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Discrimination in hiring English teachers in Vietnam

“Native English Teachers required” is a statement seen in all teaching English job advertisements all over the world. So, it seems that most of the teaching English jobs are only for those who are from the USA, England, and all other countries that are considered English speaking countries. Is this fair? No and yes! That depends on which side of the mirror you are placed!

Actually, this “mirror” has three sides: the teacher, the school that hires (or maybe not) you, and the students. The saddest part comes after we take a look at these three sides of the mirror, black people.

The teacher

First of all I want to say that the teacher’s nationality should not be a criterion for hiring. Of course, many non-native teachers of English find totally unfair to be rejected from the first moment just because they are not from an English speaking country. I have been teaching English in Vietnam since 2008 and I know that it is harder for a non-native speaker of English to find a teaching job than for a native speaker of English. We live in a modern society that should offer equal opportunities to everybody regardless of someone’s passport color.

There is something else! There is a dark side! Most of the non-native speakers of English have an accent! Some have a strong foreign accent, some have a negligible accent. I wouldn’t like to learn Spanish with someone who speaks Spanish with a Japanese accent for example. If the accent is not so strong then I wouldn’t mind having a teacher of Spanish who is Japanese.

Besides the language abilities, a teacher should have other qualities as well such as classroom management for example. All other qualities have nothing to do with teacher’s nationality or language abilities and they are very important.

So, dear recruiters, at least give a chance to those who are not native speakers of English. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a stable job for the past five years otherwise I am pretty sure I would have encountered some (if not all) of the problems I have just mentioned.

The school

Schools are the ones that hire you and teachers always blame them for not hiring them. What teachers have to understand is that schools are businesses. They provide services to their customers and they have to make sure that their customers are happy. Only a happy customer pays money. If the customer requires native speaker of English then the school gives him that! Said but true!

Some schools hire only native speakers of English because they want to look like “high standard” schools and that is, in their opinion, the requirement for “high standard” schools.

Schools have some other reasons for not hiring a non-native speaker of English but the two reasons I mentioned are the main reasons, at least here, in Vietnam.

The students

The students are the one who should be blamed. They usually require a native speaker of English. Are they right? Are they wrong? I have no idea! It is their right to demand certain things, such as teachers who are native speakers of English.

Students usually say that they don’t understand non-native speakers of English’ accents but according to my experience they don’t understand any accent. Also, according to my experience, Vietnamese learners of English understand British accent worst than other accents, such as my Romanian accent.

The learners are also afraid of picking the accent of the teacher who is non-native speaker of English. That is not the case! The most difficult thing is to copy someone’s accent. So, dear students, stop asking “where are the teachers from?” because that is not relevant. Nationality does not make a teacher good or bad.

Black people - Discrimination in hiring ESL/EFL teachers in Vietnam

To be honest with you, I haven’t met personally any English teacher who was black. I met a math teacher who was black in 2010 but he is the only one black teacher I have ever met in Vietnam and as I mentioned he was a math teacher.

I had many discussions with different Vietnamese, learners of English and others, and all of them said “I am afraid of black people”. I always asked why you are afraid and the answer is always the same: “the way they look”. Basically, according to Vietnamese people, black people look scary.

Once I had a beer with the police guy who was responsible of the area I lived in and he said that the vast majority of foreigners who create problems in Vietnam are black people. He also told me that most of these black people are Nigerians, not other nationalities, and the visa conditions for these people (Nigerians) will tighten very soon.

So, if an American for example, who is black, wants to come to Vietnam to teach English then there are less chances for him to find a teaching job than for a Caucasian teacher. I am quite sure that a Vietnamese parent won’t be very happy if his child study English with a black teacher. I believe that Hollywood and its movies is in part responsible for this inaccurate image of black people.

Update: September 3rd, 2015 – I have met five black people who are English teachers in Saigon and they didn’t have major problems in finding an English teaching job.

Conclusion

Students are the ones that dictates who is hired and who is not. Students are the ones who pay money so recruiters do whatever they can to make their customers happy; in our case the customers are the students. There are many native speakers of English who apply for a teaching job and recruiters usually choose one of them over a non-native speaker of English.

The supremacy of native speakers of English over non-native speakers of English has been fossilizing in people’s minds for the past two decades and now it seems to be very difficult to change that conception.

Is it discrimination?


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