China will soon prohibit non-native English teachers in an effort to improve quality of the English language in the country.
In a new work permit system released in October by the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, foreign workers would be divided into three categories: A, B and C expats.
The system is currently being rolled out in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and other places before it expands in April, according to Shanghaiist.
One rule in the system requires all foreign English teachers to be native speakers, as well as hold a bachelor’s degree from their home country and have at least two years of teaching experience.
“If a non-native English speaker majored in education, or has a teacher’s certificate recognized by our administration, such as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate, then the two years’ work experience is not necessary,” an email from the administration stated, according to the Global Times.
A bachelor’s degree or higher, however, is still required in order to teach.
Before this, only the bachelor’s degree and two years of experience were mandatory for a proper work visa. But many institutions managed to hire candidates with fewer qualifications.
It is unclear how many countries qualify as native English-speaking, but Noli Castillano Apachicha, a Filipino English teacher working in Beijing, is worried that he could potentially lose his job.
“I expect that later on, I will not be qualified for my job because of this new regulation,” he told Global Times. “It will also shun many qualified non-native speakers like me who hope to come to teach English in China.”
The country has a strong demand for English teachers, so it’s also unclear how strict the new rule will be.
However, critics have already pointed out that it will result in a decrease in quality of the English language in China with higher salaries for native speakers pricing schools in lower-tier cities out of the foreign market.
Apachicha suggests the government should find ways to test a teacher’s knowledge and skills instead of the place they were born.
He added: “Why not give teachers a licensing examination to ensure the quality of education being received from Chinese students? It doesn’t matter if you are native or non-native; credit should be given to all great teachers no matter their nationality.”