Sun, Mar 03, 2013 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Teachers form group against discrimination

By Bryan Harris  /  Staff reporter

Today, it stands at just under 500 members, with a Web site and blog in the works (http://taditaiwan.wordpress.com/).

“Unfortunately, perhaps from prejudice, misinformation or a lack of international experience, there is significant pressure on schools from certain parents or individuals to hire Caucasian teachers with the mistaken assumption that they or their child is guaranteed a proper and authentic English education based on the ethnicity of their teacher,” Chen says in TADIT’s manifesto. “The result is that a large number of highly qualified, native English-speaking applicants, especially of Asian descent, are either not considered or offered lower wages.”

TADIT seeks to fight this discrimination by raising awareness and ending the “fear of non-Caucasian English teachers” that can exist in the hearts and minds of particular individuals, Chen said.

In doing so, TADIT has engaged in a number of activities, ranging from lobbying politicians to producing a brochure, which outlines ways that schools can fight discrimination.

Volunteers propel each project and a team of translators work pro bono to make all publications available in both English and Chinese. The group is also planning to host a Diversity Day.

“The aim of the Diversity Day is to showcase a variety of different cultures, nationalities, traditions and customs to families primarily and spread knowledge of those things,” said Jon Hales, an English teacher from the UK, who is organizing the event.

“We think this fear of non-white English teachers comes from a lack of exposure. If we can expose people, especially families, to greater diversity, we can help change things,“ added Hales, who is organizing a soccer tournament, face-painting, live music, yoga classes and an Aboriginal dance performance to feature in the event.

Perhaps TADIT’s greatest function is its ability to empower.

Budhi says that he almost left Taiwan because of the discrimination he faced, but has now been revitalized to fight the problem.

“We are stronger as a group,” Budhi said. “Together we can tackle the intangible forces of discrimination. The future is brighter.”

The group is right to feel optimistic going forward.

Last month, a Taipei court ruled in Chen’s favor after she made an official complaint about the discrimination she had encountered.

The offending school was fined, with the court warning that any further infringements would lead to exponentially larger punitive charges. Chen documented the entire process and has made flowcharts and files available online to assist any person seeking to make an official complaint in the future.

“If people realize they can do something, they will start to report cases,” Hales said. “People will become willing to take a stand.”

When asked about discrimination within English schools, Vicky Hsieh, a senior teacher at Immanuel English School in Taipei, expressed a different side to the story. Hsieh indicated a preference for teachers from diverse backgrounds, especially those of Asian origin.

“The English teachers of Asian origin tend to know more about the local culture and traditions,” Hsieh said. “When it comes to events such as Chinese New Year or the Lantern Festival, they are able to teach the younger kids about the customs.”

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