Is it necessary to raise the bar for foreign English teachers?

(Discussion on Linkedin)

Editor’s note: Tighter requirements have been placed to ensure the quality of foreign English teachers employed in schools and educational establishments. Do you think it is necessary to raise the bar for foreign teachers? Are native English-speaking teachers always the right choice? Forum readers share their opinion.

Laowai2 (UK)

I was sent some past test papers from a student studying for her gaokao, the usual ‘read this and tick one of four answers’. The “correct” answers were also provided. Not only were some of the questions ambiguous or impossible to answer, but some of the “correct” answers were actually wrong! I understand her Chinese English teacher wrote the test papers. The student sent me the papers because she could see some were incorrect. Wouldn’t you think the native English teachers would check them?

Fatdragon (UK)

There is a danger in setting university degree standards as the measure of the potential English teacher. A university degree is not a measure of the ability to either teach English or of the quality of the spoken English practiced by the teacher.

“Native English Speakers” may or may not have the advantage of the correct standard of English as it should be noted that there is no universal standard of English and pronunciation can vary wildly, not just between English speaking countries but even within the UK. To overcome this issue of potentially strong regional dialects and grammar it would be necessary to grade English for neutrality.

The final point is that the higher you raise the bar then the fewer suitably qualified teachers you will end up having access to. This will in turn increase the wages that they can command and will probably price out smaller educational establishment who could no longer afford them. The result will be that the majority of Chinese students will only have access to native Chinese teachers with excellent grammar but bad pronunciation and an overuse of long, important sounding adjectives that would have the average Englishman reaching for a dictionary before he could understand the meaning.

seneca (expat in China)

No matter how good a foreign teacher is, the conditions are set by Chinese professionals whose objectives are incompatible with those of the international community. Chinese educators only care about how much a pupil can regurgitate off his or her memory during an exam; they don’t know what really matters, i.e. that a pupil can communicate in the target language. To communicate effectively, you have to stop thinking in one language and translate into another. Most of them are not capable of communicating in English. Hence raising the bar for a choice few foreign teachers is not going to improve anything.

cwdy (China)

The most urgent need for teaching of English language in China is not to raise the standard for foreign teachers, but the standard of our Chinese ones, the recruitment of English teachers among Chinese home-educated students is a complete failure, I haven’t met a single qualified home-educated English teacher during my life. And as for me, a self-educated one, who I believe is ten levels above those in teaching, couldn’t get a teaching job.

teamkrejados (France)

As far as I know, Hubei province is piloting a program in which prospective teachers must substantiate their degree – a sealed transcript, or maybe an official letter. I’m not sure what exactly the criteria are. I handed over a sealed transcript of my degree and am still waiting for response on whether that would be satisfactory.

As far as overhauling the quality of English and English teaching in China, here are a few ideas:

1. One big problem is that, to begin with, there is no standard English. China should insist on accent/region neutral English speakers and choose a standard of English writing – Oxford, American or Australian (the 3 main)

2. Engage a team of native English speakers conversant in the chosen standardized English to proof any text – book, exam, etc.

3. Stop teaching English in Chinese (beyond the first few grades)!

beijingyank (US)

There is a shortfall of over 100,000 foreign teachers in China now. As a foreign teacher, diploma, qualified, licensed, experienced, background checked, and who passed all the medical exams, I really don’t mind the bar being raised.

It is simple matter of supply and demand. Raising the bar for foreign teachers will increase the foreign teacher shortfall. Meanwhile, increasing demand translates into higher pay for the “left behind” foreign teachers in China.

(Credit: China Daily)


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