would never have been hired by a particular school in Turkey if I hadn’t met the recruiter in person. I had the wrong qualification for Turkey specifically, but they made it work, because they met me and believed in me. So applications can only do so much. I will write another post on networking soon.

Here’s another truth (sadly) – Nationality counts, as does first language.  This is not always up to the school, it is often an immigration restriction by the country and these change all the time, so do your homework, don’t waste their time applying where they can’t hire you anyway.  This also applies to age, many countries do not allow teachers to work over 60. Don’t blame the schools, there is nothing they can do about it.

Third truth: when wading through a pile of applications at the end of a very full day, administrators are hoping for simplicity, clarity, and personality.  That’s where you can gain an edge. I have read thousands of applications, honestly most of them are awful. It is sad to report, based on my coaching experience, that often the best people are presenting themselves badly while others are just really good at presentation.  If you do nothing else; find a friend who gets lots of interviews and compare your paperwork. But the following advice applies across the board:

Avoid repetition – recruiters don’t want to read the same information in your cv, your letter and your philosophy statement.

Resume/CV length Some people say one page, I say that’s really difficult unless you are 25, so two pages are fine, but not more, and no cheating with extending footers and margins, we can tell!

Keep cv statements short and focussed – my pet hate is seeing long straggly sentences in the Experience section. Bullet points people, bullet points!  Not ‘have been instrumental in developing IEP for students’, rather ‘developed IEPs’. Besides anything else. this shows you can synthesise and also have some consideration for a tired administrator!  

Do include Extracurriculars – there are many schools looking for a volleyball coach or a drama enthusiast to help organise shows. It also shows that you’re looking to contribute beyond the classroom.  

Do include recent professional development – we like to know you are a life-long learner and your PD also indicates your professional interest.  But nobody cares about that workshop you took in 2007. Recent!

Letter length – one page, ONE!

Letter content – depends – if the school has asked for a philosophy statement then you don’t need to include your educational beliefs in your letter, if you are applying via a site where you have a detailed profile, you don’t need to include too many background details.  Use common sense.

Always mention where you saw the job. I don’t advocate for on-spec applications, unless you know someone at the school or have met an administrator.

Always mention what interests you about the school, be specific!  Always mention how you can meet the job specification. If you can’t, please don’t apply.

Always synchronise any description of your pedagogy, beliefs, experience with something you know about the school, use their key words. This shows that you have done your research and thought about how you would support the forward movement of the school.

Share a personal passion, the best schools are seeking passionate educators!  Reflect on what you have learned on your journey, or if you are just starting out, what you are hoping for or looking forward to.  The best schools hire teachers who understand the learning journey. More than that, they love people who are real.

Finally,  write a well constructed letter.  If I read another letter where all the sentences start with I or my, I am going to have a blue fit!  I would not accept this from a Grade 4 student and a decent administrator will throw such a letter in the bin,  Sentence diversity shows that you can support language development which, believe me, is highly sought after. So unless you are one of the 103 highly sought after Physics teachers in the world, learn to write a decent letter, or have someone help you. I’ve turned around more applications than I can count with that simple strategy.

One of my coachees told me recently ‘this is hard work’. Yes it is, and it is good that it is, it is a test of your capacity and commitment. Our job is not an easy one, heads want to know that you can measure up to their requirements.  Remember, the best schools are looking for the best people, it is competitive out there, you need to show your best side. But remember you can do all this and there are a myriad reasons why you aren’t selected, team balance, school diversity, someone who is a known quantity. If you want assurance, marry a Physics teacher. Otherwise breathe. Go back, read carefully, edit profusely, and all the best luck with your search. There are more schools than educators, keep calm and positive. Be yourself and you’ll find a match.

Kirsten Durward is the PYP Coordinator at KIS International School in Bangkok.  With leadership experience in 5 schools, she has been reading applications and coaching teachers for many years.  She enjoys supporting educators to make successful transitions in a myriad of ways. You can find her on Linkedin or through the facebook group ‘Teachers on the Move’.

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