opinion corner

All our members are very on the ball when it comes to highlighting issues of discrimination in today’s society. This week’s opinion comes from one of our extremely dedicated members- Reynaldo Budhi. Thanks for sharing!

“I personally think that discrimination around the world has its main origin in Hollywood movies and mainstream entertainment programming. If you travel to movie theaters in different countries, you’ll see that everyone watches Hollywood movies. Generally, the first exposure to foreigners that most people have is from watching these movies and TV. Unfortunately, Hollywood itself is rife with discrimination. Here’s an article entitled, “25 minority Characters that Hollywood Whitewashed”. Of course, there is no reason to discriminate, especially in education. I’m just pointing out where I believe much of it originates.”



Here is a very interesting article published in the Cornell Chronicle regarding how Asian-Americans often feel racial ‘microaggressions’.

We often hear and talk about microaggressions experienced by “foreign” looking teachers in Taiwan. We’d love it if teachers of Asian descent could share their experiences of microaggressions here in the comments below.

Thank you to Andrew Burning for sharing this.

a step in the right direction

Here is what Annie submitted as proof in her successful labor department claim from 2012. It was a very difficult decision for her, regarding whether or not to report this case, as the hiring manager was a genuinely nice person who seemed to share the same vision as TADIT, in ending discrimination against non-Caucasian teachers.

In the end however, she decided that the issue of hiring discrimination in Taiwan was bigger than the both of them and submitted the claim in the hopes of making a small dent in this common and wide spread issue.

This win, along with others we have seen recently show us that change can happen if you are willing to put in the effort and take a stand.

Imagine if all schools in Taiwan were aware that hiring discrimination could result in legal financial repercussions….


TADIT’S feature in Taipei Times

I’m sure many of you may have already read our article in the Taipei Times, or followed the link from our Facebook page. If, however, you happened to miss it- you can read it here.

We are so excited to have been published in the Taipei Times and here’s hoping it’s just the beginning for us in terms of media exposure.

On behalf of TADIT, we would like to thank everyone who has contributed and to those who have cheered us on. Without you all, and your continual support, we wouldn’t be as strong and growing as fast as we are today. The article has already attracted close to 4000 views! This is a big achievement for us, but let’s not stop here. 加油!

Here is the article in Chinese too:


陳小姐是臺灣人。她出生於臺灣, 一直到7歲前都住在臺灣,直到7歲那年跟父母搬到美國去。她受到美國教育,不過因她一直同時接受臺灣及美國兩個文化的影響,就像很多的移民者, 對自己國家及文化的歸屬感的不確定。因為對故鄉臺灣的懷念以及很多美好回憶,她在30歲時決定回臺北居住。


Annie Chen is Taiwanese. She was born in Taiwan, where she spent her first seven years, before moving to the US with her parents. She enjoyed an American education, but struggling with the identity issues that affect many long-term immigrants and bubbling with fond memories of her mother country, she opted to return home to Taipei at the age of 30.




However, when she began looking for a job, Chen was quickly exposed to an unfortunate troika of simmering social tensions — discrimination, racism and ignorance.


陳小姐找英文教師工作時,她發覺到她的外貌與姓氏都是障礙,帶來求職過程種種的不順利。因為英語教育公司要求應徵者在線上工作申請表上提供照片,因此會透露她的種族。為了避免學校以她的姓氏或種族來決定要不要跟她面試,她請她的朋友推薦她給認識的英語學校,而且在推薦時,只告訴學校她的英文名字 Annie。


Chen tried to find work as an English teacher, but found that her physical appearance and Asian surname impeded her search. Blanked by online applications in which her picture and ethnicity were clearly visible, Chen had to rely on personal referrals using just her first name.


透過不透露姓氏及種族資訊的前提 , 加上陳小姐豐富的工作經驗,讓不少英語教學公司決定跟她面試。 不過在當面或是用電話跟僱主面試時,一旦她的種族一提供,僱主對僱用陳小姐的意願很快的消失。


This approach, combined with her professional experience, garnered her numerous interviews. However, whenever her ethnicity became apparent — either upon first face-to-face encounter in an interview or when asked over the phone — potential employers quickly became “disinterested.”




“I found that lots of school didn’t want me as a teacher because I’m not white,” Chen said “As soon as they found out I wasn’t white they would hang up the phone on me or say: ‘Sorry, foreigners only’ even though I have dual citizenship.”




Asked whether she thought this was a reaction to her particular background, Chen was adamant that this was not the case.




Chen said that a number of advertisements often stipulate they are seeking “foreign-looking teachers,” which invariably means Caucasian-looking.


