Achilleas Kostoulas

Applied Linguistics & Language Teacher Education

Racially diverse students reading together in a classroom setting

Race and TESOL

One of the many passages I have underlined in The Reflexive Teacher Educator in TESOL by Julian Edge is the following:

Javier (2010) also reports the difficulties of establishing her acceptability to students as their English teacher, while belonging to what she terms a ‘visible ethnic minority’. Put simply, looking Filipino and teaching English in China brings its own complications. Her students needed to see an embodiment of the mental schema of a native speaker of English in order to be able to hear the English that they required. […] Here again, although in different terms, questions of native-speakerism and racism overlap.

It saddens me to say that I was not entirely taken aback by what I read, since I was already familiar with the Native / Non-Native Speaker debate, as I am sure many readers of this blog are. And though I emphatically disagree with the notion that a Native Speaker of English is by default a better teacher of that language, I do understand why some people may feel that a ‘prestige’ accent, or familiarity with vernacular forms, or first-hand experience of the target culture might be considered advantageous.

What I was less prepared to accept was that attitudes which I could only describe as blatant racism could be so casually translated into practice in education, of all places. And I was even more uncomfortable to realise that such beliefs were so deeply ingrained in ideology that I had failed to notice them. And yet, for a large number of colleagues, the effects of such injustice are much more evident.

If you haven’t already done so, I would like to invite you to read about the experience of being a Visible Ethnic Minority teacher, as described by Eljee Javier herself, and perhaps to reflect on what it would take for ELT to move beyond such practices.

Featured Image by The LEAF Project @ Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0 






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