Experienced? Qualified? Irish?

In the summer of 2016 I conducted my MA research entitled Perspectives on NNESTs: an insight into language teaching organisations (LTO) industry in Dublin. I wanted to find out different stakeholders’ perspectives concerning non-native teachers in the city through students, teachers themselves, Directors of Studies and by conducting analyses of schools’ websites.

For the purposes of this article, I decided to focus on the analysis of schools’ websites and how these portray English teachers, more specifically non-native ones. I also pose a question as to what kind of practices English Language schools in Dublin have when it comes to teachers in general.

Discrimination and hiring practices in Ireland

In the context of Ireland, some schools advertise for NESTs only. According to Bruce (2015, para.6), a degree in any area, a 100-hour TEFL course and an Irish passport would be more valuable than a NNEST with a degree in pedagogy, an MA in Applied Linguistics and “flawless English”.

Nevertheless, for Medgyes (2001, p. 432), hiring practices are “in a state of transition”. This statement is supported by Harmer (as cited in Çakir and Demír, 2013, p. 162), which asserts that until recently, it was not possible to find a non-native English speaking teacher working in English-speaking countries like Australia or the UK whereas nowadays, this scenario has changed.

The laws in Ireland prohibit discrimination and promote equality in a wide range of areas, including race, which consists of skin color, nationality or ethnic or national origin (“Equality… in Ireland”, n.d., para.8). As a matter of fact, there are laws forbidding discriminatory practices not only in this country, but also European Union. However, as my research later uncovered, some schools in Dublin state that their staff is composed of native-speakers only, which could imply discrimination against teachers who were not born in countries where English is spoken as an official language. Indeed, as the analysis conducted for this study showed, the websites and brochures of nearly one quarter of the LTOs promote nativeness as a positive characteristic of their teaching staff.

My research and school websites

Initially, I wanted to conduct research on job advertisements and how they can be discriminatory in the ELT sector. However, it was decided that due to the low number of job advertisements for English teachers in Dublin, the results would not be consistent enough and an analysis of what schools present in the public domain could be made instead. Therefore, a total of 46 school websites and brochures was considered for their content analysis. The main objective of the analysis was to investigate whether there were details which could indicate hiring practices – particularly if the institution claimed having “native-speakers only” in their staff.

The investigation shows that LTOs in Dublin list up to six different factors as major characteristics of teachers in their staff. The factors acknowledged included: experience, nativeness, TEFL qualifications, university qualifications, other educational qualifications and personality traits, such as enthusiasm and passion for teaching.

In the table below an overview of the factors found through the examination of the websites and brochures can be seen:

List of factors mentioned by LTOs in Dublin

Factors Total number of schools
Experience 16
University degree 15
TEFL qualifications 14
Other educational qualifications 12
No information on teachers 11
Nativeness 10
Personality traits 9

Results explained

Experience

Teaching experience was the most common characteristic mentioned by schools when describing the teacher who work for those institutions. One could speculate that most of these schools seem to believe that experience can be a good selling factor. Some of them state things such as “all our teachers are experienced” and “we have a team of highly experienced English language teachers”.

University degree

Out of the 46 schools, 15 bring up the fact that their teachers have university degrees. This was the second most common item in the analysis of websites and brochures conducted. Some of them make statements such as “all teachers have a primary university degree” and “all teachers are university graduates”.

TEFL qualifications

Having a TEFL qualification seems to be one of the most important characteristics of teachers in Dublin – 30.4% of schools disclose this information as a positive item. Some of the schools also mention specific qualifications such as the CELTA or an ACELS approved course.

Other educational qualifications

Some of the schools, more specifically, 26% of them, say their teachers are qualified, but do not provide any further details on their educational qualifications. This is supported by some of the descriptions found in their brochures and websites, such as “fully qualified teachers” and “we have a team of well qualified and highly experienced English language teachers”.

Nativeness

The fact of having a native-speaker teaching staff was the fifth most frequent factor presented by schools in Dublin, with 21.7% of LTOs presenting statements that emblazon this idea: “all teachers and staff are native English speakers”, “all our teachers are native English speakers” and “All of our teachers are Irish, Native Speakers of English”. The last one seems to exclude not only teachers who are not native speakers, but also the ones who were not born in Ireland.

Personality traits

This was the factor least mentioned in the websites and brochures analyzed. Only 19.5% of LTOs refer to features, for example: “passionate and dynamic teachers”, “our staff are chosen for their enthusiasm and experience” and “creative, dynamic English speakers”.

Conclusion

Taking into consideration my research questions, we can say that from this stakeholder’s perspective, the prevailing factor in common described by language teaching institutions in Dublin is teaching experience. The content analysis performed shows that nearly 35% of schools mention experience in either their websites or brochures. The second and third most cited factors were university degree and TEFL qualifications, which show that according to what schools advertise, their teaching staff is experienced and qualified.

As far as I am aware, no specific research on websites of schools operating in Dublin has been carried out and despite the results obtained by other researchers (such as Selvi (2010) and Mahboob and Golden (2013)) nativeness is not the most cited criteria in Dublin’s language schools websites and brochure. This might be because there are laws forbidding explicitly discriminatory practices in Ireland, which might impede employers from displaying such information in the public domain.

This piece of research is relevant because even though there are laws against discrimination in Ireland and the EU, schools are still advertising against non-native teachers in broad daylight. If these LTOs are doing that, one can imagine what kind of practices these schools have when it comes to teachers’ rights, fair wages, pay scales, sick pay and so many other factors affecting teachers’ professional and personal lives. We need an urgent reform in this industry, and the only way to do it is by getting together and joining a union – that’s the only way us teachers can change the status quo. I myself see this job as my profession, my career, and want employers to see it that way too.

by Bárbara Hernandes

Sources mentioned:

Bruce, S. (2015, July 13). The Importance of Being Native. Retrieved July 10, 2016, from EAPing: http://eaping.blogspot.ie/2015/07/the-importance-of-being-native.html?spref=tw

Medgyes, P. (2001). When the teacher is a non-native speaker. Em M. Celce-Murcia, Teaching English as a second or foreign language (pp. 429 – 442). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Çakir, H., & Demír, Y. (2013). The employability of non-native speaker teachers of English: sample cases of unfair hiring practices. International symposium on changes and new trends in education – Symposium Book Vol. 1, (pp. 159 – 163).

Equality and Non-Discrimination in Ireland. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2016, from Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission: http://www.ihrec.ie/your-rights/what-is-equality/equality-and-non-discrimi2.html

Selvi, A. F. (2010). All teachers are equal, but some teachers are more equal than others: Trend analysis of job advertisements in english language teaching. WATESOL NNEST Caucus Annual Review – Vol. 1, (pp. 156 – 181).

Mahboob, A., & Golden, R. (2013). Looking for Native Speakers of English: Discrimination in English Language Teaching Job Advertisements. Voices in Asia – Volume 1/1 (pp. 72 – 81). Sidney: University of Sidney.

Do you have a piece of research that you want to get out into the world? We are happy to publish articles pertaining to employment, precarity, socio-economic factors, etc., as they relate to English language teachers. Email us at eltadvocacy@gmail.com in confidence.

(Image credit: Pixabay)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.