A big change at the BC

British Council Chennai only employs local teachers. I wouldn’t be surprised if it has been imposed on them by visa restrictions, but if it works I can see them trying to spread the idea elsewhere.

A welcome change? Likely to work in the country you are in? Any other questions you can think of on this topic now that I’ve run out? Have your say:

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13 Responses to A big change at the BC

  1. Andy Mallory says:

    Looks like it’s a money thing. NESTs are getting expensive. Non-NESTs always have been a cut price alternative. Personally I think it’s a dangerous move (commercially) that will backfire on the BC. Students are paying for and wanting white NESTs. Sad, unfair, but true I fear.

    All that said, one of the best teachers I’ve met in Asia is a Korean non-NEST who had near perfect British English and did a Trinity TESOL cert in London. He was excellent. So it can be done.

    But – and this is the rub – non-NESTs have to get the same pay and conditions as NESTs. This BC brainwave seems more about saving money than improving students’ value for money.

    Am I too cynical?

  2. TEFLista says:

    Exactly. The big question I have about all of this is: Is it equal pay for equal work? Are the NNS teachers getting paid the same as NS who have similar qualifications? I don’t see NS teachers as getting expensive. I doubt in the case of local teachers being used that the BC has reduced their prices for their students — another good question to ask. Hmmm… Looks tome more about greed and profits….

  3. Sara Hannam says:

    It is indeed a paradox. Positive indeed (and I support) the frontlining of local teacher expertise. But if it is for less pay than their NEST counterparts then that is crap and inexcusable. But it is also the intrinisic contradicton of modern capitalism (sorry can’t find a less lefty way of saying it for you Alex!). In this day and age things can appear to be about access whilst also being about making cutbacks. The BC however cannot and have not remained unaffected by the debate on NEST/Non-NEST expertise. On a personal level I celebrate the move from the point of view of fairness and access, whilst remaining critical of the second hidden agenda regarding cutbacks.

    I don’t agree that students intrinsically want NEST teachers. There is a lot we can do as individuals to break that cycle of dependence – perhaps Andy we might try to lower the impossibly high ‘standard’ you seem to have set in your comment above when you say:

    “All that said, one of the best teachers I’ve met in Asia is a Korean non-NEST who had near perfect British English and did a Trinity TESOL cert in London. He was excellent. So it can be done.”

    Personally I don’t think *this* description should be a rule of thumb. Firstly should having so called “near perfect British English” be the goal (whatever that means anyway) and having been lucky enough to have travelled to the UK for a TESOL Cert automatically excludes most teachers, NEST or non-NEST. Was this person a good teacher? That variable is absent. I think the net could be widened considerably in the descriptions NESTS give of non-NEST teachers as a first step. Just a thought.

    Stimulating as always Alex!

  4. Sandy Mac says:

    I have nothing against non-native teachers of EFL, and I have seen some very good ones (just as I’ve seen awful native speaker teachers with Celtas and an attitude to match), but I can’t help feeling that people who take EFL classes at the BC want native speakers. They are usually prepared to pay the premium in fees the BC demands because they feel they’re getting a superior experience.

    If not, they can go to the BillaBong School of English and get a local school teacher moonlighting, or something very similar. If they book up with BC and get Mr Gupta, they might not feel it’s such a good deal.

    BC have been driving down native-speaker salaries for years – I still remember them advertising a few years ago for qualified and experienced Teflers for their branches in Egypt, promising a heady salary of 600 quid a month!

    So now they’re going even lower, and will be taking on locals. Oh well, let it be. They’ll pay the price for this, of course, as other local schools with native-speaker Teflers will reap the benefits. In fact, this sort of act is probably deliberately designed to create more business for local EFL schools – very philanthropic of them!

    BTW, for a recent take on BC and their skewed ‘accreditation system’ in the UK, please take a look at my blog pages, especially here…



  5. Andy Mallory says:

    Indeed. The Korean teacher I mentioned was streets ahead of the minimum standard needed to be effective. Didn’t make that clear. I do have unrealistically high standards and if I were ever in charge of recruitment I don’t think there’d be much… sometimes I think I wouldn’t even hire myself!

    But standing back and aiming for more objectivity teachers don’t need to be perfect to be useful. Thanks for the comment as it helped me explain myself better.

  6. Sara Hannam says:

    No probs Andy. Enjoyed the chat – it made me think. I mentioned your comment (hope its OK) at a blog post I wrote called “thinking critically about which English you teach” on http://sjhannam.edublogs.org – this is not just shameless self-promotion, I wanted to inform you that I quoted you there as it would be rude not to! Join in if you want.

  7. Alex Case says:

    This is what blogging is all about- taking a one line news story and speculating to our hearts’ content! And why not- don’t think BC are likely to give us more information and clear this up (they must’ve seen the mess that Bruce Veldhuisen gets himself into by replying on blogs and decided silence is the best option).

    In this case, there is no danger of local and non-local teachers being paid differently for the same job as all teachers are local. It is possible that they chose that system in order to avoid that problem, although I’m still most convinced by my own theory that it was imposed on them by the Indian government, who after all has enough unemployed English teachers without having Brits and Aussies joining the national employment pool and I’m guessing always have similar restrictions, hence the lack of EF etc in India despite the demand for it due to call centres and the like. I very much doubt that it was a choice by the BC, because after all the entire organisation is made up of native speaker English teachers who have everything to lose if that special position in the BC disappears. That’s my speculation done, because I have no more information than was in the blog post I linked to.

