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HomeFeatures and CommentThe UK’s English language teaching industry lags on diversity

The UK’s English language teaching industry lags on diversity

After doing a survey of 30 UK English language schools’ websites, I found that, out of 133 teachers featured, only 11 were people of colour and of those 11, only three were black.

Ethnicities of featured teachers


According the 2011 census, 13% of the UK’s population are people of colour, but more recent surveys have said that number is closer to 14.4%, while English language schools feature only 8.3% teachers of colour.

Teachers of colour are under-represented by around 5-6% in the UK’s ESL industry. This shows a clear diversity problem in a supposedly inclusive industry. Many teachers of colour are either not being represented on schools’ sites or they are simply not being hired for English language teaching positions.

Another potential issue with the industry is how men and women are represented. While a large number of women work in ESL, it appears men are featured more often than women on schools’ websites.

Men and women representation


Women were featured prominently in other roles, such as administration and social activity coordinators, but when looking at the teaching roles, five more men were represented than women.

Women outnumber men 51% to 49% in the UK. It is unclear whether the underrepresentation of women on the sites is deliberate. However, anyone who works in this industry knows how prominent women teachers are.

At the school I work at currently, women teachers outnumber men 2 to 1. While that’s not representative of the entire industry, it does make you wonder whether men are getting overly advertised as ESL teachers, while women are being hidden. None of the 133 teachers featured had any visible tattoos. This may be the norm, as tattoos are viewed as unprofessional by the UK population. Only one teacher had visible piercings.

To gather this data, I reviewed 30 English language teaching schools’ sites advertised on Quality English. I didn’t include any summer schools, as they have a high turnover and do not normally have a ‘meet the teachers’ section.

There are some potential problems with the data. First, I, a white man, made the judgement if a person looked white or not. Ethnicity is not actually as obvious as we might believe. I could not say whether a person was from Southeast Asia or North Africa or had parents of different ethnicities.

Second, the sample size is not as large as it could be. There are at least a hundred language schools in the UK, but not every one features their teachers on an ‘about us’ page. Not every school has a readily accessible website either.

Despite these problems, the data still points towards the underrepresentation of teachers of colour in the UK. Women are also not as visible in teaching roles as men. The industry must do better if it wants to be truly diverse and inclusive. As pointed out previously in the EL Gazette, there are many teachers of colour who are being passed up for positions. Why not make an effort to hire them?

ESL teacher representation in the UK

Image courtesy of Library
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