The 16 instructors, who teach in the Seoul area, spent Tuesday morning at Cal State San Bernardino where they were welcomed by campus educators. The South Korean teachers are scheduled to follow Tuesday morning's activities by visiting San Bernardino area elementary schools and studying how local teachers teach English to students who are learning the language.
"We hope that after these four weeks, you will come out as better teachers," said Tatiana Karmanova, interim dean of Cal State San Bernardino's College of Extended Learning. "You will have better class management, better language skills, (be) more fluent."
One of the visiting teachers, Jee Yeon, said learning English is compulsory in South Korean schools. Yeon said she and her compatriots were lucky to have an opportunity to visit the United States to hone their language skills.
"We have a duty and they (our students) are waiting," she said.
The government pays for teachers to undergo these lengthy training programs if they wish, which consist of five months at the Korean National University of Education and usually one month abroad.
The next article is from Thursday, about nine middle school English teachers who visited New Jersey:
"They are not only so intelligent and professional of the highest quality, but they communicate with a beautiful grace," [Superintendent] Dr. Arilotta noted. The visitors attended classes for nine days and had four weeks of training from Jan. 6 through Feb. 2. They also joined the teaching faculties for staff development activities on the Jan. 18 when students had off for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
The guests have indicated that their expectations have been exceeded by the overwhelming welcome they have received: "The administrators and teachers have been incredible. They go out of their way to make us feel included and at home. And the children are so respectful. These are clearly the best schools. The students work intensely with the teachers all day long. Everybody is blessed to have such superior schools and teachers. We are learning so many methods to bring back to Korea where we will mentor other teachers to improve how we teach English to Korean children."
The teachers underwent a "rigorous selection process," according to the director of the placement agency, who said:
"They needed to have at least seven years teaching experience, over 800 hours of staff development training and to pass a classroom teaching performance in front of a panel of judges."
The article concludes by mentioning these teachers were awarded "Teaching English in English - Masters" degrees by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (I've written about those here and here). There are two TEE certificates---"Ace" and "Master"---with a prerequisite of the latter being at least seven years' teaching experience.
I've been wanting to do a post on teacher training programs for a while, and am still collecting opinions to flesh it out (feel free to email me yours at the address on the side of the site). Elementary school teachers could benefit from overseas experience because the curriculum doesn't focus on grammar or writing---well, it did when I saw really shitty homeroom teachers do it---and have accompanying CD-ROMS that essentially do all the work for you, they can thus be taught entirely in English, even by teachers with a very limited command of the language.
On the other hand, observational and anecdotal evidence, together with what Korean English teachers have told me, indicates that these programs for secondary school teachers are probably not the best investment. In spite of these TEE certificates and the experience abroad---which, remember, supplements a lifetime of exposure to the language, decades of study, and four years of training in university---they are still placed back into schools that teach English entirely for standardized grammar tests which make spoken English a sideshow at best and a hindrance to comprehending the subject at worst. Teachers who have attended month-long intensive English programs at the Jeollanam-do Educational Training Institute (전라남도교육연수원) in Damyang county told me they generally had fun and learned a lot, but can't apply any of these skills because:
1) Their students aren't interested in speaking English.
2) Their students' English levels aren't good enough to understand spoken English.
3) The activities they learned in Damyang can't be applied to large class sizes like those in public schools.
4) Teachers must follow and complete the textbooks and teach toward standardized tests, and don't have time to waste on speaking English.
And keep in mind that since in these programs all teachers "pass," regardless of performance, there is no accountability. Just like there's no accountability when native speaker English teachers [NSETs] aren't given the opportunity to evaluate their Korean co-teachers, meaning nobody except blog readers and Facebook friends know when teachers don't participate in lesson planning, don't participate in class, or don't show up at all.
I've posted those thoughts before, and I took those four items from a post in December about a a National Assemblyman complaining about how expensive NSETs are. Similar points were made a few days earlier, in a post about a Seoul National University of Education professor bitching about NSETs for, among other reasons, how much they cost. When looking at the costs of English education, and criticizing the relative costs of imports, they're going to need to look honestly at what goes on in the English classrooms here and whether their training programs are working toward that.