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Discrimination in ESL of all types: Who is responsible?
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How prevalent is discrimination (of all types) in the ESL industry?
Why, not at all grandmother!
3%
 3%  [ 1 ]
Discrimination? What, you mean like being choosy?
14%
 14%  [ 4 ]
The issue certainly needs to be addressed, but not by me.
7%
 7%  [ 2 ]
Get real, this problem is out of control!
74%
 74%  [ 20 ]
Total Votes : 27

Author Message
Lee Hobbs
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Joined: 08 Dec 2005
Posts: 141
Location: TheGulfCoast

PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 6:09 pm    Post subject: Discrimination in ESL of all types: Who is responsible? Reply with quote

Quote:
To comply with Saudi government regulations all candidates must be male and under the age of 60 years at time of appointment.


Okay everyone,

There's been a lot of talk about the topic of racism in the ESL industry in another thread.

Some other issues were brought up, such as chauvinism, sexism and ageism, as sources of discrimination so I thought this deserved its own thread of discussion.

Take a look at the poll I added then look at the block quote pulled from a real job offer (found here). Let this kick off the conversation.

It's not uncommon that many of us (as evidenced in the thread here) have either witnessed or been victims of race discrimination in the ESL industry (especially in some parts of the world).

But, how about age discrimination, sex discrimination (of either sex) and gender-preference/sexual-preference discrimination? What about other types of "appearance" based discrimination, "weight" issues, for example?

Many of the previous posts have been doing the finger-pointing at the ESL industry itself for being discriminatory. I've argued for the possibility that perhaps it is the market itself that is discriminatory; the industry, in many cases, just complies to that demand.

But what about this other factor? What if the nation itself sets up the discriminatory "rules"? Who is to blame then?

Maybe I'm way off base here, so please feel free to correct my perspective if you see a logical flaw. Sure, a country is free to stipulate any kind of rules it wants for foreign workers. But does this mean we can say they don't discriminate?

The industry, the population, or the government? Who is to blame folks? And why?

Eager for debate,

Lee

http://www.english-blog.com

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Last edited by Lee Hobbs on Sat Dec 24, 2005 7:06 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Guy Courchesne



Joined: 05 Jun 2004
Posts: 263
Location: Mexico

PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many people I've heard from complaining of discrimination in this industry come from countries where there is strong legislation against discrimination in hiring. First and foremost, I think it important to remember that not all countries share this stance, for a variety of reasons, but mostly for not being nearly as multicultural as say Canada, the US, the UK, etc.

In many other cases, I'll agree that it's the market that sets the rules. Students are often attracted to language schools that feature 'native-speakers', because they believe or have been taught to believe that if there is an American teaching, it must be good. Prestige os often what a student thinks when choosing at which language school to drop their pesos, bhat, yuan, whatever.

All of us here know that neither simply being a native-speaker nor being a blue eyed blonde makes for a better teacher. Far, far from it. And in fact, I think that the loudest voices crying discrimination overlook the fact that non-native-speaking teachers outnumber native speaking teachers by a long, long way.

On age discrimination...that's a tough one and I think more related to the culture of a country and the market. Older teachers have just as many opportunities here in Mexico as younger, but for the type of work that I do, I'd say it can be hard for older teachers. In Mexico City, we do a lot of teaching in companies, meaning, a lot of travel time in a big, bustling city. From experience, I've seen that it is extremely taxing physically to do so.

On gender...I haven't seen much discrimination at all in Latin America on this, except perhaps that many parents prefer a female teacher for young children. That's very much about Latino culture though.

There's also lots to say on style of dress and appearance, but since these are things one can change about oneself, I don't see it as being discriminatroy...more about policy. If I ever hear about someone saying they were turned down for a job after showing up in jeans and a tee, or sporting a face full of piercings, there would be no sympathy from me.
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Lee Hobbs
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:00 pm    Post subject: Issues of Discrimination in ESL Reply with quote

Guy Courchesne wrote:
not all countries share this stance, for a variety of reasons, but mostly for not being nearly as multicultural as say Canada, the US, the UK, etc.


Hi Guy,

Yes, I agree, discrimination is not EQUALLY distributed (fortunately or unfortunately) across the globe. What a loaded statement that is! But, I think we might be able to find a number of people who would agree that it seems to be a more "accepted" practice (less disputed) in some parts of the world than in others.


