Friday, December 9, 2011

UPDATED: Seoul Ministry of Education to phase out native English speakers by 2014

And replace them with robots. Or Korean non-native English teachers. Same-same. (I kid! I kid! I kid because I love... to kid!)

Needless to say, this is getting a lot of coverage in the K-blogosphere.

If this goes through (and don't expect for a minute it's a done deal), it might mean the end of cushy MOE jobs in the schools, but it might also mean a concurrent rise in demand at the hagwon level, as students (and their parents) look for a crutch (i.e., native teachers) now that that security blanket has been ripped away from them.

And of course, there's always employment in the provinces.

The Marmot's Hole has a long discussion going on about this. Brian in Chŏllanamdo has a lengthy post that has links to other posts, though I think he puts too much blame on the Korean side of things and seems to lay none of this at the feet of the native English-speaking teachers who (from my experience in talking with some about this) often lack drive or interest or ability to work with their higher-ups to make their presence more effective, or even saw any responsibility to do so (e.g., "I get paid to teach and I teach, end of story," "I don't speak Korean so why should I go to teachers' meetings?").

I addressed some of that in my "epic rant" on English teachers from 2009.

Asiapundits also has a good article worth reading (he uses the word "sacked" to refer to someone not getting their year-long contract renewed for another year). I left his comment there.
I certainly would agree that the administrators and schools deserve much of the blame, but the crop of teachers was a mix of highly qualified and motivated along with get-it-done-and-go-home or worse. A crapshoot, really, and that meant it would be difficult to impossible to consistently rely on the teacher supply to effect a better system.

They need to start over, get good input from teachers who actually care and who are willing to look introspectively at their side of the equation, get the same from KoKo teachers and administrators who will do the same, and rebuild. The demand, and hopefully the money, will be back.

By the way, that "little geniuses" photo you posted... the person who took it, presumably that 6th-grade child's teacher, has done some very serious privacy violations by sticking up a picture of the poor girl's work with her name attached. In fact, in some way this goes to what I'm saying: a Korean teacher could easily be reprimanded and possibly fired for such a breach, which they are trained to know not to do, but the foreign hires are on the fringes and (a) are not trained in such issues and (b) sometimes seem to lack common sense about them.

Seriously, what teacher would think it's okay to put up in a Flickr feed a child's test paper for the purpose of mockery, complete with her name?!
The latter part refers to the picture below, which I took the trouble to redact.



  1. I was wondering when you'd post about this. But thought it was covered by your post about English teaching robots. Anyhow, most Korean kids don't really need to learn English. I feel like it's an unnecessary requirement for college admission and most working Koreans don't interact with foreigners or do business with foreign companies. For those who do need it for their job, I think it would serve the larger interests of Korean society by having them study abroad and experience a different culture. Now, no one can blame the "incompetent" Korean school system for the hiring of poor English teachers because there will be no hiring at all, at least in the Seoul school system.

    I never understood that argument really. It's up to the individual to do a good job. There are many people who work earnestly in less than inspiring work environments to put it nicely. Ultimately, it's the individual that determines what they make of the work. Anyhow, it's a good development for all involved as doing this for years and years is not a good decision if you really don't care about the work. A lot of teachers are miserable in Korea because they hate their lives, but can't or aren't willing to find something better. Korea needs to hire English teachers that care about their students if any at all. Just a way to remove the wheat from the chaff.


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