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The Hurdle of Native Speaker Requirement for English Language Teachers

Dr. Ruth E. Petzold, at a teaching class in Morocco

By Abdelmounim Ait Hammou

Casablanca – A stereotype about the effectiveness and superiority of English taught by native-speakers remains as thousands of highly-qualified and certified non-native speakers are still struggling to land a job outside their home countries. 

Native English speakers seem to have no difficulties getting a teaching position in any country they desire. This is due to the recruiters’ preference to candidates from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa. Interestingly enough, candidates from the above-mentioned countries do not need to have teaching backgroundand, in some cases, not even a teaching certificate is required to get a job . Schools around the world announce vacancies online, using websites like www.tefl.com or www.bayt.com, with certain explicit and discriminatory requirements for prospective candidates. One of the requirements is that the candidate should be a native speaker of English, the expression so conspicuous between brackets: Native speakers only.” In Asia and the Arab Gulf countries, the requirement seems to have become an indispensable and irreplaceable condition for any job-seeker to the extent that employers blatantly state: “if you are not a native speaker, we will not consider your application.” This shows how deeply rooted the idea of ‘Nativeness’ has become for recruiters and school’s principals.

Infact, thousands of certified English teachers possess almost all of the mandated requirements and necessary qualifications, except the hurtful stipulation of being a native speaker, which not only disqualifies prospective non-native speaker candidates, but also disillusions them and negatively affects their psychology. Teachers have voiced, and continue to voice, their disapproval, feeling discriminated against every time they try applying for a new position in Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East. The outcry and rejection of this biased recruitment is merited since many highly skilled teachers cannot use their teaching skills to explore the world and discover new cultures. As a newly qualified teacher, a CELTA holder, and an English Literature graduate, I certainly wish to have an opportunity to teach abroad and gain both experience and cultural competence. However, the mandatory native speaker requirement for every job posting has diminished my previously high hopes of embarking on a teaching career in Asia or the Middle East. Whenever I try to apply for a job, I get excited when I see that I have all the requirements, and simultaneously, I get disappointed, as do many others, when being a native speaker is considered a primary requirement.

It is incorrect to assume that only native speakers can teach English. If this were the case, I may not have learned it from my Moroccan teachers, who I believe are better than many native speakers. I had the opportunity to be taught by and teach with native English speakers, and I can honestly say that the quality of their teaching is no more exceptional than my Moroccan teachers or the teachers I recently trained with at the British Council in Casablanca for the CELTA certificate. I still vividly remember how difficult it was for a native speaker, who was a candidate with me at British Council, to teach grammar and explain vocabulary in a pedagogically, intelligible way. She even confessed that “non-native speakers are more competent and able in English teaching than many native-speakers.” This statement should be taken into consideration by recruiters around the world. They should give any competent teacher the chance to showcase their skills and abilities and prove that employers have been wrong in their recruitment criteria all these years.

To conclude, it appears that the discriminatory selection process of English language teachers will remain biased as long as recruiters and school principals adamantly and advertently turn a blind eye to qualified English teachers from other countries. Unless a law is passed to give equal opportunities to all candidates, regardless of their nationality, I think us teachers will still have to shoulder the difficulty to find a job overseas.

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