Monday, December 03, 2012

Use of old, incorrect statistics shows that foreign teachers no longer consider public schools a 'part time job'

On November 28 News1 published the following article:
Native speaking teachers: "From now on it's not a part time job for us"
At schools in Chungcheongbuk-do, the rate of contract renewal greatly increases

While only two years ago there were many cases of 'native speaking assistant English teachers' not finishing their one year contracts and quitting halfway through, which caused many disruptions to school English conversation education, these days not only do most finish their contracts, they also renew their contracts at a higher rate.

According to the Chungcheongbuk-do office of education on the 28th, out of 474 elementary, middle and high schools in the province, native speaking assistant English teachers were placed in 408 schools, with 256 in elementary schools, 125 in middle schools, and 27 in high schools, making for a 86.1% placement rate.

This placement rate is tenth nationwide, following Jeju-do (100%), Daegu (99.5%), Chungcheongnam-do (97.2%), Gyeongsangbuk-do (96.8%), Daejeon (91.4%), Busan (90.4%), Guangju (89.1%), Seoul (87.3%), and Ulsan (87.1%).

Chungcheongbuk-do is in somewhat better circumstances when looking at  the number of students per native speaking teacher, and comes in sixth nationwide with 649 students per teacher, following Gyeongsangbuk-do (475), Chungcheongnam-do (482), Jeju Island (500), Gangwon-so (506), Jeollanam-do (567).

However, different from this placement rate, the recently released 'rate of dismissal before the contract period (1 year) expires' has greatly decreased, and the it's known that they've gradually broken away from thinking of it as a 'part time job.'

According to data from the provincial Office of Education and the National Assembly's Education, Science and Technology Committee, from 2008 to 2010, the rate of native speaking teachers in Chungcheongbuk-do breaking their cotracts halfway through was 75%, or 7.5 out of 10 people failed to complete their one year contract and quit halfway through.

In Chungcheongbuk-do last year, however, not only did only 4 out of 300 native speaking teachers quit early, around 50% wanted to re-sign their contract and to work for one or two more years.

Furthermore, with the reasons given for breaking contracts in the past (2008-2010) being to go back to school or a new job (22% nationwide) or going AWOL (15.4% nationwide), the sense that it was a 'part-time job' to stay a short while and make money rather than a 'job' was stronger, but now its known to be special circumstances such as unavoidable family problems or sickness, not dismissal.

An office of education official said, "Native speaking assistant teachers can make a contract if they are a citizen of one of the 7 countries which uses English as its native tongue such as the US or UK, and with the improvement of treatment (such as providing lodging and furnishing on top of their base pay) [the job] has gradually become more competitive." "The climate in which it was considered a part time job is already in the past."
Well, nothing condescending in the title or body of that article, is there? Especially considering that the "climate in which it was considered a part time job" never actually existed anywhere close to the extent that it's painted in the article. This fantasy of '75% of native speaking teachers breaking their contracts' was concocted through the misuse of statistics by either Yonhap or National Assembly Education, Science and Technology Committee members Kim Se-yeon and Park Young-a (GNP) in September, 2010. The Yonhap article's headline and sub-headline were "Half of native speaking English teachers are '6 month part-time workers'" and "This year 66% broke their contract halfway through... regional polarization is increasing." Some of the claims made in the article were:
[M]ost of the native speaking English teachers teaching in Korea break their contracts after six months, causing the disruption of school conversation classes.

In particular, outside the Seoul metropolitan area, the rate of native speaking teachers quitting halfway through their contract reaches 70-80%, and is a key factor intensifying regional disparities in English education.[...]
Foreigners living in Korea are realizing that the native speaking assistant teacher system is a “path to a part time job” and the trend is growing stronger.
The article criticized the foreign teachers who took advantage of the Korean education system to be "six month part time workers"and described the rate of attrition as follows:
The places where rates of native speaking English teachers breaking their contracts after six months were the highest include Ulsan, at 90%, Jeollanam-do at 84.6%, Daejeon at 83.3%, Chungcheongbuk-do at 75%, and Daegu at 72.2%. Alternately, rates in the capital area are lower than the average, with Seoul at 57.8%, Gyeonggi-do at 49.8%, and Incheon at 60.4%.
That's clearly where the News1 article got its '75%' figure from. The Korea Times article about this included this quote:
"Many Koreans have to get through very hard training if they want to be a teacher. It is a kind of privilege for native English speakers to be invited here as teachers. So I earnestly ask them to be more responsible in their jobs," said Oh Seok-hwan, a director at the [education] ministry.
The KT article, however, actually included all the statistics needed to figure out that only an average of 4.7% of native speaking teachers had quit early over the past two and a half years (5.53% in 2008, 5.57% in 2009, and 2.92% in the first half of 2010). The larger figures referred to the percentage of those teachers who quit early who quit at the six month mark. Yonhap did post corrected articles, but never removed or amended its original article and never admitted any mistake (whether their mistake or the national assembly representatives'). The incorrect stats were reported in many of the English language papers; only the Hankyoreh published an apology and correction.

And now we see what happens when incorrect articles aren't corrected or scrubbed - they're used to paint false pictures - even if in this case, it's perhaps not a particularly negative picture, what with it arguing that things are getting better and that "they've gradually broken away from thinking of it as a 'part time job.'" Still, that thinking never existed to the extent those incorrect statistics suggest, and one has to wonder if anyone involved in this or the 2010 articles used even a tiny bit of brainpower when swallowing those statistics whole. I mean, who would run a system in which, for years on end, over half of the (overpaid, we're told) foreign teachers flown to Korea broke their contracts and fled their jobs? How could their have been such an improvement in just two short years? It certainly was not, as the education office official is quoted, because of an "improvement of treatment (such as providing lodging and furnishing on top of their base pay)" and the job "gradually becom[ing] more competitive," because those same benefits were already provided years ago.

In the end, you could say that in the media and the minds of politicians, native speaking teachers seem to exist in some alternate reality, but then, seeing as most of the hopes and goals of English education in Korea are also obscured in the fog of some fantasy land, I suppose the discourse on foreign teachers has placed them right where they belong.

1 comment:

K said...

Idiotic articles like this one are part of why I left Korea, but the Koreans I speak to now cannot understand why it was unpleasant for me to be part of a group that was constantly attacked in the press (nor could many of my more complacent colleagues back in Seoul.) I am not going to be damaging the Korean economy anytime soon, but the constant trickle of nasty, discriminatory articles is surely having an effect on Korea's reputation (if it ever had one.)