(This Is China-32) February 5, 2019 – Chapter 31 from THIS IS CHINA




PERSONAL NOTE: I decided to share my book with friends and students in mainland China because it costs too much to order a copy from Amazon.com. Enjoy it and share it with people you care and love. Peace, Steve USA February 5, 2019   stephenehling@hotmail.com   wechat 1962816801  blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com 

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Chapter 31

I learned from Chinadaily Forum that starting in Ootober 31, 2014, Beijing raised its thresholds for all foreign teachers. It seemed some foreigners who claimed to be English teachers were not qualified for the job. I suspected maybe some English native speakers were the main culprits. Maybe some parents and students are waking up to the reality and are complaining about it. Who knows? Few things are transparent in China. At least Beijing is getting smart and wants all foreign teachers to have at least five years’ teaching experience and qualification certificates like TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign language) and TESL (Teaching English as a second language).

And here are a few representative voices in response to this Beijing initiative in 2014.

One Australian ESL teacher (English as a second language), who had taught in China wrote: “Sometimes I wonder why I have invested so much of my time in educating myself to be a better teacher when anyone seems to be able to a get a teaching job in China.”

I heard another voice from Australia: “After five years of teaching in Australia, for example, the salary has already been raised significantly and you are far less likely to pick up and leave to teach overseas.” I agree. The pay in China is a miserable fraction of the pay in your own country. Granted you will not starve to death in China with your Chinese pay.

And this one from an American who said: “I have worked in training centers before and the main reason I left them is that, yes, they are only concerned about how much money they can make from the Chinese people. This is not the foreigners’ fault, this is the Chinese people behind it and they only want money and don’t really care if you learn or not. This is why some don’t care if you are qualified or not. They hire anyone they get their hands on, qualified or not.” This is one big reason the city of Beijing is waking up to the truth everywhere in China, not just in Beijing. Many of these so-called training centers or English language schools are money-making machines.

And another one from America: “As an American living in China, I’ve seen far too many ‘teachers’ who would never be allowed to teach in their home nation. Many have minimal education (BA, etc.), little real experience, and seem to use ‘teaching’ as an excuse to stay here under a work visa. I would never try to teach English, for example, because I am not an English major. I do hold two earned Ph.D degrees from

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nationally recognized universities in the US, I have taught as a college professor for seven years in the US, and I have 35+ years experience, so I would feel qualified to teach in my area of expertise, but not English, even if it is my native language.”

Bravo! And it is true about not being allowed to teach in one’s own country. A female teacher from my campus returned home to Europe and she could not find a job in a regular university but she did find one in a business school. China was desperate for her because she is an English native speaker.

And the one from a Chinese teacher in China completely baffled me to death: “I had 10 foreign teachers in my secondary school, all of them conversation teachers. In retrospect, their command of English differs significantly, some had a richer and more refined vocabulary, and others tended to speak in a more colloquial manner. But I think it’s also part of learning to know the differences among native speakers themselves.

“Also what I have learned from those foreign teachers is, apart from the language itself, the culture they come from. It was my first real encounter with Western culture, which I had previously only know from books. The foreign teachers are, each in their own way, an embodiment of their culture. They may not realize in themselves, but by simply being with us, by being physically present, they deliver to us a picture of how Westerners really are and think and how they differ from us Chinese. So my point is that academic credentials aren’t that important. Each foreign teacher can be an enrichment to our experience.”

Academic credentials aren’t that important? 10 foreign teachers? Must be a rich urban school in one of the big cities in China. I wonder if all the Chinese parents would agree with the Chinese teacher on this. Why bother to have foreign teachers in your schools? Hire a foreign babysitter and you can have a taste of foreign culture right in your home for much less money. Many Chinese rich parents are doing just that, sending their kids overseas to have a good time, many not serious about a foreign education. They are there for a long vacation with money to throw around and have a good time. It is going on now. And they are returning to China because many cannot speak English after another two to four years studying abroad. They have to return to China. Foreign education is not important because parents are rich and they can work for their own parents or relatives when they return. What is worse, many small schools in USA are taking advantage of the new wealth in China, and they are willing to lower the admission standards because they are hungry for Chinese money. They do not care if you have the requisite standards of English to enter their schools. Compromises are almost everywhere in the world, not just in USA, because all

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are hungry for the money from China. Truth be told, you cannot hide it like you cannot hide the sun.

And an honest voice from England: “This is true with ESL teachers in every country, though ESL teachers are never qualified, they usually have a BA (in anything) plus the CELTA certificate in Teaching English to Adults. This is certainly true of me. If I were a fully qualified teacher, I could earn double my current salary at an international school.”

An international school is not the same as the English language schools in China. International schools are usually regular schools in most countries, usually for children of expats, others who associate with these expats, and children of the elites of the country. And they are not cheap for the ordinary citizens.

And finally this one from the Philippines, a neighbor close to mainland China: “While many Europeans and Americans are facing economic turbulences in their country, they travel across here with a piece of luggage and honing their language skill in China and most Chinese naively get hooked that they are indeed the answer to their lack of English language linguistic skills. Do always remember, not all whites are doing the right thing in China, usually the highly skilled ones would never leave their motherland as they would have the capability to make a decent living in the place where they originated. So the only ones that flocked their feathers and teach English in China trying to make some decent bucks to stay financially healthy may not be ideally the one you should pursue the language skill you require.”

Sour grape attitude? Like me this writer is obviously not an English native speaker, but nevertheless a serious indictment of the hopeless situation in China today.

I would like to suggest, borrowing the terminology or jargon used in scientific academic researches, two important terms: NETs or Native English Teachers, and LETs or Local English Teachers. China should hire more NETs and not more English native speakers. A teacher is more than a speaker.

Hiring more English native speakers is not the panacea to China’s chronic or perennial problem in how to help our children learn to be proficient in the English language, in listening and speaking, reading and writing. Until and unless our government is willing to face the music now, not later, and train our own teachers of the English language to be the best they can and should be in the teaching of English. We will watch silently and allow more foreign language schools to grow and multiply, like our population, and parents, students, schools and universities will continue to

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struggle for viable solutions to the current crisis in English language education in China. If the United Kingdom could come to Shanghai—because the world recognizes Shanghai to have the best high schools in the world—and hire some top math and science teachers to teach in England, China has plenty of financial resources to hire the top English language teachers in the world to come and train our English language teachers from primary all the way up to the colleges and universities in mainland China.

Many of my Chinese students love to use this quote wherever and whenever possible in their essays: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I also believe: Slow and steady wins the race. What is a decade devoted to the training—step by step—of our English teachers to 5000 years of China’s history? A minute dot in the long stretch of time. This is China.

More English native speakers—a curse, not a blessing—will only delay our progress and ambition to create a nation who can use the English language to compete and work effectively in today’s modern borderless world, where the English language, like the internet, has become the Lingua Franca of all the prosperous nations of the world.


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