Tuesday, May 24, 2011

33% of SMOE teachers are "lowest level"

Yesterday the Munhwa Ilbo published the following article:
1 out of 3 Seoul native speaking teachers have the "lowest rating"
461 out of 1215 teachers... One teacher is at S level.

It has come to light that one out of three "native speaking English assistant teachers" placed in Seoul elementary, middle and high schools have the relevant qualification requirements for the 8th level out of 9 levels. There are also teachers at the 9th level with only a university degree and no English education qualifications whatsoever.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education's report "The present level rating of native speakers in the first half of 2011 (to May)," which was released on the 23rd, out of 1215 native speaking English assistant teachers placed in Seoul elementary, middle and high schools, 36.4% (443) are placed at level G, the 8th out of 9 levels.

The city's office of education hires native speaking teachers and places them at 9 different levels (S, A-H) based on their education and experience and whether they have qualifications. Teachers at level F with an education related major and teaching certificate or who have an education-related master's degree, or who have worked for a year at level G for SMOE or other districts make up 27.0% (328 people).

Also revealed were the number of teachers at Level E (17%, or 206 people) and Level D (9.1%, or 110 people). There are 18 teachers at the lowest level, H, who possess only a bachelor's degree and are teaching together with a Korean teacher during regular English class time.

On the other hand, there is only one teacher at Level S, the highest level. The number of native speaking teachers at the highest levels, A (18 people), B (20 people) and C (71 people) is relatively lower those at the lower levels. A city office of education official explained that there were many reasons for the lower level native speaking teachers: "It's because a good many native speakers working in our country are young people just out of university who want to experience living overseas."

Meanwhile, an article titled "The present state of support for managing and selecting native speaking English assistant teachers and plans for improvement" published in the 2010 edition of the Korea Foreign Language Education Society's journal "Foreign Language Education" argued that the rate of excellent English teachers continuously working was low and that there were far too many newly hired teachers.
We've seen articles like this before. Last November the Busan Ilbo and Suwon.com argued that "Placing native speaking teachers in schools should be re-examined' and complained that there are too few high-level foreigners (determined by pay levels).

As for the article above, I love the title: 1 out of 3 teachers are at the "lowest level," even though level G isn't the lowest level. No mention of drug addiction or child molestation, however, so I suppose there isn't really too much to complain about here. It's interesting to note that those at the lowest level, H, are "teaching together with a Korean teacher during regular English class time." Every foreign teacher is supposed to teach with a Korean co-teacher. I also like this description by the SMOE official: "a good many native speakers working in our country are young people just out of university who want to experience living overseas." Who knows how those native speakers end up in Korea. One day there's an empty cubicle in the office, the next there's a native speaker sitting there. They're apparently not hired by SMOE. (OK, I suppose it's EPIK who hires them now, so that's technically true, but...). As always, there's no taking responsibility for hiring these teachers, nor is there any mention of the fact that SMOE does not want to pay for 1200 S-level teachers. And if we wanted a better assessment of the teachers' actual performances, as opposed to merely their pay levels, they are made to teach open classes at least once a year. It would seem to me that this would be a better way to assess their teaching ability.

This was also reported by BBS (who cribbed from the above article).


Anonymous said...

And wasn't all the drama last year about how the most experience teachers weren't getting contract offers because they were too expensive?

Good lord, the cognitive dissonance in the Korea press is just amazing.

Or maybe they're just bigots.

Or both.

Anonymous said...

They got rid of me after 2 years, I'm not sure why. Maybe b/c I got paid too much. All I know is that they hired a new teacher at the lowest level and she pulled a runner with her husband who worked in the same district. My co-teacher met with me to tell me this, maybe in hopes to get rid of thy Karma - next or current teacher doesn't do the same.

Anonymous said...

I forgot which level I was at exactly but I started a 2.3 and I suppose they didn't want to pay me 2.5 for this year.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious what my level is now...

I know that my school is currently hiring for September and they're only looking for someone with a teaching degree who is currently in Korea, but most of the resumes they've gotten from the recruiters don't match that requirement.

This is interesting since I always hear complaints about how the school has no money for the foreign teachers, even though I haven't asked them to buy me any furniture (nor have they), and
I won't be asking for a plane ticket home. Perhaps it is just idle complaining?

Mr. Spock said...

I don't know what S level entails, but in a realistic world in which we see teaching EFL for what it is, exactly which part of your MA in art history better qualifies you to teach "Whose Boat Is This"? Really, motivation, dedication, people skills, grit and love for your job are a great deal more important to teaching EFL than how many years you spent in college and for what. For what it's worth, in my country, Canada, teacher's college is widely considered a complete wank, only valuable for the practicum portion.