Does equality really exist in ELT?

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit pessimistic about the state of ELT. It feels everyday more like a club we NNEST are not welcome to join.

When I look around me, online and offline, I see more and more people participating in the NEST-NNEST debate, affirming that there should be no differences. That gender, colour or religions shouldn’t make a difference when hiring a teacher.

Then I do a quick reality check, and things start to look a lot different.


Many students (a.k.a clients) request native speakers. In Italian state school tenders one of the most common requirements is mother-tongue teachers. Students hardly conceal their disappointment when they hear your surname and ask: “oh, so you are Italian…?”.

Last week I even had a 8-year old girl telling me: “we know you’re Italian!” as if to say “don’t lie to us, we know you are not the real thing”.


Even when they say they don’t discriminate, I sometimes have the feeling employers still prefer NEST, especially for high-profile positions. After all, how can you have a Cambridge School represented by a Turkish DoS? This is so disheartening I sometimes think I should just change job. What’s the point of swimming upstream for the rest of my working life?


Even though I have plenty of supportive colleagues, I still think many teachers in ELT secretly believe NEST is better. This includes both NEST and NNEST — and might include myself as I often struggle to believe I’ll ever be as good as my NEST colleagues.

What to expect?

I have only discussed native speakerism as this is something I experience first hand in my everyday life, but I can assume the same is true for gender, religious or racial divides. Will we ever see the end of it? Of course I don’t know, but by the look of things, they will take a long time — that is if they will ever actually change.

After all, we are living in an era that elected Donald Trump as president of the most powerful and influential nation in the world. I don’t expect things to change for the better any time soon.

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