Monday, April 26, 2010

No room for older, experienced teachers at public schools.

For at least the past year we've been reading that South Korea stands to benefit from the poor economies in the countries that export native speaker English teachers. Tough markets for teachers there would mean Korean schools would be better able to attract more "qualified" teachers, and teachers with more "qualifications" such as certifications back home and advanced degrees. That doesn't look to be the case now, though, from what a reader forwarded me from recruiter WorknPlay Consulting. The emailer was asking about the chances of a 53-year-old teacher with four years experience with GEPIK finding something in Seoul or Bundang:
I know many experience teachers are having hard time to find a job in Korea because of their age.
And it’s very hard for a recruiter to promise that I can find her job in or around Seoul.
GEPIK has cut down on their budget for native English speaker teachers from this coming semester and now they can’t afford higher level teachers.

That is, teachers would be atop the payscale because of experience and credentials. Recruiters are saying, another emailer points out, the highest pay rate is 2.3 million won per month, when in fact contracts state teachers at the highest level can earn 2.5 million per month in Busan and Incheon and up to 2.7 in other provinces. WorknPlay goes on to say she can forward her resume to school boards in Busan and Gyeongsangnam-do for consideration.

The emailer also directed me to the website of another recruiter, Korvia, which says under "elibility and reuneration" for SMOE:
Aged 50 or over (As of 2008. 12. 31) may be excluded from the selection due to the purpose and the aim of SMOE

for GEPIK (Gyeonggi province):
Aged 50 or over (As of 2008. 12. 31) may be excluded from the selection due to the purpose and the aim of GEPIK.

and for EPIK:
Aged 50 or over (As of 2008. 12. 31) may be excluded from the selection due to the purpose and the aim of EPIK.

The EPIK website says teachers are to "Be a maximum of 55 years of age".

When I've written about quote-unquote qualified teachers before---such as in the Korea Herald last summer---and the media's clamoring for them, I've pointed out that schools aren't yet prepared to pay for them, and that for all intents and purposes, a native English speaker fresh out of college with no experience or training often fills the same role in schools as one who's been in Korea for years and who has credentials and paper qualifications required of teachers elsewhere. (More commentary on the difficulties native speaker English teachers face here.) This news, coupled with selective and discriminatory hiring practices by other schools and school boards, starts to paint a picture of the ideal "native speaker English teacher" South Korea hopes to attract.

28 comments:

Chris in South Korea said...

Never understood why older teachers faced age discrimination. Either Korea's afraid they can't keep up with the kids, or that the kids won't listen to someone of that age...?

The response to these sort of shenanigans might be to call them out - do you want experienced, qualified teachers or not? To be fair, the US has been charged with the same problem - don't bother getting your Master's degree before getting tenured, as finding a job will be more difficult. Why? They have to pay you more because you're better qualified.

Douglas said...

Given the level of experience of the applicant she may as well just move into the university system. Two sixteen week semesters and 20 weeks of holidays sounds better than screaming school children anyway. That said it does once again show what a hypocritical farce this "qualified" teachers issue is. After watching this circus go on for years, I can only conclude that foreign teachers are and will remain a favored whipping boy for a insular society deeply ambivalent about an educated foreign community in their midst.

brent said...

Koreans know that older Korean teachers generally suck, so naturally they apply what they "know" to others.

Terry said...

"I regret to inform you that SOME will not interview you. Because of overwhelming applications, SOME prefers to go with single teachers. I recommend you to apply to www.epik.go.kr/."

This is what we received when we applied to SMOE, after we had filled out all the paperwork. Both of us are highly qualified US teachers with experience in the US and Korea but we can't get an interview with SMOE because we are married.

3gyupsal said...

That's unfortunate. Some of the best teachers that I know of are older teachers. There might be a few ways to overcome this hurdle though.

Teachers could try to bypass the recruiters by just applying directly to certain schools. I think that principals who are pro-foreigner might would definitely prefer people with experience. An older more experienced Korean principal would probably find more in common with an older more experienced foreigner. (I know one guy whose principal just hired him directly to the school making him a full teacher and not a teacher's assistant)

They could also just avoid Seoul, I don't really get this demanding to be placed in Seoul. I understand that Seoul has a lot of conveniences that other places don't have, but a public school job is probably a lot easier out in the provinces, or someone could be lucky enough to work some place way out in the sticks at some school that has K-12 only 15 students, an experienced teacher in that situation could probably produce some somewhat fluent kids after a few years vs. having 40 kids in a class that you see once every two weeks.

Alex said...

Yep, I think Brent pretty much summed up the reasoning on this one.

korok said...

