View that native English-speaking teachers are better is very misguided

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 July, 2012, 12:00am


In response to Dermot Cooper's letter ('Parents should beware of fraudulent tutorial centres that do not help children', July 24), I would like to point out that the issue he raised is in fact a two-fold matter - the issue of unqualified English teachers and the presence of non-native English teachers.

Firstly, I must agree that the issue of unqualified teachers is a legitimate concern that should be dealt with seriously since the quality of education should never be undermined by any irresponsible individuals.

Having said that though, I find it difficult to comprehend Mr Cooper's view that the 'vast majority of teachers employed are not native English teachers'.

The question I have is a very simple one: Why must they be native English teachers?

It is an incredulous notion to assume that only native English teachers possess the capabilities to teach English.

As a student, I have studied in an international school locally before furthering my education in Singapore.

Over the years, I have had a plethora of English teachers from different backgrounds, including native and non-native English teachers.

More recently, during the two years of my high school education, I had the privilege to be taught by an English teacher who spoke and wrote with such finesse. He is Singaporean-Chinese.

Indeed, there is no substitute for an educated teacher, but to say that 'there is no substitute for an educated native English teacher' simply carries more than just an inkling of discrimination.

Hailing from an English-speaking country does not by default make a person any more qualified to teach English, similar to how being Chinese does not equate to having an edge over a non-Chinese in Putonghua.

A case in point is Kevin Rudd, former prime minister of Australia, who probably speaks better Putonghua than half of my peers.

While we certainly should not wait any longer to deal with the problem of unqualified teachers, it is also crucial that we come to a realisation that it is extremely superficial to assume that native English teachers are better than their equally qualified non-native counterparts, simply because of where they come from. And I implore everybody who is caught up in this perception to get in touch with reality.

Tricia Cheong, Kowloon Tong