Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Placing native speaking teachers in schools should be re-examined"

As Brian has noted, there has been talk of public schools phasing out native speaking teachers.

There have actually been several articles about this in the past week or so. According to a November 23 Yonhap article, next year Gyeonggi Office of Education will reduce the number of native speaking teachers for the first time. Out of 2,183 elementary, middle and high schools, 2032 have 2,256 native speaking teachers working for them, and next year 200 (or 8.8%) will be cut. This has led to worries of rising private education costs. The Gyeonggi-do office of education has pointed out that they already have equivalent of 1 teacher per 1 school, the related budget will be increased 500 million won to 4.5 billion won next year, and specialist Korean English conversation instructors will be hired.

A November 25 Donga Ilbo article elaborates further on the latter instructors, saying that Gyeonggi-do began selecting Korean English conversation specialist instructors in June 2009, and there are currently around 650 working in schools, with plans to raise the number to 1000 next year.

It also notes that as the plan to reduce native teachers has become known to students' parents, there has been resistance due to fears of private education costs rising. According to parent Jeong Suk-hee, (39, Bundang): "Among parents there has been talk that Korean English conversation specialist instructors lag behind native speaking instructors," and, "If there isn’t much difference in the supporting budgets, we want native speaking teachers to be placed [in schools]."

On the 28th, Newsis, and on the 29th, Suwon.com reported further on this. Here's a translation of the latter article:
Only 2% of Gyeonggi-do native speaking teachers are at Level S

It has come to light that among Gyeonggi-do native speaking teachers, only 2% were given the highest rating, ‘S Level,’ given to high quality teachers, when evaluated by the National Institute for International Education (NIIED - part of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology).

As these excellent teachers are concentrated in big cities like Gunpo, Uiwang, Suwon and Bucheon, analysis points to a serious imbalance in the region.

According to comments made by representative Rep. Jo Myeong-ho, member of the Gyeonggui provincial council’s education committee, on the 28th, of 2203 native speaking teachers working in Gyeonggi-do, 1274 are from the US, 332 from Canada, 253 from South Africa, 169 from England, 78 from New Zealand, 56 from Australia , 25 from Ireland, and 16 are from Korea.

By Rating, 46 teachers were at Level S, 89 at Level 1+, 320 at Level 1, 452 at Level 2+, 791 at Level 2, and 487 at Level 3, and 18 others.

Only 455 (21%) were rated at level 1 or higher, and in particular only 2% were at the S Level.

Most Level S teachers work in metropolitan areas such as Uiwang / Gunpo (7), Suwon (5), Bucheon (4), Hwaseong / Osan (4); there are none in rural areas like Yangpyeong, Icheon, Gimpo, Gapyeong or Yeoju.

Yeoju and Yangpyeong do not even have any teachers rated at or above level 1.

Native speaking teachers invited through NIIED's EPIK program receive their rating after a comprehensive assessment which takes into account their education and experience, and whether they have teaching qualifications such as TESOL.

Rep. Jo stated that, "If someone possesses a 4 year degree from a university in countries like the US, Britain or Canada, they can work as a native speaking teacher whether or not they have a related major or teaching certificate," and, "Expenses for a single teacher cost more than 40 or 45 million won per year, but there is no data to objectively evaluate their educational effectiveness."

"The time has come to verify their educational ability and qualifications," and, "it's time to improve English education which has given unconditional preference to foreigners with inadequate qualifications and ability," he added.
One wonders if the 'comprehensive assessment' the teachers receives actually involves evaluating their actual teaching, or if it only takes into account what is known about the teachers on paper.

This isn't just limited to Gyeonggi-do, however. On November 26, the Busan Ilbo published the following article:
Controversy over unqualified native speaking English teachers

It has been exposed that four out of ten native speaking assistant teachers in the Yangsan area do not have teaching certification or English (teaching) certificates.

According to Yangsan city on the 26th, a total of 58 native speaking teachers have been sent to teach English at 53 elementary, middle and high schools in the area. Out of 58 native speaking teachers, Yangsan city covers the costs for 52 (1,880,000,000 won), while the provincial education office spends 170,000,000 won on four teachers, and two are paid directly by their schools themselves.

However, among these native speaking teachers only six (10.3%) have teaching certificates from their home countries, 27 people (46.6%) have TESOL, TEFL, or CELTA English teaching certificates, while the remaining 25 teachers (43.1%) only graduated from university.

Yangsan city council representative Shim Gyeong-suk insisted that, "In order to ensure educational value and quality and the satisfaction of school teachers and students, the entire current enterprise of placing native speaking teachers [in schools] should be re-examined."
Not "native speaking teachers should be required by the ministry of education (or immigration) to have a TESOL certificate," but, "the entire current enterprise of placing native speaking teachers [in schools] should be re-examined."

If we take into account the incorrect reports from the end of September saying that, due to their irresponsible attitude, 66% of native speaking teachers broke their contracts this year, leading to a "serious regional imbalance in English education," I don't think it's too difficult to see a pattern.


King Baeksu said...

Like a penny-pinching housewife who buys a fake Louis Vuitton handbag that soon starts to fall apart at the seams, and then complains to all her friends and neighbors that it is "not as good as the real thing," some of these fools really need to wake the fuck up.


King Baeksu said...

South Korea, The Land of We're Just Not That Serious:


brent said...

It's funny that none of those qualifications are actually offered to take inside the country (other than online). What do you need a teaching certificate for to be an "assistant teacher"? If I have a teaching certificate will I have a guaranteed contract and have classes on my own? No? Okay then, let's move on.

Jason said...

