Friday, January 1, 2010

Teachers create list of bad public schools.

After writing two days ago about the government's plan to blacklist "incompetent" native speaker English teachers, Kang Shin-who in the Korea Times covers some teachers' efforts to warn against bad schools.
A group of native English teachers are organizing themselves to come up with a blacklist of schools that they say don't treat teachers fairly.

According to the Web site of the Independent Registry of Schools in Korea (IRSK), the organization was created by Charles Hill and some other foreign teachers working in public schools here to rate schools in Korea.

The Web site says, "If you are considering employment in Korea at a public school, please visit our 'Watch List' page first before accepting any offers, to ensure you won't end up working for a school that has earned a negative reputation for acts done to foreigners previously employed at that school."

The article continues later with "Education authorities have showed no reaction to the Website," and it took me a good bit of work on the internet to find it. Here's the site, "The Independent Registry of Schools in Korea," and here's the Facebook page I had to track down in order to find it.

I'll give credit to Kang for covering a teacher's perspective by writing about this site, but I'm pretty sure Hill, or somebody else with the group, simply fed the link to the paper and they ran with in order to make the objections to the evaluations seem more pro-active and aggressive. No disrespect intended, but who is Charles Hill? Not that everybody in the paper has to be vetted by the blogosphere, but I've never heard of him, I couldn't find his site until I did some sleuthing on Facebook, and I wonder why it gets more attention than the very valid objections raised in my last post and especially in the comment section.

But talking just about the idea of such a site, I think it would work better for hagwon, because teachers going into public schools often don't know where they'll be placed until they get there. Additionally, co-teachers, coworkers, and principals are rotated in and out often enough to change the culture of the school from year to year, limiting the usefulness of single-school evaluations. It would probably be better to collect evaluations about provincial and city school boards---such as of Jeollanam-do or Suncheon---because the actions of a particular school are usually dictated by that central body.

There are a bunch of hagwon blacklists out there, but I'm not sure how seriously they're taken. An even bigger obstacle are the libel laws that make honesty a punishable offense. I've heard some nasty stories about hagwon, especially of one in Suncheon, but people are afraid to post them online for fear of being sued, since even writing the truth can get you in trouble if it damages somebody else's reputation. Prominent blogger ZenKimchi went through that two years ago, so I'll direct you to his account and Michael Hurt's coverage of it.

This fear will also influence people writing about public schools. After all, there's only one native speaker at a public school at any time, so it won't take much work to figure out who's posting "anonymously" about a particular school over a specific period of time.

Nonetheless, if the new list gains traction and gains widespread popularity---something the hagwon blacklists haven't done because they're simply too unreliable---it would provide some necessary balance to job ads like this, from a high school in Jeollanam-do's Yeonggwang county:
Few things you need to know before you apply for this position.

- Yeonggwang is pretty rural.
- This school is an alternate school. All the students live in dormitory.
- You will teach at both middle and high school.
- The last two teachers were very troublesome, so this time they really want to hire a genuine and reponsible teacher.
- The school staffs are all very nice and kind.

22 comments:

Chris in South Korea said...

What you really need to establish some form of legitimacy is a third-party guaranteeing anonymity. Something like the Honesty Box on Facebook (that silly app that asks "What do you really think of me?" where the service acts as the go-between. If someone wanted more details, the OP could be e-mailed through it and so on and so forth.

Honesty by itself isn't considered libelous; if it can't be proven that it's done in the name of 'public good' or something like that. It's hard to shut up the internet, for better or worse... How much attention your ringing voice gets is a better indicator of whether you should be worried about libel or not.

JSK said...

RATE MY HAGWON has been doing this for awhile with hagwons. Don't they do it for public schools?

This Is Me Posting said...

Off-Topic:

Happy New Year, folks!

ZenKimchi said...

Just a note that you can not only get sued for libel, you can get a criminal record for libel. South Korea is one of the last democracies with criminal libel still on the books. Mexico got rid of it a few years ago, making SK quite in the minority. I wasn't sued. I was interrogated by the police and faced criminal charges and deportation for telling people the process of how to go to the labor board and deal with crooked employers.

