The ESL Industry: A Different Point of View!
Before I begin this submission, let me just say that I have been an avid reader of this website for a number of years, however, this is my first attempt at writing an article to Stickman.
As you can see from my title this essay will have nothing to do with the political turmoil that has rocked this city for the past months, instead it is merely my observation and thoughts concerning a worldwide industry that has shown itself to be arrogant, sanctimonious and self-serving.
A brief description about my background. I have worked in the financial services industry for over thirty years (13 in a managerial position and 18 in financial sales). And, there came a point in time when I felt I had had enough of the hectic pace and decided to embark upon a new career (teaching).
While I was a student attending university I wondered what it would be like to lecture a university class and flirted with the idea of proceeding towards a post graduate degree to do so. My academic advisor at the time said If you want to make real money go into business not teaching, and so I did. I was successful in business but like I said I grew tired of the hectic pace and decided to "pack it in".
I briefly "retired" and subsequently grew restless. I bought a ticket to Thailand and enrolled in a TEFL course. Shortly thereafter I landed a teaching job at a language school, progressed to a primary school and finally became a faculty member of a university. I fulfilled my dream for I was lecturing university students on business courses, not teaching ESL grammar.
This has all happened to me over the last four and one-half years. It has not been an easy road to travel. You see, once an individual passes age 55 the proverbial windows of opportunity start shutting with no alternative door opening. I have just turned 60 and still in reasonably good shape with a youthful bounce to my step but it does not matter for once a recruiter sees my date of birth the words "too old" or perhaps "lazy" come to mind. Interviews are very few and far between. How the ESL industry thinks that only people under age 45 can function properly in a classroom setting escapes me. Perhaps, that is because I do not see any 60 year old recruiters out there.
Ageism exists around the world, and should not be accepted under any circumstances, least of all in teaching. What can an older, seasoned person bring to the classroom that some young "whippersnapper" cannot, EXPERIENCE! and WISDOM! that can only come from time.
Another example of arrogance on the part of the ESL industry is the definition of "Native English" speaker. I have come to realize that according to the "Grand High Exalted Mystic Rulers" of ESL in order for one to be considered a Native English speaker qualified to teach English, one must possess a "Golden Passport". (there are only seven). Now, most of you are probably thinking what the heck is he talking about? I will tell you.
In reviewing advertisement after advertisement, whether it be Ajarn.com, Dave's ESL Cafe, etc., invariably, the "ad" specifically will state something like "Teaching positions available for only Native English speakers which hold the following passports:
2. United States
4. United Kingdom
5. South Africa
7. New Zealand
I nicknamed the above countries passports' as "Golden Passports", for all other passport holders in the eyes of the " Grand High Exalted Mystic Rulers" are not worthy, incapable or somehow lacking in English skills to be considered.
Well, I have got some news for them. In addition to the above mentioned 'Magnificent Seven", there are about 34 other counties throughout the Caribbean, Pacific and the continent of Africa whereby English is the official language of their respective governments and also the language spoken by their inhabitants.
However, there seems to be one common thread prevalent throughout all of these countries (with the exception of Singapore), the populations are predominately Black. Could it be that the "Grand High Exalted Mystic Rulers of ESL are bigoted or prejudiced in addition to arrogant and sanctimonious?
I cannot say for sure, remember South Africa is a golden passport country. Why would they be considered as a qualified Native English speaking country while Belize would not? We all know that South Africa is predominately Black, yet it maintains a unique status among its neighbors. Hmmm, food for thought.
But, continuing along these lines, the countries not falling within the scope of Native English speaker category, are not totally Black. In some cases, Bermuda for example has a population make up of 54% Black and 34% White. The Bahamas has a make up of 85% Black 10% White. I have to say that if I were a citizen of any of these countries and some pompous, self-righteous recruiter said I was not a Native English speaker, I would question his sanity.
Every child growing up in the United States must study American History at some point throughout his or her educational career. When America gained independence from England, our first president George Washington selected his cabinet members. High ranking individuals to carry out their respective duties to ensure a proper functioning government. The first Secretary of the Treasury was none other than Alexander Hamilton. Guess what, "old Al" was born on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean. I am sure if he were alive today and some ESL recruiter dismissed him as not worthy or qualified to teach English, Hamilton knowing the elitist that he was would equally consider that recruiter to be an idiot, and rightfully so.
I believe I have fulfilled the requirements dictated by Stick for submission (800 words) at least I hope so.
I wrote this essay because I have never read anything anywhere considering these two topics and welcome any and all comments and feedback.
* For all you Americans, Marcus Welby MD was a television show which portrayed one of the last few Doctors to make house calls for his patients (It starred Robert Young and James Brolin circa 1970).
When I saw the title of this submission I thought we might be in for something new. In the end it seems to me that it is more of a rant about really basic issues, none of which are confined to the ESL industry. All that you mention are relevant to most industries in Thailand.
So, ageism is a problem in Thailand? Probably less of a problem here than elsewhere to be honest! From what I hear in the West, things can get quite difficult once you pass your late '40s.
YES, like much of Asia, Thai schools want white faces in the classroom. That is widely known and is far from a Thailand thing. Not good, but this is a continent-wide issue!
I had hoped you might touch on issues like unqualified teachers, sexual predators in the classroom, the blatant lies many language schools make to students about faculty…and the list could go on and on and on…