Scope for Non-Native English Speaking Teachers (NNEST)

Dr. Trilok Sharma

Recently, I was going through a very interesting article contributed by ARMANDO PANNACCI on I am reproducing the same for the benefit of all our readers and students.

In an attempt to recruit “qualified teachers”, many ESL positions stipulate that candidates must be native English speakers teachers (NESTs). In most cases, they limit the countries of native speakers to the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. This is an unfair practice and assumes that non-native English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) are not qualified when oftentimes the opposite is true. There are more than plenty of qualified NNESTs who are able to explain grammar much better than native teachers. However, unfortunately, these nearly discriminatory practices do exist in the ESL industry, but there are surely plenty of opportunities for NNEST, and here you can read about which countries make it easier for non-native teachers to teach in.  

The ESL industry is developing fast and opportunities are growing. Personally, in the previous schools I have taught at, nearly half the staff were NNESTs. Many teachers were from Russia, the UAE, and India. The reason is that the demand for ESL teachers is so high, and is set to increase further. Currently, a trend towards hiring NNESTs is picking up speed. This will most likely continue in the future. I predict that many positions will soon be filled by NNESTs.

Top 9 Places to Apply for a Job as an NNEST

1. Cambodia 

In my opinion, Cambodia is the easiest country for NNESTs to teach in.  There are basically no requirements for processing a working visa besides a valid passport and employer’s letter. You do not have to be a native speaker and you do not have to have a degree. Cambodia would be a good choice as demand is very strong for ESL teachers. 

2. South America 

Nationality is much less a factor in South America than in other regions. However, a TEFL or TESOL is usually required to land a job. In Brazil, there is a growing demand for English teachers and schools often hire NNESTs. As far as visa rules go, it is difficult to be sponsored for a visa, although it has nothing to do with nationality but more to do with the long process and amount of paperwork involved. Although not recommended as ideal, teaching on another kind of visa has rarely been reported as an issue in Brazil. For NNESTs without a degree, this may be an ideal country to teach in. 

3. Thailand 

NNESTs can both work in Thailand and be given a visa from the government as long as they have a bachelor’s degree and possess a TEFL certificate. Non-native English-speaking teachers need an English proficiency score of more than 600 on TOEIC or 5.5 on IELTS to obtain a work permit. 

4. Vietnam 

Most Vietnamese job ads state that teachers need to be “native” speakers, but due to the large number of vacancies many companies do hire NNESTs.  I have talked to plenty of NNESTs that have quickly been offered a job in Vietnam. It may be easier for NEST teachers to land a job, but NNESTs are definitely not ignored in Vietnam when applying.

5. Middle East 

There is a strong demand for teachers of English and indeed all subjects in the Middle East. Due to the rise of international education in countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia, many teaching vacancies need to be filled. NNESTs can apply, albeit in many cases they may need to show an English proficiency of 7 on IELTS to be considered.  

6. China 

In China, there are plenty more jobs than teachers and, with relative ease, NNESTs can find a job. The issue will be in applying for the visa. In China, English teachers must be from the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, or South Africa to process a visa. You must also have a bachelor’s degree, and a few other conditions must be met. However, if an NNEST has a degree from a “native-speaking country” then it is possible to obtain a work permit according to Chinese law.  

7. Europe 

For teachers who are members of the EU, it is much more likely that you can get a job based on qualifications and not because you are a NEST. As a matter of fact, organizations working within the EU, (currently) including the British Council, cannot advertise for “native speakers” as this discriminatory practice is against EU law and schools governed by the EU are breaking this law if they do ask for “native” English teachers in any of their postings around the world. Furthermore, regarding visas, hiring EU nationals has advantages for schools in the EU because they don’t have to worry about visas for EU citizens. Most EU citizens can work legally in any EU country. If your passport is not from the EU, your application may not take priority as you will require a visa/work permit.

8. Japan 

Finding a job as an NNEST in a private Japanese school may be difficult as they usually prefer to fill positions with NESTs. However, many companies hiring for ALT positions, which are teaching positions in public schools, do hire NNESTs for their programs, most notably the JET program as well as a company called Interac.  

9. Korea 

In my opinion, Korea may be a bit tougher. The ESL teaching vacancies are usually filled by NESTs and local Korean NNESTs. Korean teachers often fill public school positions, leaving most private school or after school positions being filled fairly quickly. Therefore NNESTs from abroad may have a harder time landing a job. In fact, in some cities in Korea, local Korean NNESTs have replaced NESTs in public schools.

Opportunities for Teaching Online

Palfish, Topica Native, Cambly, Itutorgroup, CCClass online are all recommended online teaching companies that hire NNESTs, and they are well known for it. They go after the best teachers, not limiting themselves to specific countries. Although a good internet connection is required, teaching online is another option for NNESTs. 

Giving Yourself an Edge

As an NNEST, marketing yourself is the key.  Companies know that native speakers can speak English well but may not necessarily be able to teach it. Many employers are aware that NNESTs can make excellent teachers and that not all native teachers are necessarily quality teachers. The difference is that if you are an NNEST, you have to prove somehow that you are good before you get the job. This proof can be credentialed, and definitely, an IELTS score is helpful. IELTS are standardized scores, so if you do have a score of 7 or above, the employers will take you a lot more seriously.  

A Bright Future for NNESTs Abroad

The future looks bright for English teachers as more opportunities arise all over the globe, and to fill those positions, I think many schools will start looking for qualified teachers. Being “native” speaking or not will be less of a factor in the coming years, I predict. My best advice is to build up your professional credentials in English and start applying.


"The future looks bright for English teachers as more opportunities arise all over the globe, and to fill those positions, I think many schools will start looking for qualified teachers. Being “native” speaking or not will be less of a factor in the coming years, I predict."

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Originally published May 2, 2019

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