* August 21, 2009: "SMOE cuts tons of native speaker English teacher jobs days before start of semester."
* August 25, 2009: "Teachers pissed about last-minute SMOE cancellations; SMOE putting the blame on foreign English teachers?"
The part of today's column that deserves further thought comes at the end:
Teachers, too, should be mindful of things beyond just the risk of taking any teaching job in Korea. The times are changing. Korea has long been a teachers' market, one where demand far outstripped supply, to the extent that schools would hire foreign-looking people literally right off the street.
But between this, the firing of a teacher for catching swine flu -- another big story in August -- and the faltering economy that's bringing more and more teachers to Asia, it's clear that schools will begin being more choosy, perhaps skipping over and even firing people if someone better comes along.
Something I'd seen repeated on other blogs and message boards is that while SMOE have indeed always over-hired to protect itself from teachers who suddenly quit, schools should now understand that with a rough job market back home, this will probably happen less frequently, and they should change their hiring practices accordingly. I think we'll find the market here turn far more cruel, especially because schools can consider themselves far more choosy. If Korea is still a popular destination for college graduates and teachers, I think the days of countless job opportunities and automatic renewals are numbered. We've seen articles about how poor job markets back home are encouraging ceritified teachers to look to Korea, though the big questions are not only whether schools here will pay for quality, but if they can even recognize a quality NSET in the first place.
Indeed, I've often wondered how much longer native speaker English teachers will even be used in public schools. You've got school districts training their Korean English teachers and offering incentives and certificates for becoming competent in English, the government trying to hire thousands of part-time Korean English teachers better-skilled in communication, and creating an English test to replace the TOEFL domestically, a test that will test "practical English." I stand by a comment I made in an earlier Herald piece:
The government has been recruiting thousands of Korean English "lecturers" to teach practical English, a change that will coincide with the introduction of a home-grown English assessment exam that will domestically replace the TOEFL in a few years. These lecturers have a better chance of success not because they are Korean, but rather because the system is not setting them up to fail.
If only the same amount of planning and foresight accompanied the use of native English speakers in the classroom.
Clearly there isn't a lot of planning and foresight when using us. And considering how sporadically we're used and that our strengths are trumped by the demands of teaching for tests, I wonder how long it will be until administrators consider it no longer efficient to put a native English speaker in every school.