Thai Teachers Pose as Foreigners to Teach English

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Thai Teachers Pose as Foreigners to Teach English

Postby sgtowns » 09 Feb 2016 15:43

As many of us in the PhD program have discussed many times, there are some serious issues around the native/non-native English speaker divide. One classmate who will remain nameless has ranted to me for hours about the discrimination he faces at work because he is officially a non-native speaker, even though his English is flawless (as far as I can tell).

There is also a lot of debate about whether or not English language classes should be English-only, or if Thai teachers should use Thai to teach English.

I just read a very interesting article that touches on both issues: Thai Teachers Pose as Foreigners to Teach English

I am very interested to hear what you all think about this article. Is it ethical for a Thai English teacher to lie to their students and tell them they are from Singapore? Does it help or hurt the students and learning experience?
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Re: Thai Teachers Pose as Foreigners to Teach English

Postby daronloo » 09 Feb 2016 16:41

For the past few weeks, I have been pouring through papers on identities to help my senior BA in English students with their theses. When looking into the issue of identity, I was reminded of the work of Bonny Norton, a guest lecturer who visited SOLA a few years ago.

Bonny Norton, in her work on language learners' commitment to learning, talks about "imagined communities". Imagined communities is fundamentally the socialization of knowledge. The imagined communities would be something common for a language learning who is motivated. When thinking of the imagined community, the consideration of how language proficiency can be useful or beneficial beyond the realm of the classroom becomes a persistent issue.

In the case of the teachers 'posing' as a non-Thai, it could be argued that the teaching environment was treated similarly to an 'imagined community'. They have constructed a reality where the community responds to them differently, given that the community is unaware of their true 'identities'.

The issue of ethics would be something to be argued, though. I am sure as teachers, we have used cunning tactics to get our students to be motivated. For instance just this morning when I threatened my student that he would get an instant F if he continued to doze off during my lectures (my class meets at 8 am and the weather here in Muak Lek is simply wonderful at the moment). I would say the teachers are okay, as long as their actions are not illegal.

Perhaps what we see here is a crucial example we need to consider when we think of motivation. Students, at least in Asia, still expect teachers to be a certain 'thing'. The cliched case of an English teacher is that people of Thailand are very gullible to believe that native-speaking English teachers are the better English language teachers. Given this line of thought, students would perhaps be more motivated to learn if they thought their teachers were non-local.

This leads us to (probably) the heart of the matter. Perhaps the real giant we face here is the homogeneous ideology that is being sustained by money-making agencies (such as TOEFL and IELTS) that continue to 'champion' the idea of native English speakerism. To help address this issue, David Hayes, another visiting lecturer we had, has been championing local English teachers. Hayes proposed the notion of teaching competencies, which include sociocultural and educational skills, as determinants for employments, instead of physical features and language proficiency.

Norton, B. (2001). Non-participation, imagined communities and the language classroom. Learner contributions to language learning: New directions in research, 6(2), 159-171.

Hayes, D. (2009). Learning Language, Learning Teaching Episodes from the Life of a Teacher of English in Thailand. RELC Journal, 40(1), 83-101.

Hayes, D. (2010). Language learning, teaching and educational reform in rural Thailand: an English teacher's perspective. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 30(3), 305-319.
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