Guy Courchesne wrote:
I'll agree that it's the market that sets the rules.


This seems to make sense if one adheres to theoretical market principles. If it is true, then I'm not sure what that says about the people we are teaching.

On the other hand, there are still plenty of old fogies in the States, for example, who don't want to go to female doctor (or a young one), or have a male nurse attend to their needs, or have male instructor as a preschool instructor or babysitter for their kids, etc. etc. I was trying to point mainly to the ad for a Saudi Arabian ESL school who only wanted a "male" to apply for the job. No reason was given, it was just stated there as a matter of fact.

I wonder what would happen, for instance, if no males applied for the job. Would the employers be forced to take a female or would their pride and arrogance in this prinicple force them to "concede" to being taught by a woman? What would happen if, for example, a man showed up to teach there that was homosexual? Or, maybe not homosexual but a cross-dresser. Would he be fired, does he have any kind of protection? If the man didn't "fib" about his biological sex, then what?


Guy Courchesne wrote:
non-native-speaking teachers outnumber native speaking teachers by a long, long way.


I agree that this is quite true. An important point to remember.

Guy Courchesne wrote:
If I ever hear about someone saying they were turned down for a job after showing up in jeans and a tee, or sporting a face full of piercings, there would be no sympathy from me.


From me either. Unprofessionalism is not to be excused and I don't buy into the culture of "casualness" that seems to be creeping in from major English-speaking national powers. It undermines the industry, in my opinion. Regardless of race, ethnicity, age, sex, or preference, a sense of professionalism and pride in attire, attitude and manner should always be maintained "on the job," IMHO. What one does outside of work should be his or her own business (outside of fraternizing with the school's clientele, that is). That, however, is a subject for a completely different post on professional ethics!

Lee

http://www.english-blog.com

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Last edited by Lee Hobbs on Sat Dec 24, 2005 7:05 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Guy Courchesne



Joined: 05 Jun 2004
Posts: 263
Location: Mexico

PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2005 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing that this discussion reminds me of is the minefield one can step into when trying to address these issues in an EFL classroom abroad. Many of us 'Westerners' fall victim to the belief that our way is best and surely my students in (insert 'developing' country name here) need to be told their ways are wrong.

I have seen some very odd classes where teachers went way out of bounds on issues of racism, discrimination, terrorism, and other hot topics. One has to be very careful and mindful of the culture of the country and people when teaching abroad. I'm sure it has surprised a great many first time TEFLers that people in other countries have different opinions, right or wrong.

Saudi Arabia is a great example, for being so different from the West, particuarly on women's rights and religion. I think I would have a difficult time teaching in a segregated class and just dealing with the differences.
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Supergussy



Joined: 29 Nov 2005
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 12:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guy Courchesne wrote >>>One has to be very careful and mindful of the culture of the country and people when teaching abroad. I'm sure it has surprised a great many first time TEFLers that people in other countries have different opinions, right or wrong.<<<

I don't think it is necessary to go abroad to discover that radically different processes of socialization yield radically different social perspectives. What is surprising though is the way in which teachers sometimes react to what they see as controversial or immoral values. As both teachers and human beings, we have to be very careful when engaging in conversation with individuals from different backgrounds to our own that we do not automatically assume that our process of socialization and the values it has instilled within us is necessarily the supreme way of interpreting and perhaps even categorizing the world.

In a recent class of mine a young Somalian woman confidently declared that violence among teenagers was the result of the UK being "too democratic" and that people here had "too much freedom" during a discussion about the role of the family in various countries throughout the world. I had expected the mainly Muslim class to have strong opinions on the topic of family but her response quite startled me, especially considering that she had arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker. Many may think it the teacher's duty, perhaps even moral obligation to change this point of view but I didn't challenge it as I, unlike her, have no experience of living in anything but democratic states. Later she surprised me again by successfully convincing an older Somalian male class member that in some cases divorce was justifiable and at times beneficial for the family's children.

In both cases the student offered her genuine opinions in answer to questions posed by her teacher. Unlike her first answer (regarding democracy), her second answer gave a point of view that I was in agreement with (divorce). My response however was one of neutrality in both cases. As I had asked the question it would be quite wrong to chastise her simply for providing an honest opinion that I have been socialised into disagreeing with. Similarly it would have been quite wrong of me to take her side in the argument over divorce.

