Monday, April 09, 2012

Unverified foreign hagwon instructors, useless visa regs, and apparent EPIK cutbacks

Last week Expat Hell criticized the E-2 visa regulations. Go read it now, if you haven't already.

On April 6, Newsis reported on the slow rate of progress in implementing the changes brought by the revision of the hagwon law last year, such as reducing the range of additional tuition fees, dealing with 'hakparazzi,' (people who rat out hagwons which break the rules) registering changes to tuition and verifiying foreign instructors. Guess which one of those things it highlighted?
Only 1 out of 10 foreign instructors in Seoul hagwons are verified

[...]According to SMOE on the 6th currently only 9.26% of foreign instructors working in Seoul area hagwons have been verified.

The amendment specifies that when hagwons hire foreign instructors they should confirm they are not illegal sojourners via additional verification such as criminal record checks, health checks, degree confirmation, passport, visa, and alien registration cards.

However, in the case of the Seongbuk office of education (Gangbuk and Seongbuk-gu), out of 152 foreign instructors, only 8 or 5.26% have gone ahead which is the lowest rate.

In the case of Gangnam office of education (Gangnam, Seocho-gu), which has largest number of foreign instructors registered, out of 2,172 teachers, 115 or 5.29% have been recorded, and out of 204 instructors under the Nambu office of education, only 16 or 7.84% have been verified.

On the other hand, the Seongdong office of education (Seongdong, Gwangjin-gu), has had 101 out of 132 instructors or a relatively high rate of 76.51% recorded. Dongjak office of education (Dongjak, Gwanak-gu), has had 72 of 170 people validated, or 42.35%, almost half.

A SMOE official explained that "There was a grace period until January, though even now verification by area offices of education is continuing." "However, in the case of some foreigners, they have faced delays in their home countries issuing the necessary documents for verification because it is somewhat time-consuming."
Changes to hagwon registration and listing of fees have also been carried out by few hagwons. Of 15,409 hagwons, only 2,176 have registered (14.12%); out of 11,779 study rooms (교습소), only 606 (5.14%) have registered, and out of 14,836 people providing private lessons, only 297 (2%) have registered.

I guess there's no need for SMOE (or Newsis - I can't be sure where the fault lies) to mention the fact that most foreign English instructors are already verified by the exact same documents needed for the E-2 visa, and that the only group of teachers who need to be verified are non E-2 visa holders. As mentioned in this post, KBS reported that
there are 15,400 native speaking instructors at hagwons in Korea. Among these, 10% or 1,500 people are overseas Korean F-4 visa holders who do not need to submit criminal record checks which include a drug test certificate.
So the honest way to put it would be that at least 90% of hagwon instructors are 'verified' already - it's just that an idiotic duplication of effort required by the MoE is "somewhat time-consuming."

The Kookmin Ilbo also reported on this, and had a similar headline. I tried to see if SMOE had made a public announcement about this on its site, but found nothing (except this anti-foreign teacher rant posted to the bulletin board. Yes, I'll translate it later.)

At, someone posted a link to this EPIK newsletter and seemed confused that EPIK "hiring is going least it did this past March and looks to be heading so in Fall 2012 too." How someone could make such a claim from this blurb, I'm not really sure.

It says that in spring 2012 it placed 776 NSETs in (apparently) 13 metropolitan and provincial offices of education. Direct recruitment rose from 23% to 31% from the previous year. I take this to mean that EPIK hired 31% of the foreign teachers needed by those 13 offices of education this year, as compared to 23% last year, so the numbers should go up compared to last year. For the fall intake (which has always been higher than the spring intake, at least for SMOE), 600 teachers (ie. 176 less) will be hired for 15 offices of education (ie. for more offices of education) and EPIK aims to meet 50% of their needs, so the numbers should go way up compared to last year. But compared to last year, the numbers are dropping. According to this newsletter, "we hosted our Spring 2011 Orientation for 1,000 incoming guest English teachers" (compared to 776 for this spring, an almost 1/4 drop), and according to this newsletter, EPIK hired 970 teachers for fall 2011 (compared to 600 projected for this year - a more than 1/3 drop).

So, that means, compared to last year, there were almost a 1/4 less teachers for this year's spring intake of EPIK teachers, and there will be 1/3 less for the fall intake, and that will be for 2 more offices of education and EPIK is aiming to meet 50% of the 15 offices of education's needs.

While I'm sure the more than 400 teachers being cut by SMOE (who EPIK has been recruiting for since 2010) has played a part, it's impossible to know (from its newsletters) just what other cuts are being to NSETs. But this doesn't seem like reassuring news for native speaking teachers working in Korean public schools.

Or for English native speakers, at any rate. What I will say is that doing a search for 'native speaker' on Naver now, instead of turning up mostly English speaking native speaker news, turns up Chinese native speaker news. I'll let the reader decide if what this March 28 Newsis article has to report is of consequence: The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology plans to hire 200 Chinese native speaking teachers for CPIK (Chinese Program in Korea) this year (and has already hired 140 so far) and place them in schools under the jurisdiction of 12 city and provincial offices of education.

Seeing as they are on E-2 visas, I wonder how strictly the drug and HIV tests will be enforced for them. I'd be very curious to know, in fact.

1 comment:

Chris in South Korea said...

I wonder if learning Chinese will be seen as more important than learning English, over time.

Re: the 'hakparazzi' - I'm surprised the Korean authorities aren't reaching out to the thousands of NET's and tens of thousands of KET's who would know about a hagwon's shady dealings...