On the school blacklist topic, I wish ATEK went through with its clever scheme to have a black list/green list of schools that cleverly skirted the libel laws. The witch hunt against the officer who came up with it killed the list when it chased him out of the country.

Adeel said...

Zen, are you able to discuss the outcome of that case?

Ms Parker said...

But how relevant would it be? The last school I worked at in Korea changed principals and head-teachers twice, vice-principals three times, and when I returned the 2nd year, all the teachers (except 2) had changed.

Needless to say, the situation at the school changed as well. And, when my first principal (who liked me a lot and was always nice to me) went to a different school, she managed to make the NET's life at her new school a living hell.

There are too many variables that change, which isn't the situation at a hogwan where the owner/director doesn't change every 2-4 years

Muckefuck said...

"No disrespect intended, but who is Charles Hill...I've never heard of him, I couldn't find his site until I did some sleuthing on Facebook, and I wonder why it gets more attention than the very valid objections raised in my last post and especially in the comment section."

So he needs your approval/endorsement before he can try to do some good? Maybe he has never heard of you, either. He has as much right to his site as you have to your blog.

I applaud him. It is a step in the right direction.

Also, teachers that stay on are able to state their school preferences, so they are aware where they might be headed the followng year. Now they can look those schools up on this site and perhaps contact the current teacher there for more information. A teacher can also state how long his principal has been at his school and therefore how likely to change before the new teacher comes in. Schools do not go from the bottom of the shit pile to the top of Hallasan in one semester.
Kudos to Mr.Hill.

expacked said...

I hope this is not seen by Koreans as tit-for-tat move (Government creating a black-list of native English teachers).

In order to get any go forward with this, it needs to be taken up by a respected group - maybe ATEK... Without it, people will forget its there and never use it.

As teachers and officials always change at public school, I think the only way this would work is if its done on a regional level - 75% of schools in this area/city are rated poorly. This would make new native English teachers think twice about going to that area. It would also help GIPEK/SMOE/EPIK know where the problems are, so they can help the teachers, etc.

With this type of website, there also needs to be clear guidelines about what to do yourself about improving your situation. Sometimes its easier than you think to fix it and it's not the schools fault.

Overall, I think it would be more useful to have the school you rate on only show up as a regional rating. The Government can also benefit from this and even provide help to people through this.

extrakorea said...

@ ZenKimchi

||"On the school blacklist topic, I wish ATEK went through with its clever scheme to have a black list/green list of schools that cleverly skirted the libel laws. The witch hunt against the officer who came up with it killed the list when it chased him out of the country."||

Chicken Liver & Co. ran him out of town?!

Darth Babaganoosh said...

Chicken Liver & Co. ran him out of town?!

They got lucky in their muckraking by finding a hidden skeleton.

I applaud him. It is a step in the right direction

Until he, his list, and those contributing to it get shut down due to defamation and libel (just as the teacher blacklist will).

Brian said...

Muckefuck, my point was that this isn't really newsworthy, and I think WAS picked up to make it seem like a tit-for-tat move. When I found the Facebook group yesterday it had all of six members. Clearly somebody contacted the Times to tell them about the site, and the Times ran the story. Nothing wrong with running the story of course, but an upstart group a couple days old that nobody has heard of, it's not as if it's taking the teaching community by storm. I would say it's not frontpage material for the Times website, but, well, anything about English teachers will get up there.

Muckefuck said...

@Darth "Until he, his list, and those contributing to it get shut down due to defamation and libel (just as the teacher blacklist will)."

He can host his site in the States.

@Brian

Understood.

There is a maxim in the world of publishing: "A bad review is better than no review."

I'll let your fans draw their own conclusions.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

He can host his site in the States.

Korea has shown that it is not above arresting and jailing people for (Korean) crimes committed in other countries, where such actions are not even considered crimes in the lcoal jurisdiction.

This Is Me Posting said...

@Darth

Explain/Source please.

Muckefuck said...

@ Darth

do any of those crimes involve free speech in the States? If so,I would like to hear about it.
Anyways, how can Korea know who your are if you post from some cyber cafe? Do you think some Korean bureaucrat follows you around everyday of the week?
Let them try to shut down a website hosted outside of Korea. It would be like playing wack-a-mole. As soon as it gets shut down, it pops up someplace else.

An Acorn in the Dog's Food said...

