Thursday, April 21, 2011

Is there no law to catch fake English instructors?

On March 23, Financial News published the following story:
Education Companies: "Is there no law to catch fake English instructors?"

This year has also seen the discovery of English hagwon instructors who have faked their academic backgrounds. Educational companies have prepared countermeasures to deal with the endemic "fake instructor" problem but they point out that "It's difficult to do through our effort alone."

On March 22, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency International Crime Division booked without detention Ms. Seol, a 35 year old Korean Australian, for faking her academic credentials from a foreign university and teaching at a well known English hagwon in Korea. It's known that she faked a diploma from UNSW in Sydney and, since 2004, had worked at two hagwons in Gangnam as an English instructor and made around 400 million won in ill-gotten earnings during that time. In Some hagwons' cases, in regards to blocking fake instructors at their root, they personally verify and take the lead in instructor education. Avalon Education, which speciallizes in English education for elementary and middle school students, runs courses for those specializing in English education (ACEE) supporting English education theory, research and practice for university graduates hoping to become specialists in English education.

[It then mentions Jeongcheol's training system (for Korean instructors).]

Pagoda Academy runs its own instructor employment management system. In order to work in Korea as a foreign instructor, one must have graduated from a four year university program. In the past, Pagoda entrusted the Korean Council for University Education with verifying degrees, but from January this year entered into an agreement with 97 countries to have the academic backgrounds of newly hired instructors confirmed.

However, it's been pointed out that it's difficult for hagwons themselves to completely and realistically manage and crack down on fake instructors. An official at an English education company who requested anonymity said, "In cases where people who are proficient at English or are native speakers go ahead and request a forger to make a document, neither national investigative agencies nor hagwons find it easy to verify if something is false." "Moreover, in cases where someone is good lecturing or is popular, if you have doubts, sometimes you might overlook them due to their performance."

Therefore, "What's needed is a government-backed investigative organization."
Despite the way it begins with the arrest of a Korean-Australian (presumably native speaking) instructor, looking at how the article focuses on the training of Korean instructors, it seems native speaking instructors are not really the target here, only English instructors with faked backgrounds in general. The single person they interviewed makes it seem as if the hagwons have been left out to dry by the government in this regard, but it does at least look at the problem in a non-accusatory way. I'm not sure if a government-backed investigative organization is necessarily what's needed, but it would at least lead to a cohesive policy. One wonders what this "agreement with 97 countries to have the academic backgrounds of newly hired instructors confirmed" that Pagoda has entered into is about. Do any readers know?


Darth Babaganoosh said...

And here is the argument being made for the MoE to take over all verifications, and leave Immigration out of it.

E2s have their credentials verified through Kimmi, Korean embassies and notaries/apostilles. It's the Korean English teachers and the non-E2s that go practically unregulated.

A hagwon owner is going to verify a Korean teacher's or F2/F4's (fake) foreign degree? *eyeroll* That would require an English level high enough to communicate with the relevant universities abroad. How many hagwons are run by people who can do this? Very few. Not surprising it doesn't get done.

The MoE knows who all the teachers are (regardless of visa or nationality), and knows where they are all working. Obviously, THEY are in the best position to weed out the fakes.

The KCUE is an alternate way of getting it done, supposedly, but since they stop accepting verification requests when they are backlogged, maybe they should hire more people first before promising verification services.

holterbarbour said...

I'd love to be a fake English teacher, but I'm not sure if there's a greater demand for the Gibberish or Pig Latin varieties.

Anonymous said...

This article's focus on the inability of Korean laws to prevent nefarious foreigners (who fraudulently insinuate themselves into employment positions) from acting with impunity in Korea and its emphasis on enhancing national authority (e.g. creating a “government-backed investigative organization”) is a familiar theme.

The continued calls for “verification” enhancement measures by national authorities (in Korea) –- whether they be new high-tech drug testing procedures at special gov-designated hospitals, enhanced criminal background procedures by the MOJ, enhanced academic verification by gov-backed org –- represents a call for the enhancement of sovereign authority over noncitizens in the territory.

Whatever other value these procedures have (and no doubt there is a need to ensure there are competent teachers in the classroom), their symbolic value is highly significant. Foreign teachers in Korea represent the first “critical mass” of Westerners that Korea (finally) has the ability to fully exert her sovereign authority over. Early missionaries had extraterritorial protections, the SOFA allowed USFK military forces to evade Korean jurisdiction.

The (real and imagined) perpetual inability of Korea to protect herself against those perceived to be immoral, dangerous and acting with impunity with her borders has resulted in the accumulation of a great deal of 'frustrated sovereignty,' the discharge of which we are witnessing with foreign English teachers.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Correction: The KCUE no longer verifies degrees for the purposes of getting an E2.