Equity in ELT

I am proud to announce today’s episode, our very first interview here on ELT TV.

Marek Kiczkowiak has been my number one choice since I decided to start a monthly interview segment and I was very happy when he said he’d give me an interview.

He embodies some characteristics that every teacher should have, especially non-native English speaker teachers (NNESTs): persistence and selflessness.

We NNESTs often complain, most of the time with fellow NNESTs, about how unfair our industry is at times, but how many of us actually do something about it? Not many.

Marek is the living proof that everyone can make a difference. After being denied a job because he was not a native speaker of English, he created a great movement that advocates in favour of NNESTs, the rest is history.

The truth is we have to try harder. NNESTs are not given the same opportunities. If you don’t think there is prejudice against NNESTs, I invite you to have a look at recent job ads and draw your conclusions from there.

Once a person told me that I was playing the victim when I said NNESTs have fewer opportunities. What I said to this person was that I wasn’t a victim, I was a voice. Speaking out against the injustices of the world doesn’t make anyone a victim. Unfortunately, some people seem to have little understanding of the concept of privilege.

As you may have realized by now, I am into challenges and this may be a good opportunity to start one. Here it goes: write about why you think native and non-native English speaker teachers should have equal employment opportunities. It can be a blog, a Facebook post or even a tweet. Speak your mind! Use the hashtag #PassportsShouldNotMatter for us to keep track. If you are feeling adventurous, grab a smartphone and make a video. Be one of the voices that will change our industry!

Having said that, I would like to challenge someone who I know is proud to be a Brazilian, Higor Cavalcante. Higor has been in ELT for nearly 17 years, and is a freelance teacher, teacher educator and writer. His main interests in ELT are language development for teachers, extensive reading and phonology. Higor recently gave a great talk on NESTs and NNESTs at the IATEFL Conference. Don’t forget to check his blog. He also regularly blogs at RichmondShare.

I hope you found this interview informative. Please, share it with your friends (native and non-native English speakers).

Thank you so much for watching, see you next time!


5 thoughts on “Equity in ELT

  1. Dear Thiago

    Thanks for adding your voice to the campaign. I’m myself also impressed by the work Marek K. has been doing and have been following it online. It’s great that you’re asking people to raise their voice and add to the discussion but I wonder if you’re not asking them to discuss the wrong question.

    In his recent blogpost Christopher Smith from Shefield university http://eltcattheuniversityofsheffield.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/native-and-non-native-english-speaking.html argued, and I think very convincingly, that by allowing the very discussion on whether NNESTs are just as good as NESTs to go on, we actually perpetuate the myth of the non-native speaker. I believe he has a point.

    Therefore, by asking people to discuss “why you think native and non-native English speaker teachers should have equal employment opportunities” it is likely that only the same old arguments will be repeated again. Isn’t it time to move the discussion on an ask explicitly, rather than implying, how do we achieve equal employment opportunities in ELT, regardless of gender, age, race or nationality?

    Best wishes

    • Hi Dita, thank you for your comment.
      You have a very interesting point and I’m glad you raised this question. I tend to agree with Christopher when he said that the words native and non-native should not be used to define linguistic abilities. I’ve said many times that these terms and the ways they are used are often a disservice to our industry.
      However, whether we like it or not, there is a historical divide and using the terms NEST/NNEST may help give visibility to NNESTs. While there is the umbrella idea of equality (for gender, age, race, etc), each group is different and has different demands and needs. For us to achieve a reasonable level of equality in our industry, IMHO, we need to acknowledge their voices and together listen to the demands of each group and try to do something about it.
      For instance, I am not a woman. As much as I empathize with what women go through and their struggles, as much as I listen to them, I cannot speak for them. I can (and must) support women, but not say what should and shouldn’t be part of their political agenda, for example.
      I’m afraid that it could be a bit superficial to put all the groups you mentioned in one category, as we’d lose focus of each group’s needs. We’d ignore all who came before us and were able to, somehow, make a difference. A white British woman and I (a non-native latino) are oppressed in different ways.
      I hope I answered your question.

    • Good point. On the one hand, as you point out, the two labels just further perpetuate the divide and stereotypes. On the other, scholars have proposed countless alternatives in the last 20 years which haven’t caught on really. I’d like to see the two labels disappear from professional discourse and job ads, but as things stand at the moment they serve to pinpoint the problem and give an identity to the movement.
      I think we should do both: argue why NNESTs are also great teachers and discuss how to achieve equality in ELT. There’s a lot of educating to be done, especially as far as students and their parents are concerned.

  2. Hey all,
    I would say I have found this topic quite interesting. I don’t know in which column I would be classified; a victim or …….In fact, I have suffered this stigma and would want to speak out my mind. I wrote an article on a certain website that fans this stigma in South Korea and it created what it could. That aside: I am of the opinion that teaching is an art as such, not found with everyone – be them native or non. I have disagreed time and again with those who claim that native speakers are better teachers of English. Most of these native speakers have barely acquired the language thanks to the environment in which they grew up and are often found wanting as to certain explanations. I did my TELF certification with students of the so-called native speaking countries and even found them wanting. I came out the overall best with a record score of 96.11 % yet was disfavored in the job market . Those that performed less than I did were preferred to me because of my nationality (Cameroon). English has become a global language and anyone with good knowledge of the language should be given a fair chance to compete with others.If we were to talk of native speakers of English, I think they should only be British citizens for; that is where English originates. English comes from England. It is about time this stigma stopped ! Thanks

    • It is time this stigma stopped indeed, Tegwi. Thank you so much for your comment and please, if you have the time, share the article you wrote, I would love to read it.
      I have an American friend who teaches in South Korea, it seems to me it’s very difficult for NNESTs to find a job there.

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