Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Korean schools helpless in the face of foreign English teachers

On September 24, Money Today published the following article:
On native speaking English teachers: "[Is spending] 300 billion won useful? Well..."
"Classes are poor and if they have lots of experience their salary goes up" ... Criticism of living tape recordings.

In places of education there is growing criticism of the usefulness of the native speaking English assistant teacher system in comparison to the budget of 300 billion won which is poured into it.

In 1995, in order to teach students practical English education centered on listening and speaking, native speaking English assistant teachers began to be placed in schools across the country, and from 2008 their numbers rose as full-scale recruiting began.

According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on the 24th, currently there are around 9000 native speaking English assistant teachers placed in elementary, middle and high schools around the country. The related budget is based on funds from the education office and support from the local government, and this year 309.4 billion won was spent, with Gyeonggi-do spending around 68.7 billion won, Seoul around 51 billion won and Gyeongsangbuk-do around 28.3 billion won.

In places of education there are voices saying that this budget is excessive. In particular, the issue is being raised in regard to the large portion of the budget earmarked for native speaking teachers' personnel expenses, as it is excessively high in comparison to their ability.

An English teacher at an elementary school in Ulsan said, "It costs 60 to 70 million won per year to invite a native speaking teacher" and "At school everyone agrees that it's too expensive."

According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology's "Native speaking English assistant teacher plan for the second half of 2011," native speaking teachers' monthly salary ranges from 1.5 million won to 2.7 million won depending on their level and region. In addition to the native speaking teacher's salary, the government also pays for costs such as a settlement allowance, rent, household appliances, and insurance.

[Korean] teachers with experience co-teaching with native speaking assistant teachers claim that in many cases these expensively employed native speaking teachers play the role of a "living tape recording."

A teacher working at an elementary school in Ulsan explained that, "The are even cases when all [the teacher does] is play an English video for the students." "When you see something like that, how can you not say negative things about such expensively employed native speaking teachers."

A teacher who has taught with a native speaking assistant teacher for the last two years at an elementary school in Gwanak-gu in Seoul said, "The Korean teacher always takes charge of planning the lessons, and there are many cases in which native speaking teacher does not properly carry out or finish the lesson."

A problem is that if a native speaking teacher who teaches classes poorly re-signs his contract after a year, his salary will increase in acknowledgment of his experience. According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, "someone who re-signs a contract in the same school district" ascends one level and their salary increases by 200,000 won as well. They also receive 2 million won as re-signing bonus.

[Korean] English teachers who are responsible for native speaking teachers explain that "Because the evaluation system for native speaking teachers is in name only, native speaking teachers have "cursory" classes, re-sign their contracts, and receive a higher salary."

The teacher at the elementary school in Gwanak-gu revealed the reasons why it's difficult to give frank assessments, saying, "If the native speaking teacher's evaluation is low, there is a feeling that the school is branding itself as having a problem." "Also, there's no guarantee if the current native speaker doesn't re-sign that the replacement teacher will be better qualified."

In places of education there is agreement with the aims of the native speaking English assistant teacher system, but it is widely felt, "Not like this."

As a teacher at a high school in Seoul's Dobong-gu stressed,"That it provides a chance for low income students to meet native speakers is important," however, "There must be a system to properly evaluate native speaking teachers in order to see their true effectiveness."

A Ministry of Education, Science and Technology official said, "Because it is still in its early stages, more time is needed before everyone is satisfied with the lessons." "More effort is being concentrated on various things like hiring able native speaking teachers, discovering good examples, and training."
An elementary school in Ulsan spending 60-70 million won per year on each foreign teacher? Teachers getting a pay raise of 200,000 won per year? I don't think so. But then if the reporters didn't make stuff up or exaggerate, there wouldn't be a problem, would there? And reporters do have a duty to lead crusades to protect the nation, so we should try to give them our understanding.

And as with the 'foreigners run amok in Hongdae' YTN story from 2007, (in which the police said, "There’s really nothing we can do.") here again are these foreign teachers 'beyond Korea's control,' as they cannot be evaluated properly and are allowed to continue to work, even having the gall to receive (exaggerated) raises for each year they work at a school. When will this end? When will Korea cease to be so helpless in the face of these foreigners... that they invited into their classrooms? When, God, when?!?

In other news, EPIK orientation has begun in Gangwon-do, and, also in Gangwon-do, interactive video lectures done via internet by native speaking English teachers based in the U.S. are being implemented at 54 elementary schools and 5 middle schools in farming or fishing villages which will affect 1020 students. The system will allow for consultation between Korean and foreign teachers and will run for 14 weeks (until the end of the year) starting tomorrow. While the English teaching robots are idiotic, I'm curious if this would be a viable system or not.


Anonymous said...

So, let's get rid of the dirty foreign PS NET's.

Oh HAI, then the hagwons simply take up all the slack and further reinforce an already imbalanced class system between rich parents and poor parents.

Also, this made me laugh out loud -- new "household appliances" are purchased every year for every new NET? As opposed to hand-me-downs from the former teacher?

monty_internetty said...

"The Korean teacher always takes charge of planning the lessons..."

*sucks air through teeth* Well THERE's your problem.

Adam Arra said...

It's entirely possible that on ONE set of books which the reporters saw, the NET's are getting paid that much money. Whether that's the same amount deposited into their accounts would be a matter for a DIFFERENT set of books.

ZenKimchi said...

I just want to break down those numbers. Now, a teacher in Ulsan who makes the maximum of 2.7 million/month has years of experience and an advanced degree from an ivy league university. The average Korean university graduate gets paid 2.3 million right out of the gate.

2.7 x 12 = 32.4 million/year
Plus 4 million (overestimating) airfare both ways. This would not be the full amount if the teacher is, as said before, experienced.
36.4 million/year

Ulsan spends "60-70 million won per year." Let's take the lower end of that number.

60 - 36.4 = 23.6 million won/year for housing, medical, and "bonus."

Medical and "bonus" (severance) are both required by law. Housing is usually covered through key money and maybe a small rent. So, yeah, the key money would be more than the 20 million left over, but do you pay key money each year?

I'd assume the average closet they put teachers in costs 60-80 million in key money, which is covered in 3-4 years.

I'd say the issue is Korea's outdated and outrageous housing system combined with the inability to keep a teacher here for long, making airfares rise. An ivy league advanced degree earner with years of experience not making much more than a four-year university student from a no-name university by international standards--well, I think we reveal a bit of the issue and hypocrisy there.

The only thing they really have to complain about is the free housing. Yet you could argue that foreigners are at a disadvantage to Koreans in that they don't have the support system to help in getting a house with 60 million won key money. I doubt many people would come here and put down 60 million won so they could make 30 million a year.

kushibo said...

I think ZenKimchi has the right idea that the 60 to 70 million cited is not merely the monthly salary of the individual, though, as he states, chonse doesn't make up the rest.

In that "cost per year," is it possible the Ulsan school is also including peripheral KoKo staff related to the hire of the English teachers?

Whatever the case is, those "costs" should be made a bit clearer. At least they made clear the 60 to 70 million is NOT salary, since the following paragraph says the salary is 1.5 to 2.7 million. There was a time when the exorbitant salaries of English teachers relative to the college-educated KoKo population was a sore point commonly aired in the media. Stagnant salaries since the 1990s, as supply rose even faster than demand has gone a long way toward changing that, sadly.