While the first answer may show a point of view considered controversial, perhaps even taboo, in the UK the second answer showed an opinion that we (in the UK) are much more accustomed to hearing from a young woman. My point is that what is a surprising, controversial or even taboo viewpoint in one culture may not be in another. The consensus of the culture in which we are immersed impacts upon our individual perceptions and classifications of issues. Some issues provide more transparently different perceptions than others on a cross cultural scale (for example bigamy and alcohol abuse) but as EFL teachers it is virtually inevitable that we will unexpectedly unearth other controversial emotive viewpoints and it is therefore important that we are conscious that we do not react to these without at least first considering why we think them controversial or emotive and our students don't. Opinions have a tendency to be both, and if we invite students to give them then surely it would be quite wrong for us to then rubbish them.

Many teachers give the reason that they want to make a difference when asked why they chose to enter the profession. If this difference that they seek to make is related to the students' knowledge, understanding and ability in the given subject then it is to be applauded. If this difference is the alteration of beliefs and attitudes of students and their wider society's, I would suggest that other career avenues should be sought. Wherever the classroom may be, the teacher, at least in my opinion, should remain as neutral as possible. While it may be the teacher's job to encourage the use of language through thought provoking (perhaps even changing) debate it is important not to abuse that position by actively seeking to mould and manipulate the students' social values in accordance with our own individual and societal beliefs and values.

Angus
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dcole



Joined: 22 Dec 2005
Posts: 4
Location: China

PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 12:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Everyone
This is my first post so be kind to me!

I am in about the most far removed culture from my own that could be imagined. I am an Australian teaching in Shijiazhuang, in mainland China, in a PLA (People's Liberation Army) Ordnance College.
The temptation to colour one's teaching with the culture of one's background is obviously very strong. One of the real rewards that I have received so far from my four months here is that I am learning as much as I am teaching!! Being in a country that has completely different social, cultural, moral and traditional beliefs to my own has been a mind-expanding experience.

I have not shied away from the controversial areas, and the differences in the cultures, politics and belief systems, but I have always made the point that there are a lot of different views in the world about the same issues. I never use terms like right and wrong, good or bad...just different. I think if all cultures can accept differences, then the world will be way in front. I have had the good fortune of meeting people from many other parts of the world, especially African countries, whilst here. Our differences are a real positive when it comes to our social engagement.

What prompted my response was a two hour dispute resolution that I had just completed between two students. One is a Chinese Muslim military cadet (a very dedicated soldier) who is about to graduate as an officer, the other a female civilian student, also about to graduate. The cultures of the two are as far apart as mine and theirs! Common ground was quite difficult to establish,
but after individual discussion we all had agreement on just one point. So we had agreement that it was ok to disagree about everything else, and live comfortably with it! If I had imposed my culture over theirs it would have been a fiasco.

My teaching experience here has so far been the most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life (and I am probably two thirds the way through it!)

I hope this has not drifted too far from the point, but I think it supports it in a general way.

Kind Regards DC
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Supergussy



Joined: 29 Nov 2005
Posts: 10

PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Duncan.

Sounds like a really interesting and challenging job you have. I think you are right in a way... sometimes tolerance and mutual respect of cultural differences is a more realistic goal than acceptance (perhaps the former is the pre-requisite of the latter?), but I is it really possible to teach language without also teaching culture?

Angus
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Guy Courchesne



Joined: 05 Jun 2004
Posts: 263
Location: Mexico

PostPosted: Thu Dec 22, 2005 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It certainly is difficult to teach English without culture as so much of what we say and do is bound up in where we come from. You certainly can learn a lot about yourself by teaching abroad!

When looking at culture, there are two areas to consider...visible and invisible culture. The visible includes such things as style of dress, cuisine, holidays, traditions...the easy stuff that first comes to mind. The invisible culture is harder to spot and where many problems can arise in the classroom abroad...such things as worldviews, sociocultural norms, value systems, and assumptions. Most often, we are only subconsciously aware of these things in us, which defy explanation.

The concept of punctuality, or rather, its cultural 'weight' in some Western countries...does it have the same importance in Asia or Latin America? Think about how it might affect an activity in the classroom...

Laughing here I am teaching...I'm supposed to be on holidays, so I'll shut up now.
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Scooby *Scott* Doo



Joined: 11 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Are we not, as English teachers, supposed to do what it takes to keep the students in the classroom and paying the school owner till year's end at all costs? They'll learn more if they hang in there till year's end anyway, so why not? It's not only about money. And knowing some of the schools where I've worked and the inability to pay rent, salaries, and thereabouts when the courses are not paid for, or classes wind up empty. Keeping the students in there is our first priority as I've always been told down through the years.

