Re:Fielded discussion: Peter Medgyes - Native or Non-Native language te
- The problem is not the teachers. The problem is not the schools. The problem
is the customer. The end user. The student. The parent of the student.
The famed Hungarian Zsa Zsa Gabor once said, sex appeal is 50% what you've
got and 50% what others think you've got.
As far as teaching goes.
Some non-native English teachers can barely speak English. That said, I make
it a habit of asking my students if they had a native English speaker before
me. Many of my students, with very good English, reply that I am their first
native English teacher. So some non-native English speakers are very poor
and some are very good.
Are all native English speakers good? I think we can agree that all native
English speakers are not good.
As far as business goes.
Let's remember that all schools are a business from the little one-room
language academy to Harvard or Cambridge, all schools are a business. Their
number one mission, whether they admit it or not, is to financially sustain
their school (read: make money or win government support money). If they
don't do this they cease to exist.
So for many schools the decision on which teachers to hire is determined by
what is going to be the most attractive to the market. Will a school full of
English teaching Americans be more attractive than a school full of local
teachers? Yes. But can we blame them? We all hold this bias.
Would people rather go to a French restaurant with cooks from Mexico or
cooks from France? Would people rather study Kung Fu from a Nigerian teacher
or a Chinese martial arts expert from the famed Shaolin Temple? Would people
rather study African animal behavior from a professor from Iceland or a
professor from Kenya?
We all hold this kind of bias.
A couple years ago, researchers in neuroscience did some experiments with
wine. They told their test subjects some cheap wine was very expensive.
Measuring brain activity, the test subjects enjoyed the fake expensive wine
Schools cannot ignore this bias.
The bias goes further that the color of the skin and the country name on the
passport. It goes to accreditation. Schools like to stack up their staff
with teachers bearing PhDs and Masters degrees. Do they teach better than
teachers with a Bachelors? Does it really take a Masters degree to lead a
class of 20 kindergarten kids in an action song? In my book, anyone with a
Masters or PhD who is not designing courses and teaching systems is wasting
his time. Yet, they get hired for little teaching positions because it looks
good for the school.
What is the solution?
The customer. The end user. The student. The parent of the student. They
need to get smart as to what it really takes to teach well.
(Currently reading Games People Play: Game Theory by The Teaching Company.)
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