Are Non-Native Speaker Teachers Discriminated Against?
Cooperativa de Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona’s 2014 international TEFL survey finds that there is a significant disparity in pay between similarly qualified non-native speaker teachers and their native speaking counterparts.
This is part one of an analysis of an International survey of language teachers, carried out by Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona, in 2014.
Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona’s objective was to look at and analyse the working conditions of TEFL teachers world-wide in order to further our research into improving conditions for teachers in Barcelona and beyond.
We asked a range of questions in order to build up a picture of the professional development opportunities, pay conditions, the aspirations and disappointments of both Native Speaker Teachers and Non-native Speaker teachers. To keep things focused, we’ll break up the analysis into different parts. This section will look at the differences between Native Speaker Teachers (NST) and Non-Native Speaker Teachers (nNST)
Our figures show some shocking discrepancies in pay between nNST and NST. Speculation on the causes of these differences, I’ll leave to you to ponder, though I will say that at every level of qualification there was a clear bias in favour of native speaker teachers. One result that jumped out at us was that we show a native speaking teacher with a CERT is on average, financially better off than a non-native speaking teacher with a Master’s Degree in Education.
We had responses from 271 people from:
Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Germany, Ecuador, Egypt, Spain, France, France Metropolitan, UK, Greece, Croatia, Hungary, India, Iraq, Iran, Italy, Jersey, Japan, South Korea, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Paraguay, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Taiwan, Ukraine, USA, Uruguay, Vietnam, South Africa
We put them on a map for you here:
What do our respondents teach?
Perhaps unsurprising for a survey carried out in English, 98% of all respondents teach English as their main language.
However, 5% of our respondents teach Spanish, 2.1% French and 2% German. Other respondents teach; Hindi, Russian, Polish, Dutch, Afrikaans, Catalan, and Lithuanian as their primary languages.
The proportions of teachers teaching their native language were as follows:
And for those who answered No to the above question, just over 40% said they had faced discrimination due to their nNST status.
Working permissions and contracts
When it comes down to permissions, VISAs and legal statuses it seems that nNST and NST are roughly equivalent:
- 81% of nNST have an unrestricted legal right to work, compared to 83% of NST
- 13% of nNST and 10% of NST have a restricted right to work
- 3% of nNST have no legal right to work in their country or territory, compared to 4% of NST
In terms of contracts, nNSTs and NSTs are in a similar position, although NSTs are more likely to be working for cash-in-hand.
How qualified were our respondents?
Interestingly, and rather surprisingly, of those surveyed 44% of NST have a recognised TEFL certificate, whereas only 17% of the nNST do.
nNSTs are more likely to have an unrecognised certificate in TEFL 11.6% and 3% of NST.
Moving up the scale of qualifications and the distance between NST and nNST qualifications closes a little: 15.9% of nNST have a DELTA or DipTESOL compared to 16.4% of NST.
Our surveyed nNSTs are much more likely to have a teaching related BA or equivalent – 26% of non-native speakers are qualified to teach their main language to a degree level (BA), compared to 10.7% of their native speaking counterparts.
There were also significant numbers of postgraduate degree holders too. 19% of NST respondents have a Master’s degree or equivalent, and 17% of nNST have a Master’s Degree or equivalent.
And what do these qualifications get you?
Not taking into account any differences in qualifications, the average wage for teachers across the board was €20.22.
The overall average for a NST was €21.49 and the average for an nNST was €15.03.
Although that looks like a big difference, those numbers don’t tell the whole story. We have to consider like-for-like qualifications in order to make a fair judgement.
As you would expect, for the most part, the higher your qualification, the better paid you are. Once we break things down into NST and nNST and levels of qualification, we can see a general disparity in the rates of NST and nNST teacher; so much so in fact that, according to our results:
An NST with a recognised TEFL certificate, on average earns more than an nNST with a teaching/education related Master’s degree.
In the chart below the X-axis shows the level of qualification from TEFL CERT to Master’s Degree. NSTs are in blue, and nNST are in purple.
A trend of lower pay for nNSTs follows across all qualifications.
However, one caveat to add here is that we are taking global results, rather than examining and comparing the results from individual countries or regions.
One might argue that differences in nNST an NST pay between countries might be more significant than the differences in pay between similarly qualified nNSTs and NSTs. However on closer inspection, the figures show the same relative trends in every country where we had both nNST and NST respondents.
To sum up
Wherever you are in the world, it is to your advantage to be highly qualified, but it’s even more advantageous to be a qualified native speaker teacher.
We would argue that this is clear evidence for systematic, and (often) illegal discrimination against non-native speaker teachers, and this really does need to change.