她說:「我跟很多老師討論這個話題,我們都覺得學校不會僱用亞裔老師的原因就是因為老師的外貌。如果一個人在美國出生,即使他中文一個字都不會,他的種族仍會影響他的就業機會 。」


“I’ve talked to many other teachers and think this is just based on appearance. Even if someone is born in the US, even if someone doesn’t speak a word of Chinese, it [ethnicity] will still affect their chances,” Chen said.




Her sentiments were echoed by others, who had experienced similar discrimination on the basis of their appearance.


來自紐約英語教師雷納爾多·布狄(Reynaldo Budhi) 解釋他第一次剛到臺灣時的意見,他說,[之前我的態度很天真,我以為這個世界跟紐約是一模一樣,種族並不重要)。


Reynaldo Budhi, an English teacher from New York, said he came to Taiwan with a “naive view that the world was like New York and that ethnicity does not matter.”




However, these preconceptions were soon dashed.




Budhi said that discrimination is often subtle and that applicants are vetted by their profile photos.


雷納爾多·布狄說,[面試的步驟,學校不一定已經看過你的照片。所以在面試之前,我想要先給學校我的照片,理由是我寧願學校在我到學校面試之前歧視我, 總比到了學校在面試時讓我丟臉來得好]。


“Assuming you even get to the point that you get an interview, they may or may not have seen your picture. My rationale for sending the picture was that I’d rather you discriminate [me] before I come than come and feel humiliated,” Budhi said.




Budhi recounts one recent interview, in which the interviewer had not seen his photo. Toward the end of interview, he was interrupted and told “they are hoping for someone who looks American.”




It is against this backdrop that Chen established Teachers Against Discrimination in Taiwan (TADIT), a group that tackles the “serious and pervasive problem of employment discrimination at English-language centers” in Taiwan. The group grew organically after another advertisement seeking “white teachers” on a social network raised the ire of several netizens.




Chen responded to the advertisement by saying that such preferences are unquestionably illegal and citing the relevant national law.




Her response became a rallying point for teachers across the nation, who had been affected by these undercurrents of racism and had no platform on which to connect with others in the same situation. Chen was inundated by messages and the nascent Facebook group grew rapidly in numbers and participation.


如今團員接近500人,TADIT也正在設計網頁與部落格 (https://taditaiwan.wordpress.com/)。


Today, it stands at just under 500 members, with a Web site and blog in the works (https://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.


TADIT的團員都是志工,而且他們當專案的負責人,TADIT也有一個義工的翻譯組,因翻譯組,於是每份文件有英文版及中文版。TADIT也正在計劃一個多元節活動(Diversity Day)。


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.


來自英國的英語教師喬恩·海爾斯(Jon Hales),他是多元節活動的主辦,他說,[多元節活動的目標是展示各色各樣的文化、國籍、傳統或習俗等等。我們的觀眾多半是家庭,而且我們希望這個活動可以推廣接受不同國籍和文化的重要性]。


“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.”




“If the teachers can speak Chinese, they can also communicate better with the younger students and the students’ parents. I think parents like to see teachers of Asian origin because they [the parents] think they will understand the Asian education culture better,” Hsieh added.




At the time of going to press, HESS and a number of other, high-profile English-language schools, had not responded to inquiries on the matter.



TADIT brochure

It’s clear that a real movement has been started with TADIT and one that seems to have been long overdue!

Looking at the issue of discrimination purely from an economic stance, it is safe to say that the schools that do discriminate, do so because they believe they can maximize profits by giving customers what they want – white teachers – and therefore signing up more students.

So looking at the problem that way, what can we do to change things for the better? Well, as Annie and others have already demonstrated, we can report these cases to the authorities which, with some patience, can lead to a hefty 100,000 NT fine for the school. The school is definitely going to think twice before discriminating again and for other schools, just having the threat of this will be a powerful financial disincentive.

Of course, there is much more to the issues TADIT address than just economics and money. Ethics, equality, morality – the important things in life – play a huge role. Changing the mindset of the students’ parents regarding the effectiveness of non white native English speaking teachers is what will really change things for good. Having effective ways to demonstrate to parents that non white English teachers from native English speaking countries do in fact have fluent English and do come from where they say they do is key to building trust between parent and school and promoting equality.

Working with schools, not against them, and helping them to educate parents is surely a priority. It’s the schools that ultimately have contact with their customers. With this in mind we have developed a brochure which can act as a starting point for a dialogue between TADIT and schools that can help to start to put the shift in mindset in place.

Thanks goes to Jolyn Peng (http://www.jolynpeng.com/), an incredibly talented Taipei based designer for putting this together!

TADIT letter

Below is a copy of the letter that has been emailed to a number of offices and organizations including the Ministry of Education and the Executive Yuan. Much thanks to certain members of TADIT including Ellery Hamann and David Ting for your help and contributions. We have already received a couple of responses and will report on them shortly. If you have suggestions of a group or organization to whom a copy of this letter should be sent, please let us know.

TADIT letter