In the comments on a recent LanguageHat post two of the most articulate, literate, and thoughtful members of the blogsphere, John Emerson (aka Zizka) and LanguageHat discuss teaching English in Taiwan. My first thought was to think of Taiwanese who complain about the poor quality of native speaker English teachers who come to Taiwan. How can they complain when they are getting some of the best teachers anyone could possibly hope to have?
Well, it just so happens that Scott Sommers has an extended post on exactly this topic! He starts by distinguishing between the teachers and the programs which depend on such teachers.
Native speaker English teachers (NSET) and native speaker teacher programs (NSETP) are not the same thing. NSET describes characteristics of the teacher. NSETP, on the other hand, describes the way in which a policy either deliberately or incidentally defines the role of these teachers.
His point is that while some of the teachers themselves may be good, depending on such teachers does not make for a good language education policy. The problem is that while these teachers are hired for their native speaking ability (and often for their caucasian skin, I might add), “their instructional abilities, knowledge of language, and ability to guide students are reduced to insignificant aspects of the instruction.”
The vast majority of the thousands of people employed as NSET work as instructors in commercial schools. They are subject to poor pay and other working conditions. They are provided with no job security. But most significantly, they are not in-charge of their student’s learning.