Shanghai needs to have stricter standards for foreign teachers

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/24 18:23:39


Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

By now everyone in Shanghai has heard about the Russian female teacher working at a local branch of K & H International School who stuck adhesive tape across the mouths of her noisy kindergarten students during class.

But while the children's parents have been focusing on squeezing the school for financial restitution, what has been direly overlooked by them is that the school itself was unlicensed and the teacher working without a proper visa.

Sleuthing netizens also pointed out that it is rather bizarre for a Russian to be teaching English. "Does the Russian speak native English? Does she have an English education background? Does she have a work permit? If none of these things, then she is illegally working in China," one Weibo user wrote.

Another netizen joked that "I am afraid her students will have Russian accent when speaking English." Such a comment is in fact no joke, as heretofore none of the parents ever realized that had the teacher continued for months or years, her students would have adopted her Russian accent.

As an English major who specialized in translation, I must say that the bigger blame in this case should be placed on educational institutions. Adhering to the municipal government's visa and hiring policies for foreigners, and carrying out background checks, could have prevented this PR disaster.

But the truth is that many private English-language training centers in Shanghai have extremely lax hiring standards for foreign teachers. Most who are recruited are in fact not native English speakers and have no related experience or degrees. Some even have criminal histories that are overlooked or ignored by recruiters.

My Chinese friend Ann is currently dating a man from Spain whose education background and previous work experience have absolutely nothing to do with teaching. Yet upon his arrival in Shanghai he immediately found a job as an English teacher. He has such a thick Spanish accent when speaking English that most of what he says is garbled. I feel terrible for his students, who are literally paying him to learn how to mispronounce.

When I finished my undergraduate studies a couple years ago, I interned at a private middle school in my home province of Zhejiang. The school's Chinese English teaching staff all spoke fluent English but, ironically, most of the foreign teachers there were utterly unqualified to teach.

Many never bothered to prepare their classes and instead just played silly games with students. I knew most had never been trained to teach, and yet their salaries were much higher than what professional Chinese teachers are paid.

More importantly, though, many English language institutions in China don't screen their foreign employees and thus are placing Chinese students in potentially dangerous situations.

One of my female university classmates was harassed by her foreign teacher, who would touch her inappropriately and send her romantic text messages.

Recently, a Spaniard working as a teacher in Shanghai was arrested for smuggling 277 grams of marijuana inside his stomach during a flight from Spain to China. If he had not fallen ill and been exposed, he would have continued dealing drugs to other foreigners here and possibly to his own students.

There are numerous - and far more disturbing - examples of how foreign teachers in China who were not background checked used their positions to prey on children. In 2013 an American teacher at an elite French school in Shanghai was arrested for sexually assaulting at least seven kindergarten-age children.

The year prior, another American teaching at a German international school in Shanghai was caught red-handed sexually molesting a 5-year-old girl. Those are just the ones who were captured; most abused children are too afraid to report their offending teachers, in whom they have placed all their trust, to their parents or school administrators.

Private and public education institutions should start placing the highest priority on foreigners' nationalities, their educational background, industry experience and criminal records. Unqualified foreign teachers not only fail to convey knowledge to paying students, but also can hurt them physically and mentally.

The author is a fashion and lifestyle blogger for The Marginalist. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.


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