It's all about supplying the market with the product it wants: young, white, attractive (to Koreans), friendly, animated, obedient.

The "qualification" issue is, of course, as Douglas puts it a "hypocritical farce". But what's more of a farce is the failure of most foreign teachers to figure this out after all this time. Like Chris who never understood why Koreans don't want old teachers. It's not difficult to understand at all, Chris.

It's not as brent explains it either, that older teachers will suck like older Korean teachers. brent's first mistake was thinking that there can ever be any comparison at all between Korean teachers and foreign teachers. Naturally, there can't be. That shouldn't be hard to understand either.

As Brian quoted that MOE official saying in his JoongAng article not so long ago: foreign teachers "are neither regular teachers nor lecturers who can conduct classes independently. They are 'assistant teachers,' hence their teaching experience doesn't matter much ... it's better for students to have more new teachers so that they can meet various kinds of foreigners."
http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2903201

Foreign teachers can't be compared to Korean teachers (they are a different animal) and "experience doesn't matter much". And of course the various kinds of foreigners that Korean students should meet are various kinds of young, white, attractive (to Koreans), friendly, animated, and obedient foreigners.

brent said...

Korok, I think you help show my point. Koreans don't want old Korean teachers either. They want young, attractive, friendly, animated and obedient Korean teachers too. The ideas are not self-contradictory.

youseok said...

Going for the small school has advantages people don't think of. Usually a staff that is happy to get a foreigner, because so many of them do runners because of the isolation. the smaller staff to deal with. Smaller classes and friendlier kids. They are more interested in learning English, because there are no cram schools around. no co-teacher. you create the tests, the homework and create the learning environment. The weekend is for when you get out of town and visit with friends.

Chris in South Korea said...

In that case, let's make attractiveness part of the rating system for hiring new applicants. Had recent surgery? Want to use GlamourShots? Now's the time to send in those pictures!

Seriously, though, there's zero proven correlation between the attractiveness of the teacher and actual learning. It might work in the movies (think Billy Madison), but in real life, a teacher is a teacher.

You'd think that the way things are with a rogue nuclear state a few dozen miles away people would be LESS likely to come to Korea....

Darth Babaganoosh said...

It's all about supplying the market with the product it wants: young, white, attractive (to Koreans), friendly, animated, obedient.

Obedient being the operative word there, I think. Older experienced teachers are "set in their ways" and are far more likely to NOT put up with the usual bullshit. From a Korean administrator's POV, they're troublemakers. they want younger teachers, who can be told what to do and who will do what they're told.

sonagi92 said...

"don't bother getting your Master's degree before getting tenured, as finding a job will be more difficult. Why? They have to pay you more because you're better qualified. "

Depends on the district and state. In my state, teachers are expected to work towards a master's degree during their first standard license. Most districts pay some or all of the tuition for courses related to one's area of certification, so hiring a teacher with an advanced degree is not necessarily more expensive.

EPIK and its cousins are more generous than Japan's JET program, which has long refused applications from teachers over 40 and mostly hires young people in their 20s.

A few Yonsei FLI teachers were put out to pasture several years ago when the university lowered the mandatory retirement age to 55 for foreign instructors only. Korean teachers in the KLI retained the higher retirement age of around 62. I hear that the FLI advertises frequently for new hires. I wonder why.

Bias against older teachers and no job security are why I returned to the US to continue my career as a teacher. The other day as I admired the forested rolling hills and blue skies of rural Virgina while driving home with a backseat full of locally raised meat and produce, I reaffirmed my decision to come home.

Raymond Teacher: said...

I have been teaching in Korea since July 2009 and my elementary school is not allowed to rehire me. I will turn 58 in June. I am not EPIK, my position is funded by the county district.

My co-teacher, who is also the district head English teacher, very much wants to re-hire me but the district manage does not re-hire contract teachers, not even Korean nationals. I assume they think they save money but I've seen the negative impact of replacing experienced Korean teachers with ones fresh out of college. They don't even have student teaching here as we do in the states.

Muckefuck said...

This is not a new phenom. In 2003, the 59 year old woman with her PhD. in TESOL, was not rehired. I got her job instead. I was told she was too old by the Kwangju education office.
The limit of Jet used to be 25.

Muckefuck said...

@Chris. You are too logical. Korea is the place where logic comes to die.

Michael said...

Which Kwangju are you refering to?

Darth Babaganoosh said...

EPIK and its cousins are more generous than Japan's JET program, which has long refused applications from teachers over 40

If we talk about Japan, we can't limit ourselves to just JET. Public universities will also not hire anyone over 40, and if you are already an employee with one when you TURN 40, they show you the door. Private unis will hire over-40's, but only if they are credentialed.

