Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bits and Pieces

Roboseyo has a post well worth reading about the portrayal of foreigners on Korean television. If you haven't already, go read it.

Mark at the Jeonju Hub sent me a link to this article titled "The ‘Foreign English Teacher’ - A Necessary “Danger” in South Korea." There are some interesting points there, but the author seems to take the 'unqualified teacher' idea a bit far considering that during the fallout of the English Spectrum incident five years ago the main issue surrounding "unqualified" teachers was not their academic qualifications but their 'moral' qualifications (ie - teachers who had sex with Korean women and bragged about it were not 'qualified'). Some of the larger points about the disconnect between crime statistics and the media and government's description of foreign teacher crime, and the need to accept qualified teachers from countries other than the 7 E-2 native speaking countries I can agree with, though the change in mindset needed for such acceptance will likely not be happening any time soon. Also worth noting, as Brian has many times, is that even if teachers with the proper academic qualifications were brought in to teach English, it's quite likely they wouldn't be used properly anyway.

A few weeks ago the Korea Herald asked "Is volunteer work illegal for expats?". The answer seems to be 'perhaps not,' but also 'it depends on the whims of immigration.' A description of some of the organizations one can volunteer for is here. The Herald also has an article on ATEK's first year. Related to volunteering is this:

On that front, the group recently scored a major victory when its Seoul chapter announced a partnership with the hagwon chain ChungDahm Learning to provide more opportunities for teachers to volunteer.

In September, ChungDahm launched its Nanum ("Sharing") Campaign, a corporate responsibility program that gives its teachers the opportunity to volunteers as teachers and mentors for the Ten Children Centers, a home for underprivileged children.

Through the Nanum Campaign, the volunteers help at eight children's centers, committing one hour per week to providing English education and cultural exchange. Teachers are expected to make a three-month commitment to the volunteer activities

Bernstein, who was heading the Seoul PMA when the deal was announced, said the agreement allows members of the association that are not ChungDahm teachers to take part in the Nanum Campaign and help at Ten Children Centers.

It's nice to see progress like this being made.

Brian also looks at Kang Shin-who's latest broadside against foreign English speakers and their illegal tutoring, and proves that there is a problem by providing this statement: "No foreign tutors have been caught by the authorities for violation of the Private Education Law, the ministry said." It reminds me of a Saturday Night Live sketch years ago showing a news broadcast about a hurricane and an anchor standing next to a 'hurricane deaths' counter which reads zero, with the anchor assuring viewers that, "The number is about to shoot up any minute now!" While that may be the author's hope, a crackdown on foreign English tutors would be more likely to happen if the article were published in Korean.


Alex said...

Korean teachers often have "the proper qualifications" but no grasp on teaching methodology. I'm not saying that most native teachers are any better, but that qualifications aren't worth as much as a teacher with actual teaching skill.

Chris in South Korea said...

Matt, I jumped on the bandwagon and wrote briefly about teaching and the 'illegality' of teaching privates... But the big question I never found an answer to is HOW that became illegal, or what the rationale for keeping it that way is... Have you run across any academic documentation proving or disproving the notion that private teaching = illegal = better?

King Baeksu said...

Paul Z. Jambor's article is excellent. I would suggest translating it into Korean to have a greater impact here, but I wonder if the Korean media could even be arsed to pay attention and address the issues it raises about ESL education here. In the introduction to my last book from late 2009, "더 발칙한 한국학" (which includes an in-depth interview with the writer of this blog) I made a number of points that parallel Jambor's (see comment immediately following this one), but in the 17 Korean-language media reviews of it that I have seen so far and collected on my site, none of them addressed the issue of local media stereotyping of native ESL teachers here (which I explicitly criticize in the book's introduction), preferring instead on the whole to pat Korea on its proud back as an "ever-growing multicultural society." In other words, vague generalized bromides were substituted for an honest examination of how a particular subset of non-Koreans in Korea are being treated by the establishment here on a less than equal basis -- and thereby in effect undercutting and negating the very bromides being celebrated in said reviews. Well, at least vapid lip service can help Koreans feel better about themselves, if not necessarily those on the supposed receiving end of such "service." Yes, the "image" of simulated multiculturalism is so much easier to maintain and celebrate than the actual "reality," isn't it?