The POEs have their budgets they have to meet and they're getting what they can in the budget. If these papers want every school to have a native English speaker with certification in English Education, they're going to have to start coughing up some serious money, because not a whole lot of people are willing to travel 10000 miles to make less.

I'm no Picasso said...

Considering how pleased my co-teachers have been with the instructors at our school (not at all), I see this plan falling apart quickly. The foreign teachers may very well be crap, but the instructors, by and large, are certainly no better. And they have more opportunities to fuck things up for the other teachers by not understanding what's going on.

One of ours ruined the exam last semester by giving out the exam questions to all her students. Two more severely fucked up the behavioral part of the grade by not keeping marks throughout the semester and not remembering who all their students were when it came time to give them.

Absolutely every last one of them is being skated over by the students in the classroom management department. It's been basically nothing but an all-around unmitigated disaster.

But they come cheaper. Wahey!

Darth Babaganoosh said...


You'll never see the papers report on what a disaster they are. They are better than NETs just by being Korean. No possibility of molesting or AIDS, either.

Unknown said...

I'm going to go out on a long, thin limb here.

Having worked in a program that train the Korean specialist English teachers, I think this is actually heading down the right track.

There are many problems with the current system of hiring fresh-out-of-college native English speakers and putting them in classrooms in Korea. On the teacher's side, many are untrained, inexperienced, and lack the commitment to truly do much. Note, I said many, not all. Out of the 2200 Gyeonggi NETs mentioned in the article, how many of them have a degree in education, early childhood education, teaching, or TESOL? How many have a TESOL certificate (or a TESOL certificate the specializes in YL)?

On the schools' end, when a school is lucky enough to have a truly qualified teacher, how many of them know how to utilize them? How many Korean teachers that are partnered with a NET are taught how to utilize them?
On the systemic side of things, the teachers that they hire are qualified--in that they meet the requirements set out by the ministry of education, not to mention immigration. The school pay for airfare, accommodations, and about 2.2mil or so per month for the teachers' salary. All together, that isn't bad really.
(add it up: 2.2mil salary + 300k housing + 100k insurance/expenses per month + 1.2 mil for airfare = more than 33 mil per year, which was about what I earned as a licensed high school teacher in the US with an MAT degree)

The EPIC and GEPIC programs were band aids meant as temporary solutions until the Korean teachers could get proficient enough to hold classes entirely in English. The amount of time and money being spent on the teacher-training programs is amazing. The teachers take 9-5 classes in English for 20 weeks, and then spend a month in an English-speaking country doing home stays with teachers and actually being part of the schools there. During their 20 weeks of classes, they transform into people who are afraid to speak English to teachers who do so willingly even when they are eating lunch together.

There is a whole generation of teachers coming up who can and will be able to take over their own classes in English. There are a lot of sedentary teachers still there; those that don't want to change the way they do things and do not have the ability to conduct even parts of single lessons in English. Anyone who has been here for an extended period of time can think back to how things were a decade ago, and compare them to today will see that it won't really be that long until the EFL world in public schools is unrecognizable yet again.

The NETs should not worry though. The parents will still be competitive and want more for their kids. The private hogwans will continue to thrive and the divide between the rich and poor will only continue to grow.

Chris in South Korea said...

These are the levels based on what, exactly? Experience, education, what? If you're not doing the things to keep the qualified / exceptional teachers, whose fault is it that they're leaving?

If you're a good teacher, you'll be able to find a job most anywhere you like in Korea - plenty of hagwon will still be around. If you're a crappy teacher just skating by on someone else's dime and not really working... well, you'll get what's coming to you.

Stuart said...

I was one of the 4 level S teachers in Bucheon.

I know that that article is garbage.None of the public schools in the city will hire a level S teacher because they now have to pay a percentage out of their own budget to hire them. Before, they were practically given to the school as around 90% of their expenses were covered by the board of education subsidies.

The new principal at my school told my co-teachers that she wanted to get rid of me because I was too formal and serious.

They replaced me with a 22 year old level 3.

I work at a very good private high school in a rural area now. The working conditions are infinitely better than anything I worked under with the board of education.

CeilingofStars said...

Those levels are BS as a means to evaluate NETs. They're the EPIK salary levels, nothing more.

Because I have a linguistics BA, I started at the second lowest level, Level 2. It doesn't matter that I taught for a test prep company in the States or that I have experience teaching and tutoring ESL students in afterschool programs. It doesn't matter than I'm working my butt off to learn Korean. Except for officially working at a public school, any experience doesn't affect your salary (and therefore your 'level'). Korean language ability doesn't affect your level.

Having a TEFL certificate can affect it, but my understanding is since I already have a boost from my Linguistics degree, other than that, there's nothing I can do but wait. You go up one level every year (or in some cases, every two years I think), period. It's worth noting that student test scores and performance have absolutely no bearing on your level.

So for me to be a level S, I'll have to have been working here for 4 years at the same POE. The majority of applicants will have to have been here for 5 years. Considering the nature of the NET position (one-year contracts, little training, no formal curriculum, etc.) and the fact that, as someone mentioned, schools aren't going to want to pay the higher salaries for higher 'level' teachers, is it any surprise that we're not swimming in Level S's??

The absolute dumbest thing they could do is get rid of NETs. I love my co-teachers, but even the best of them do not speak English fluently, and some of them I barely speak to because they don't understand anything I say. And these are licensed, educated teachers. What do you think will happen when you start shoveling in 'instructors'??

Almost as dumb as the robot fiasco. Seriously.

Unknown said...

It doesn't seem to me like it would be that hard to find some sort of pseudo-objective measurement. Have they tried comparing scores from schools that don't have foreign teachers to otherwise similar schools that do? The countryside pretty spotty and must have tons of natural experimental data.