I have been teaching in Korea since July 2009 and my elementary school is not allowed to rehire me. I will turn 58 in June.

A teacher at my uni was recently fired on his birthday for reaching their retirement age. No warning to him, however, when he signed his contract renewal last year, that they were going to can his ass without warning and not allow him to finish the contract he was signing. Very professional.

Peter said...

This is unfortunate, but really, no one with experience in Korea should be particularly surprised. The native teacher's role in a public school is largely cosmetic, so how surprising is it that the hiring process is geared toward hiring young, "attractive" teachers? The talk of "qualified" and "unqualified" teachers has always been a political smokescreen -- it sounds important, but is vague enough to justify any decision the people in charge might make, and to shift any negative press onto the native teachers themselves, and away from the cash-cow system that brings them over in the first place. The reality is that, more often than not, a native teacher's "qualifications" (such as experience) simply aren't that important in the hiring process.

hardboiled310 said...

Seriously, though, there's zero proven correlation between the attractiveness of the teacher and actual learning. It might work in the movies (think Billy Madison), but in real life, a teacher is a teacher.

There might not be a correlation between attractiveness and learning, but appearance does play a role in learning. Why does a predominantly African-American school in my city want to hire more African-American teachers? Because the students can relate more and will therefore have a greater propensity to learn. You're naive if you don't think Korean elementary school kids can relate better to a younger, fresh out of college student than a 58 year old teacher. SMOE et al are right....they realize you don't need to pay a higher salary for years of experience to teach, "I'm a boy."

Mike said...
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Mike said...

Hardboiled... I'm sure that your example of a school district wanting Black teachers to teach Black kids is more based on the pile of evidence showing that test scores improve when students of race are taught by teachers of race, just as girls score better when tested without boys present and by female teachers.

It has nothing to do with relating to the teacher and everything to do with expectation of success. Black students and girls expect to do poor compared to white boys and when tested by white men (or women). If you remove that negative expectation test scores rise significantly.

That idea is actually reversed when a native teacher is the teacher. Students expect not to speak English as well as their teacher. I'm naive of any studies conducted whereby foreign language ability increased when students were tested by non-native teachers... but I would assume, based on the evidence, that they might.

NicolaSigel0508 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
sonagi92 said...

Mike is right. As an elementary teacher in the US, I've observed that older teachers nearing retirement may not be as effective owing to health concerns and energy level, but those who still come to work 30 years later because they love what they do are loved by their students.

Keith said...

The English Language Teach (ELT) situation in Korea is by far the most unusual. I worked in Europe for over 8 years as a teacher and in no way one would get a work permit without the requisite certification or experience in Europe. A friend who wants to work outside Korea always ask what it takes to teach in Europe or Latin America and I tell him that he has to do way much more than here. Working here can skew the reality of ELT elsewhere in the world. 80% of the foreign teachers in Korea are well-intentioned but lack any idea what it takes to teach English, no understanding of how language learning happens, and should not be in the class as an independent teacher.

Korea is a perfect place for the young and inexperienced, but this would not play well in most countries where professionalism and skills are valued. Korea's level of English is testament to its silly unprofessional idea of ELT. The situation here in Korea is laughable.

Korean policy formation in the area of language education is the same as in other areas, cloaked in insecurity and irrationality. Korean teachers probably cannot handle seeing what real teaching is all about. They would benefit from seeing professional experienced teachers. I would believe that older teachers would be mindful that they are in a foreign country and would be much more aware than a young person with relatively little life experience.

Mr. Wonderful said...

It all comes down to a glutted market.

Two things are going to happen.

The world economy is either going to recover or completely collapse.

Either way, Korea will once again experience a shortage of teachers.

They can pick and choose...now.

Give it a year.

Things always change.

3gyupsal said...

The market is indeed glutted now. I think a big part of that might be the fact that there seems to be a lot of people who are trying to stay in their jobs for longer than trying to go home after a few months or a year. There seems to be a lot more people with "Korea experience," than there are kids who are fresh out of college.

Mr. Wonderful said...

Greece has fallen.

Portugal is a cunt-hair away.

Spain is a big one that will bring down England with it.

Compared to the Eurozone, the Lehman collapse will be considered a mere bump in the road.

A lot of money is going to fly out of Asia and into the dollar.

I smell currency crisis and asset bubble.

The herd will be culled within the next year or so.

Turner said...

The more paranoid part of me says the system wants inexperienced, somewhat ignorant teachers of whom they can essentially "use up and spit out". I say ignorant when it comes to knowing your rights as a foreign resident and under whatever value your contract has. This is just sad if recruiters are now actually adopting it as official policy.