In any case, below is what I wrote in the relevant section of my book's introduction. And for the record, yes, I am one particular experienced and qualified native ESL teacher who no longer sees Korea as a worthwhile enough place in which to work and live:

King Baeksu said...

From Introduction to "더 발칙한 한국학" (2009):

"Of course, the solution to the problem of "low-quality native English teachers" in Korea is so simple and obvious that one might easily suspect a conspiracy is at work here, in which symptom is regularly confused with cause in order to distract society as a whole, and thereby maintain the present status quo. For is it not the primary responsibility of Korean hagwon owners and school managers to hire only qualified, properly trained native English teachers? If there are too many "low-quality" or "unqualified" native English teachers here, it's because the gatekeepers -- meaning Koreans in almost every case -- are letting them in. And why are they letting them in? Because they're often too cheap and unscrupulous to pay the kind of salaries that would attract "professional" teachers from overseas; in other words, they're more concerned about money than actually offering their students a proper, quality education. Naturally, some will argue that too much money is already being spent on English education in Korea and that financial resources are limited, but in my view there's a perfectly simple solution to this problem as well: It is an undeniable fact that a majority of South Koreans neither need nor even really want to learn English; once the authorities here can admit to themselves this essential truth and make English an elective rather than required subject, then local demand for native English teachers will fall off dramatically, and more funds will be made available for professionals from English-speaking nations who seek to make a career of teaching ESL here. Problem solved, easy as "ABC"!

"In other words, hopefully a time will come in the not too distant future when South Koreans can accept full responsibility for the dysfunctional system of ESL education they've created for themselves, rather than continually scapegoating non-Koreans for their own shortcomings and failures. In the meantime, I offer this book as a direct response to the local media's unhelpful and, in my personal opinion, rather xenophobic meme of "low-quality foreigners in Korea." I offer this book as a celebration of a group of unique individuals whom I consider myself lucky enough to call my friends. Indeed, I offer this book as a challenge to South Korea's understanding of itself as a society: The types of people I have described above, and whose stories fill the following pages, are a testament to South Korea's success as a modern society that is able to attract adventurous, positive-minded individuals from around the world who are willing to invest their lives in Korea, and even make it their permanent home. For this reason, I respectfully suggest that they be viewed not as a "necessary evil," but as an altogether "necessary good." They help make Korea a better place to live in for everyone here."

Kamiza said...

Yup! I believe a lot of this anti-NET bologne is really an "anti-having-to-learn-a-stupid-foreign-language-that-I-hate-because-it-is-not-Korean-but-I-have-to-get-a-good-test-score-so-I-can-land-that-wonderful-office-job-at-a-big-Korean-corporation" movement.

Once again, it is easier to blame the foreigner than it is to blame the silly Korean system.
(This also goes for international marriages/dating in Korea as well)

Such silliness!

Anonymous said...

Let’s talk about our own problems: Unequal Rights: Ongoing concerns about Discrimination against Women in Canada

Anonymous said...

Of course, the problem of private teaching in Korea goes way beyond English. It is all about getting into a top university, which is all about getting a good score on the university entrance exam. And with families willing to spend themselves into bankruptcy to get their kids into a top school, there is a general fear that private teaching will lead to the rich getting all the best teachers, and therefore giving their kids an unfair advantage. English is just the subset of a much bigger problem.

Yet another issue (as Baeksu mentioned) where Korea spends huge amounts of energy on an issue, doing everything but deal with the actual problem. All these problems in the name of "fairness," when in fact the whole system is about as unfair as you can get. And in the meantime, the people who make the system unfair and benefit from that unfairness get a free pass.

Anonymous said...

Hello everyone.
I'd just like bring the following site to your attention since some of you wrote about Paul Z. Jambor's article The ‘Foreign English Teacher’ - A Necessary “Danger” in South Korea. The site lists all of Jambor's publications and a number of them deal with issues related to the problems and the bias in the Korean system of education. It promises to provide additional information on the topic of this discussion. Here's the link:

Unknown said...

Newly Published:

The "Foreign" English Teacher: A Necessary "Danger" in South Korea