Friday, September 11, 2009

It pays to teach (in Korea)

I've frequently talked about all the hoops Korean nationals must go through to become teachers (education, tests, training, competitive application process, etc.). Well, according to OECD statistics that are presented by the New York Times, it's paying off.

The hours are low (or lower than other OECD countries):

The pay is high (when calculated against GDP):

And the salary is high in terms of purchasing power:

Much of this benefit comes after you've stayed invested in the system for a while, about fifteen years according to OECD. Of course, I'm also not sure how they're defining some of these things. Since I'm not a teacher, I can only go by the experiences I know of through other teachers, and the newbies put in a lot of hours at low pay. Of course, it would be perfectly in line with Koreans sŏnbae-versus-hubae culture if, despite such low pay and long hours for teachers in their twenties, things were so much better for those in their mid-thirties or older.

And, of course, any lucrative profession (if that's what teaching is in neo-Confucian South Korea) might have a higher percentage of males than females, which the OECD seems to confirm:


  1. Something doesn't seem right here. How can Korea possibly have less teaching hours than, say, Australia? It seems to be true that the newbies have it tougher than the veterans, but regardless they all work on Saturdays, many of them teach 'optional' after-school programs and the vacations are shorter. So what gives?

  2. Clearly they didn't count after-work hoeshik drinking events in the work hours commitment. ;)

    I don't know what they mean, exactly. Maybe teachers' at-home grading and what-not is counted in all the countries and Korean teachers are largely able to handle that responsibility at school. Just a guess.

    As for the apparently high pay, I'm guessing a few schools may have mistakenly reported "million" as "billion." ;)

  3. What about those high school teachers who have to stick around to 11 or 12pm making sure their students are studying--yeah, I'm pretty sure that they don't need to do grading at home because of it.

  4. Yeah, I used to date someone who had to do that (and I had to pick her up).

    But remember, the stats refer to those with 15 years on the job, so they might be less likely to be doing that still.

  5. Do these stats include all the "white envelope" money Korean teachers get?

  6. Edward, they probably don't, but I'm not so sure how widespread that still is.

    I've known a few teachers well enough for them to tell me about such things, and they said they didn't receive any. Not even attempts.


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