So if we need to teach to their cultural preferences, and thereby appear to be "racist" cause we act younger than we are, promote hip hop music when we really hate it, or otherwise cater to the students, who don't go across the street to a rival school who give them that, while we stay high and mighty with our "morals" but are out on the street with our salaries unpaid, who is winning after all in this situation?
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Guy Courchesne



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 23, 2005 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From a cynical point of view, I suppose you are right. I think there's a lot of room in the middle on culture though. No reason why one shouldn't be able to talk about ideas and culture without coming across as a missionary or cultural imperialist.
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Lee Hobbs
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 24, 2005 5:53 pm    Post subject: Do You Preach Imperialism in the ESL Classroom? Reply with quote



dcole wrote:
The temptation to colour one's teaching with the culture of one's background is obviously very strong.


Supergussy wrote:
is it really possible to teach language without also teaching culture?


Guy Courchesne wrote:
From a cynical point of view, I suppose you are right. I think there's a lot of room in the middle on culture though. No reason why one shouldn't be able to talk about ideas and culture without coming across as a missionary or cultural imperialist.


Hi everyone in this post,

I know this thread began as an examination on the subject of discrimination in the ESL classroom but it seems that the discussion is quickly morphing into something altogether new .

Over on English-Blog, a hot discussion topic focusing a bit more on the idea of "cultural imperialism" in the English language classroom overseas has begun. I invite you to read, consider and leave your own remarks. I think that there are many sides to this issue to consider.

This hyperlink will take you right to the entry I've mentioned:
http://www.english-blog.com/archives/2005/12/when_english_te.php#more

Hope to see you there!

Thanks again,

Lee

http://www.english-blog.com

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Captian Earl Neamo



Joined: 25 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't know about the Cultural Revolution and all that jazz, but getting back to that age thing, can somebody tell me then what is the real average age of the English teachers out there? Is it 25-35, or over 55? Personally in Japan I ran into a lot more quality teachers of the over 55 variety, generally I'd say there are more of them out there teaching. I'm also black and 35 myself, kind of overweight too which hasn't been touched on here as I weigh about 270. There are all kinds of discrimination out there when it comes down to it.

Earl the Pearle
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Guy Courchesne



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2005 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that if you put forth first and foremost your physcial description, you are likely to find discrimination wherever you look. If you put forth first and foremost your qualifications, your experience, and a professional attitude, you will attract a different kind of attention..namely, the right kind.
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Wonder Bread



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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2006 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Discrimination is all about physical appearance anyway. Fat, skin color, height, zits, whatever. IF we can overcome physical discrimination, we will really be on our way. But is that possible? Maybe we English Teachers can make a difference somehow. We go abroad and spread the word of the virtues of our own cultures, how they are the best in the world - American, British, Australian, Canadian.

I'll tell you one thing we don't need to be spreading to the rest of the world, are the virtues of smoking!
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Mirbat



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PostPosted: Sun Jun 18, 2006 5:46 am    Post subject: Discrimination in Oman Reply with quote

There is certainly discrimination - intentional or otherwise - in Oman. Many teachers from India or South Africa are disciminated against, sometimes on skin colour alone. In addition, the rules for hiring teachers seem to be applied arbitrarily. If you work for Higher Ed or Ed, they will accept ANY degree, and either experience or some kind of cert tefl. If you work for a private language institution, you come under Manpower. Manpwer require an English degree, a tefl qualification and 5 years experience. The people in Manpower who accept or refuse applications have NO experience in Education and many can't speak English. They don't know how to read letters of experience of Degree certificates and often give absurd decisions. For example; American kindergarten EFL teacher with a degree in arts and communication, a cert tefl from Egypt and one year of experience was accepted by Manpower. An English teacher with a degree in Educational Psychology, PGCE, NVQ Assessor qualification and Trinity CELTA certificate, 22 years teaching experience, 15 as head of a college, was refused by Manpower as having 'insufficient experience'!
I would be happy to hear from anyone else who has worked (or tried to work) or is working in Oman, with some idea of which ministry they work for and what the ministry accepted. I don't have an English degree, but for some reason they (Manpower) accepted me. Interested to know if anyone else has had this problem!
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