What would you call it if a language school refused to employ someone on the grounds that they spoke another language fluently, other than English? Discrimination? Racism? Native-speakerism? All of the above?
A teacher applied to Whales English, based in Beijing, for an online position teaching children, having more than the required experience and qualifications. She was unsuccessful. But one of the grounds of her refusal was because of a system of “keywords” used to automatically screen out applicants. The company admitted in writing that one of these is saying you are fluent in other languages as it “could fool the system/recruiters into thinking you are not a native speaker.”
Of course, the TEFL Workers’ Union simply does not accept that non-native speakers can be assumed to be poorer teachers. However, regardless of that, it is absurd to suggest that bilingual people cannot be native speakers. That an English language school fails to understand that is astonishing
Moreover, in the context of the English language in particular, large numbers of native English speakers are either born in countries such as India, Pakistan, Malaysia etc, where English is the first language of a very large number of citizens, or, as in this teacher’s case, are born, raised and educated in the UK, but learn other languages from their particular ethnic community. Discriminating against job applicants on that basis runs the risk of being guilty of race-based discrimination. To come up against such attitudes in 2021 is shocking and appalling.
The TEFL Workers’ Union demands that this practice is ended and that the worker concerned is compensated for the distress suffered! We will not tolerate discrimination in the ELT industry and we certainly won’t tolerate our members being denied jobs because of the bigotry and prejudice of dodgy language schools.
We’ve already raised the issue directly with Whales English who’ve neglected to respond. Perhaps they think that will be the end of the matter. They’re wrong. Watch this space to see how you can help put an end to discrimination at Whales English – and across English language teaching.