    In AOB:

    We are mixing up the distinctions again here- this is about local/ non-local teachers, not NESTs and NNESTs. Local teachers in India could well be native English speakers due to being brought up in English speaking families, going to International Schools (the one I went to in India had a few native English speaking Indians), studying abroad etc, although I guess it is unlikely that people of that class would end up as BC teachers and so I guess most of them would speak English less fluently than their L1. If that is the case, then surely a teacher from the Phillipines would be better as the students would be mixing with someone from another culture who speaks a different variety of English, precisely the kind of situation they are studying to prepare themselves for. However, the BC has decided (or been forced to) employ LOCAL teacher, not non-native English speaking teachers, so again we see that the local/ foreign divide is much more important in practical terms (pay, unionisation, solidarity etc) than NESTs/ NNESTs.

    I think Andy has made an important point by mention CertTESOL, because this seems a clear cut distinction that we can all get behind- all teachers who have a CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL should be able to apply for the same jobs and get the same pay for doing the same job, anywhere in the world. For one thing, you’re are already supposed to be Cambridge Proficiency level to enter the CELTA, which probably means a NNEST who can pass the course already has better spelling than me. However, most schools and/ or governments (through visa requirements) impose other restrictions on who can get the job such as nationality. To be fair to the schools, a few in Asia do hire other NNESTs Europeans but are then forced to lie about their nationality to the students to stop complaints


  8. Alex Case says:


    Don’t worry, “intrinisic contradicton of modern capitalism” isn’t quite enough of a lefty cliche to set my teeth on edge (did you see my rant about “reactionary” on the Marxist ELF blog then?) and states the point very clearly. It’s similar to the strange bedfellows that lefties and big business make in both supporting relaxing restrictions on immigration in the US, Spain, probably lots of other places I don’t know much about.

  9. Sara Hannam says:

    Thx Alex for your acceptance of my terminology! And for clearing up the fact that categories of NEST/Non-NEST in this debate do not fully express the complexity of the situation and it needs to be seen in a wider context. Yes these days so-called lefties can be a right mixed bag.

  10. Sandy says:

    I hadn’t thought of that – the condition to employ only local teachers has been imposed by the Indian government. In which case, I’d be heartily infavour, as there must surely be a problem with unemployment in India. Anyway, why should some dodgy monolingual scrote from Wigan with a Tefl certificate get preference over a university-trained local teacher, who probably speaks English just as fluently (if not more so!) anyway?

    And, by way of extension, I’d like to see the UK government do the same, i.e., ensure that all EFL teachers employed at accredited schools are native-speakers – not some dodgy Pole or Albanian! After all, who comes to the UK to be taught English by … a bloody foreigner!?

  11. I’ve worked with some very, very good Polish teachers you know….

    Can’t vouch for the Albanians, but I think you’re making that up anyway.

  12. Alex Case says:

    A Polish teacher IS a local teacher within the EU. Sandy is right that some schools in the UK have started employing CELTA or equivalent qualified NNESTs, and I think that is absolutely the right point to start breaking down the distinction between NEST and NNEST. Unfortunately, many students have precisely his reaction to being told their teachers aren’t British

  13. Marxistelf says:

    Hi Alex,

    Fascinating discussion. Clearly people are not as interested as we are at Marxist TEFL (they probably have more interesting lives) in the Life and Works of David Graddol (British Council guru and general follower of the latest intellectual fashions), otherwise they wouldn’t be so surprised by the British Council’s move. Indeed, it is nothing new, in countries like Libya the “honourable Council” are preparing “an army” of non-NESTs to teach the “imperial language”. What’s more, as Alex points out, the word non-NEST is a little problematic in relation to India

    Graddol, talks specifically of the contradictions involved here (he talks more generally in his must read British Council sponsored books The Future of English and English Next of such trends) in an article for the Guardian

    Forward business thinkers like Karenne Sylvester (if only she was a socialist- such drive and intelligence) have read this stuff, that’s why she talks about the need to specialise. And of course, Sara, being a keen critical theorist and not so wrapped up in ideological baggage, can see the obvious too. As for “standards of English”, I think people really need to wake up and smell the coffee, to help here is a list of the Booker Prize since 1969:


    (Conrad and Nabokov were “true” non-Native speakers and they weren’t bad writers in English either and isn’t that Zygmunt Bauman the greatest “English” sociologist of our time?)

    Now all these writers come from the elite and we cannot guarantee these “standards” from the rest of the population but clearly, to certain “well-educated” Indians (and Pakistanis for that matter) teaching English in an elitist academy like the British Council might become a viable proposition (might save the British Council a few bob too).

    Sara is quite right, we should welcome this initiative. Moreover, we should be arguing that English, like any language, should enrich the general population and not elites and particular industry sectors. At Marxist TEFL we want to see “foreign language learning” building local universities and schools and not providing “pathways to jobs and study abroad”. Students learning English, French and German so they can translate texts and ideas into their own local languages and vice versa. The absence of key academic journals in a variety of languages is nothing but language genocide.

    So, as Graddol points out, English language teaching faces new challenges. But is that a challenge of maintaining British interests and jobs for British ex-pats or the challenge for talented teachers (however they came to the language) of finding the most effective means to increase our global means of intercommunication as a way of achieving personal security and self-expression. We are living some fascinating times.

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