Thursday, July 28, 2011

The "increasing deviation" of native speaking English assistant teachers

On March 18, 2010, Newsis published the following article:
Problems with lessons a side effect of native speaking English assistant teachers' increasing deviation

In order to increase familiarity with English and reduce private education fees for elementary, middle and high school students across the country, a native speaking English assistant teacher system has been put in place since 1995. However, it's been exposed that some native speaking teachers have deviated and gone off the rails, causing problems with lessons, among other things.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on the 18th, of the 7997 native speaking assistant teachers working in elementary, middle and high schools across the country last year, 291 failed to complete their one year contract.

As reasons for breaking their contract and leaving their teaching position, most common was continuing education or starting new jobs (114 people), while 76 people left for family reasons, 37 people couldn't adjust, 28 people were ill, and one was involved in a crime.

In particular, it's known that cases occurred in which some native speaking assistant teachers quit after 6 months and moved to a well paying hagwon or quit without notice.

The reason for this is that if native speaking assistant teachers quit within 6 months of beginning their employment, they have to pay back their airfare and entry allowance.

Native speaking assistant teachers who work in farming villages and rural areas are given an extra 100,000 won per month as well as, at the principal's discretion, an extra 5 days of holiday, but hoping to work in the city they are leaving the schools and children.

In fact, last year at an elementary school in Gyeonggi Province's Gapyeong county, Ms. J, a 25 year old native speaking assistant teacher from the United States, moved to an English hagwon in Seoul after 6 months.

In the case of T, a native speaking assistant teacher who started work at a middle school in Gapyeong county in 2006, he said, "There's no way I'm living in the country" and disappeared after a week, taking a laptop he had been given with him. After asking around the school was able to get the laptop back.

A Ministry of Education official said, "There are many cases in which some native speaking assistant teachers working out side Seoul are unable to adapt for for cultural reasons or due to living conditions and leave their jobs halfway through, and we are strengthening the training of those who are in charge of native speaking assistant teachers."

In order to hire a single native speaking assistant teacher, 1.3 million must be spent bringing them into the country, 600,000 to 1 million won on the recruiting fee, 300,000 won on the settlement allowance, and 400,000 won a month to provide housing, totaling 30-40 million won per year paid by the Ministry of Education and from each city or provincial office of education budget.

Last year the combined budgets of 16 city and provincial offices of education for native speaking assistant teachers was 176 billion won, while the Ministry of Education is supporting national elementary, middle and high schools across the country with 1.1 billion won.

However, despite the enormous budget spent on them, 3,666 (45.8%) - not even half of them - have a teaching certificate or have received a qualification for completing an English education course such as TESOL or TEFL.

Jang Eun-suk, the president of the National Association of Parents for True Education, said, "On the pretext of reducing private education, with no long term plan or proper verification system, as a temporary measure any Tom, Dick or Harry was brought over [to be] a native speaking assistant teacher, and in the end, with problems like poor skills and deviation, the harm falls upon the students."

Meanwhile, last year in Gyeonggi-do, two native speaking assistant teachers infected with AIDS and one native speaking assistant teacher who was investigated for drugs were made to leave the country.
A nice ending to a fair, even-handed article. Apparently being HIV positive is equivalent to committing a crime.

The reported statement by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology about 291 of 7997 native speaking assistant teachers breaking their contracts in 2009 was reported only in this article. According to those figures, 3.6% of teachers quit early. This contradicts the information provided by National Assembly Education, Science and Technology Committee members Kim Se-yeon and Park Young-a (GNP) six months later, in September 2010, which said that 425 out of 7,631 teachers broke their contracts in 2009 (and which they, or Yonhap, used to incorrectly state that "most of the native speaking English teachers teaching in Korea break their contracts after six months"). So there are two sets of figures there, and who knows which set is correct.

There's certainly some hard-hitting journalism above, using one whole vague example of a female teacher quitting early in 2009, as well as one tale of a laptop thief from four years earlier. Oh, and some foreign teachers have AIDS, too.

There's also the same old tired complaint that "not even half of them" have teaching or TESOL certificates, as if foreign teachers suddenly beam into staff rooms and say, "Take me to your principal" and politely, but firmly, tell the administration that they will be working at the school from now on. If they really wanted teachers with such certificates, they would make it a requirement for employment. Since they don't, it's obviously not that important to those making such decisions, which is strange, considering the amounts of money they complain about spending on these teachers. Apparently what is important to the decision makers (at least the ones in Ulsan, Seoul, and Gangnam) are repeat drug and HIV tests.

As for the National Association of Parents for True Education, a member of the Busan chapter was interviewed in the Busan Ilbo article "Severe Alcoholic Openly Teaches Students," which was published back in February. As with that article, the manta "We have to think about the children" is repeated.

While there have been countless articles about the evils of foreign English teachers in general (or hagwon instructors in particular), there haven't been quite as many about foreign English teachers working in public schools. Off the top of my head, in addition to the one above are these:

Yonhap (2009.06.11): Native Speakers of Questionable Quality Abound
New Daily (2010.09.15): Are native speaking teachers introduced to Korean culture through drinking parties?
Yonhap (2010.09.29): Half of native speaking English teachers are “6 month part-time workers”

If anyone can think of any other such articles, please let me know.


Anonymous said...

"There's also the same old tired complaint that 'not even half of them' have teaching or TESOL certificates, as if foreign teachers suddenly beam into staff rooms and say, 'Take me to your principal" and politely, but firmly, tell the administration that they will be working at the school from now on.'"

Bingo. I literally can't grok the level of cognitive dissonance here. These are government funded schools who have the power to set as many rules as they like, and then they lament hiring teachers who don't have ed. degrees or TESOL certificates?

I mean, we all know what's going on here but the stupidity really burns.

Texaschicken said...

My first experience in GEPIK ended in my handler having a mental breakdown in which she frothed at the mouth and rolled around on the floor beating her chest. They checked her into a mental hospital but shes still teaching elementary school kids as a home room teacher. Shes no longer a native teacher handler god bless her soul.

Kamiza said...

I just think it is funny to read this, being on the "foreign teacher" side and knowing all types of folks who quit those gigs. Funny how the other side is so slow to figure out why these folks have been cruzing so soon.

Notice how the huge class sizes and student loads (800 students per week????? geezus!!!), utterly robotic and archaic lesson plans
(every student at a given level throughout the country being on the same page in the same book at the same time on the same date???????? geezus!!) and total lack of power in the classroom, (being the monkey-boy/girl to the real, "qualified" (25 year-old) Korean teacher who teaches almost wholly in Korean????? geezus !!!).

The folks I know who had these gigs and quit them were all trained teachers from English-speaking Western countries.

Let's be completely honest here:
for real teachers, these positions are an f'ing joke!!!!

3gyupsal said...

You would think that with the austerity measures in American states, and in England, Korea would be a bit more of an employers market. But let's not kid ourselves, people who study to become teachers want stable jobs, they don't want to be jerked around from year to year. Korean public schools don't offer what I would call a good deal. American schools still pay more and you get the summer off. Korean schools provide housing and make you do bullshit work during vacations.