Do native English speakers make better teachers?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 August, 2007, 12:00am

Jeff Lu, 16 Phillips Academy, Andover

Yes. Native English speakers are naturals in the language and make better teachers in an English-language class.

Hong Kong students want to be confident in their spoken English, and so want to speak with fluent English speakers. Their concern is speaking English, not so much reading and writing English.

Students who hear less-than-accurate English pronunciation in the class end up speaking the same way outside the classroom. Unlearning wrong pronunciation requires a huge effort.

Many local teachers are as competent as their native English speaking counterparts, but they have less credibility in the eyes of their students. It's a bit like having an ex-gym teacher teaching history; no matter how good he is, students will question his credibility. This makes locals slightly less effective as teachers in a classroom.

Also, many local teachers speak a formal, grammatically precise English. This Queen's English is suitable if you are meeting the Queen, but not for everyday conversation.

Native English speakers speak 'street' English, which can be used to interact with any fluent English speaker. When you use street English you are responding in a contemporary, non-formal conversational manner.

Gigi Lam, 18 STFA Cheng Yu Tung Secondary School

Decisions on hiring native English speaking teachers and bilingual local teachers are often made on the untested assumption that native English speakers are inherently better teachers.

In a market-driven education system, in which institutions are competing for students, the presence of native English speaking teachers is often used as a marketing tool. Native speakers are given priority over local teachers, and may get preferential treatment.

People tend to think that foreign teachers are better teachers, regardless of the fact that local teachers had a better understanding of local students and the local education system.

The advantage of having a foreign teacher is that you get to hear English spoken fluently and idiomatically. Students are assured of authentic language exposure. There is also the benefit of being exposed to a different culture.

The local teacher's advantage is that he or she shares the language and culture and understands local students' needs. A great many local teachers are sound on English grammar, perhaps even more so than some overseas teachers.

Local teachers should not be discriminated against. Local and native English speaking teachers should be treated as equals. Every teacher has his own style and strengths.

With the government policy of having native English speakers on the staff, local teachers are being treated unfairly.