Foreign English Teachers as Scab Labour


In an interesting turn of events, I have discovered that ‘Allison’, the author of the comment that prompted this posting, is not a real person. After finishing the post, I tried to contact her and elicit further commentary. The e-mail address that was posted with her name bounced back. The really interesting part of this is that the e-mail address that was posted, although not real, appears designed to look like a real one, unlike some others who post with e-mail address that are clearly intended as jokes.

This post is about the King Car Education Foundation rural English program. As regular readers of my site know, King Car Education Foundation is using missionaries from the Advanced Training Institute International (ATII) as teachers in this program. I have been in touch with a number of these teachers. Initially, the missionaries told me about why they thought I misunderstood their mission, and I told them that the political situation here is quite complex and their presence here just makes it worse. Still, it had always been quite cordial. All this changed with an e-mail I received from an American school teacher who had worked with a different King Car program. Since then, the missionaries with whom I was corresponding have stopped writing me and I have begun receiving comments on my site whose abrasive tone is hard to mistake.

My most recent concern is the amount of compensation that ATII missionaries are receiving. I wrote,

It also appears that they are receiving substantial support in the way of free housing and payment of as much as $600 a month (which I assume is US dollars). It appears that their salary (which they call a stipend) is paid in cash and is tax-free.

In response to this, a Taiwan-based ATII missionary-teacher posted the following comment.

For those of us, interested in teaching english in Taiwan, the cost is staggering.. For even a 3-week missions trip, the cost is well over $2000’s a person..Paid by the missionary/student. Teaching english is almost the same set-up. Teachers go through thousands of dollars of training, and spend months upon months of preperation. The reward is seeing the change and the blessing in the lives of their students that is the benefit for them, the actual making of money, I think is hardly ever a case.

Allison,
ATI Student,
United States

While I continue to appreciate any input I can get from instructors in this program, Allison’s mail just goes to highlight the profound confusion that ATII missionaries have about what they’re doing here. When I said that the income received by workers in the program was “substantial”. I was not comparing the income of ATII missionary-teachers to foreign teachers in Taipei or Japan. Rather, I was comparing it to the teachers who really should be providing the language instruction in rural regions — local teachers.

I have no doubt that Allison is blissfully unaware that teacher’s colleges all over Taiwan are spitting out highly trained, highly competent graduates who are increasingly having trouble finding work. In addition, there are numerous almost as competent but unsuccessful candidates for these positions who end up being Chinese assistants in chain bushibans. For the kind of money that is being thrown at American high school graduates simply because they are White and seem trustworthy, I have no doubt that a proper training program in rural education could be established.

You see Allison, my interpretation of your mission is that young people who are not eligible for legal employment in Taiwan are taking the place of legal foreign teachers but more particularly of qualified local teachers. They are able to do this because they are not only cheaper than either of the alternatives, but they are also significantly easier to manage.

Personally, I am very bothered by all of this. I think it’s wrong, and whatever support I have for the clean living Christian message spread by King Car and ATII is far outweighed by the evils this creates in a system desperately in need of a stronger role for the central government. Let me conclude this with a quote from an earlier post addressing another question about the King Car missions.

I wonder how [the writer] of this letter would respond to unqualified foreigners replacing for free teachers in her school. My father was a school teacher and active in the teacher’s association, and in my family we would call this scab labor.

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