Unqualified Teachers In China? From Insights Into TEFL

Insights Into TEFL recently expanded on the notion that there are many teachers billed as “unqualified” working in China.

On the one hand, I would not want to imply that training isn’t important; I think it is, and I believe that training in communicative method, like that in the CELTA and many other TEFL certification courses, and the teaching practice and feedback which are part of it, is useful no matter what you end up doing. This is not only for the students’ benefit but also for the teacher’s.

However, author Frank Doonan pointed out in the post: “It is true being able to speak English as a native speaker does not mean you know how to teach. Unfortunately getting your degree in teaching or other related fields does not always qualify either…The original goal of Chinese schools was not necessarily geared to having professional teachers teach English. The system mostly developed based on just having native speakers give Chinese the opportunity to practice oral English. The schools still basically depended on Chinese teachers” [to teaching English]… I found that the ability to teach English in China is basically learned by teaching English in China. The problems and techniques of teaching in China involves not only teaching, but a culture barrier in learning and teaching methods not learned in schools in western cultures.”

People often have a fairly limited notion of what being a teacher is, and perhaps the use of the word teacher rather than discussion-leader or facilitator or some other title is part of this. It’s been my observation that there really are different roles for native speakers in EFL.
I also think it’s fair to say that in many cases accommodations are made to combine the need for an English speaker of some kind with the demand that exists among many English-speaking people to live abroad for a year and interact with locals. In theory this can work out to the benefit of everyone involved – whether it actually does in practice depends on many things.