A foreign face no longer enough

By Zhang Xinyuan Source:Global Times Published: 2016-4-10 21:23:01

New policy to block many non-native English speakers from legally teaching the language in China

In a bid to improve the quality of English language education in the country, the Chinese government has raised the bar for foreigners hoping to gain employment teaching the language. Photo: IC

Marco (pseudonym) from the Philippines worked as an English teacher in Beijing from 2006 to 2011. Even though he changed jobs and is now a marketing manager at an educational institution, he still loves to teach and would consider returning to the classroom. So, naturally, he was very disappointed when he heard that this avenue of employment might no longer be open to him. 

According to China's State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs' latest rule released in September, non-native English speakers cannot be hired as English teachers without a degree from a native English speaking country proving their language proficiency.

The topic is now trending on social network platforms, including Reddit and Quora, drawing the attention of numerous foreigners living in China.

"Foreigners from non-native English speaking countries can no longer teach English in China at any level unless they have a bachelor degree or above from an English-speaking country plus two years' working experience in English language education," according to the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs' email reply to Metropolitan. "If a non-native English speaker majored in education, or has a teacher's certificate recognized by our administration, such as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, then the two years' work experience is not necessary," the administration said, emphasizing that "a bachelor degree or above is still a must."

In Marco's case, although he majored in education in the Philippines, has five years' experience teaching the English language, and a recently acquired the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate, he is now barred from legally teaching in China because he does not have a degree from an English-speaking country.

The administration issued the policy to attract more native English speakers with a qualified educational background to further improve China's English language education level, the administration explained.

According to a 2015 Chinese Business View report, many non-native English teachers failed an evaluation administered by a professional interpreter in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province, due to their poor pronunciation. The report said a large amount of non-native English speakers are still working as English language teachers in second- and third-tier cities. The reason it said was that most native English speakers were reluctant to go to small cities, causing the quality of English language education in those areas to suffer.

Mu Yanwen, the founder and CEO of Boto Education, an English-language education institution based in Beijing, spoke of meeting an English teacher from Ukraine on his business trip to Shenyang, Liaoning Province in 2015. "When I asked him about his job, he told me that what he did in the school was 'just being white,'" said Mu. "He said his Caucasian face convinces the students' parents that the school offers professional English-language education, but his English was not that proficient."

Chinese people now demand better English-language education and they can judge whether an English teacher is qualified, according to Mu, who prefers to hire native English speakers that understand Western culture.

"The only non-native English speaking teacher I hired is from Germany. He got his English teaching degree in the US and teaches European history," he said.

Marco thinks it's a pity that a lot of qualified non-native English speakers cannot teach the language though they can educate well and have good classroom experience "I feel bad about it. But what else can we do? Well, I am hoping for the best. I hope there will be changes in policy in the future," Marco said.

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