This Is Me Posting:

Concerning the comment from Darth Babaganoosh ... One example that comes to mind involves 'Almond Tease' -- a Korean woman featured on a porn site in Canada (where she was a student?) who eventually came back to Korea, found work as an English teacher, and was arrested after a student found the site and reported her to the police. From what I can remember she was made to pay a fine as a result ...

Peter said...

I agree with what's already been said about the changing staff at public schools. The principal seems to have ultimate authority over most aspects of the day-to-day operation of a public school. So, as I know from personal experience, a new principal can cause a huge change (for better or worse) to the daily work environment you'll encounter in that school. This alone would make individual ratings for schools unreliable ... and that's not even getting into the number of different co-teachers or head teachers a NEST might have over the course of a single contract, let alone from year to year.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

@Muckefuck: Let them try to shut down a website hosted outside of Korea. It would be like playing wack-a-mole. As soon as it gets shut down, it pops up someplace else.

Then when some enterprising young Korean decides to do the same thing regarding foreign teachers, there should be no complaints from you.

If it's okay to libel and defame schools/teachers/administrators anonymously and without consequence, they should be able to do the same.

The KFTRA got their blacklist shut down in Korea (or at least put behind curtains not accessible to the public), but don't be surprised they open it back up someday off the Korean shores, and then you can play whack-a-mole, too.

@This Is Me Posting:
Most of such arrests are to do with gambling. I can't recall one in the papers recently, but there have been writeups where people coming back from Las Vegas have been arrested for gambling away "too much" (how they know how much you gambled away as opposed to just spent is baffling).

The other well-known cases were touched on by Acorn. Almond Tease was arrested for doing porn in Canada (legal there), but was arrested in Korea for breaking KOREAN laws on obscenity.

The case before that was the 딸기 (and her coworkers) case filming--again, legally in Canada--and streaming their sexcapades online through a pay-for-access site. Even though the website was not based in Korea, everyone still got stitched up when they returned to Korea, again for breaking KOREAN laws, even though nothing they did actually occurred inside Korea's borders.

I'm sure you can find other examples of such arrests if you looked at child prostitution and other related laws.

Brian said...

The site admin didn't like my blog post. Said it was snarky.

Muckefuck said...

@Darth "If it's okay to libel and defame schools/teachers/administrators anonymously and without consequence, they should be able to do the same."

Well, no, it isn't ok to libel and defame because those are illegal. Also, it is not libelous if the author can demonstrate that his statements are facts.

"The KFTRA got their blacklist shut down in Korea (or at least put behind curtains not accessible to the public), but don't be surprised they open it back up someday off the Korean shores, and then you can play whack-a-mole, too."

Relevance? I am talking about hosting outside of Korea.

Also, we are talking about libel laws, not sex related crimes. Canadians can be arrested at home for sex related crimes committed abroad , too, but I was talking about libel and slander.

Can you show me one Canadian that was sentenced in Canada for posting outside of Korea non-sexual content or hate speech about Koreans?

Chris in South Korea said...

It's rather ironic that public schools - once considered the 'safe' place to work - are now considered as risky as anywhere else in Korea.

@muckefuck: two wrongs don't make a right - but one wrong can't necessarily be ignored. It would be relatively easy to set up remote hosting for whatever website you like and never set foot in Korea again (or if coming to Korea, keeping your involvement in said site on the DL)

@Zen: that clever idea can still be used by anyone; certainly ATEK didn't copyright it. It could just as easily be used on any other website out there with the right programming...

As an aside, principals - and co-teachers - really do make one's public-school experience. That those vary from year to year, just like hagwon owners and fellow teachers, would make old reports unreliable. Then again, who reads an old Lonely Planet?

Puffin Watch said...

There are a bunch of hagwon blacklists out there, but I'm not sure how seriously they're taken.

I wouldn't take those seriously. As Jennifer used to quip on Seoul Survivors about those black lists, people will throw their school on a blacklist and make crap up because they didn't give them an oven.

They were very hit and miss for small hagwons. It could be a bad school or just a disgruntled loser.

The biggers schools that were crap like Berlitz, well, you didn't need a black list. They had reps, especially on Dave's. Maybe one of the few things Dave's is good for.