Inequality in ELT – my thoughts on Jeremy Harmer’s blog postPosted: April 29, 2010
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My answer to Jeremy Harmer’s blog post. I decided to share it here to see what your thoughts are:
As an English teacher from Slovakia, living and working in the Czech Republic, I consider myself a part of the “common” teaching crowd (and I don’t use this term in a negative way – it’s just the way it is and, to be honest, I feel happy where I am, so do not send me any VIP plenary speaker invites jest yet, please!;))
Of course, there are hierarchies and structures.
I feel that most critical voices stem from the fact that language teaching is considered to be one of those noble, “selfless”, egalitarian occupations and, naturally, any mention of “profit” is bound to be sneered at, even if it’s deserved.
Also, unfortunately, foreign language teaching is very much undervalued within too many political systems around the world. Organisers there have a difficult task balancing quality of content, number of participants and satisfaction of all parties involved.
While there surely are brilliant minds all over the world that aren’t given due respect or reward, the brilliant minds that are invited to conferences and are respected in the world of ELT (whether thanks to intelligence, personal charm, a bit of ‘egotism’, etc.) have something to give. Neither they, nor the organisers can be blamed for “unequal” treatment, even if “profit” is involved (and where isn’t?).
We do live in an unequal world, after all. Hopefully, thanks to language teaching, the possibilities are becoming equally open to everyone.
At the same time, however, I am a little concerned about a different kind of inequality, still existing in every-day teaching situations in many countries. I’ve got personal experience from a prestigious state-owned bilingual grammar school in Slovakia, where I used to teach English with some of my native-speaking colleagues. Here, the pressures from parents to have more native-speaking teachers were so high that the school management had to offer many more advantages, both in terms of pay and other perks, to “attract” native speaking teachers. The parents saw this as absolutely acceptable and were willing to provide separate funds to provide more finances for native speaking teachers. It goes without saying that, while the local teachers were automatically expected not only to do their teaching job well, but the majority of paperwork, organise parent-meetings, as well as be held responsible for the success of the students at exams, even so, they were paid much less.
What we need, I feel, is change the existing discriminatory attitudes that put “native” teachers above their non-native speaking ELT colleagues.
What do you think?