Monday, May 24, 2010

Bad market for teachers in the US will mean nothing for Korea.

I used earlier to browse positions in Pittsburgh, and they recently sent me a list of job matches.

Click to enlarge.

k, that's not helping.

If you search for "English" on CareerBuilder or Monster, Korean EFL recruiters are atop the search results, regardless of location. Gee, I think I'll go with the one that says
"Over 100,000 English teachers are currently beign employed in Korea"

Anyway, a poster on Dave's ESL Cafe shares this May 20th New York Times story, "Teachers Facing Weakest Market in Years," and asks
Wonder how this will influence the market for qualified teachers in Korea.

It won't have any effect on qualified teachers in Korea.

Browse recruiter websites, whether the ones I found in my job search here or the ones Google gives you, and you'll find most if not all advertise things like "No experience necessary" or "all majors welcome" or "ALL MAJORES WELCOM."

In a May 2009 post I noted that when bitching about "unqualified" foreign English teachers you have to look at how recruiters are selling Korea to applicants. Park English, which for a while was spamming me with teacher resumes, sent me an advertisement last May with the headline "What's in your future after graduation? How Would You Like To Travel & Teach in South Korea?" Elsewhere on the page it gives answers to "Why Korea?"
-Annual salary of US $24-35K at 30 hrs/wk
-Renewable 12-month contract
-Gain international experience while enriching students lives
-Safe, modern country with the highest investment in private education in the world
-Intriguing language, rich culture and central location for continued travel in Asia
-Great ongoing positions available year-round
-FREE furnished housing, FREE round-trip airfare, paid holidays, health insurance coverage, etc.
-Save up to $15K/year

ESL Park, the recruiter I found via CareerBuilder telling us that ALL MAJORES WELCOM, asks on its homepage
Are you a University graduate?
Are you looking for a great adventure?
Do you want to Travel and make money?

CraigsKorea, another recruiter advertising on CareerBuilder, has in the top right corner of its homepage
Are you looking for great
adventure? Do you want to
Travel and make Money?
All Bachelor degree Holders
are Welcome to Korea Now!

Whether teaching in Korea is "real teaching" is beyond the scope of this post, and has already been the subject of a bajillion messageboard threads and blog entries already. The point is if the companies put in charge of hiring native speaker English teachers are selling it as a place to travel and make money, Korean administrators ought to expect their hires to view the job as a means to travel and make money. We would certainly want incoming teachers to have a sense of duty and professionalism---the quote-unquote professionalism of the EFL business in Korea is definitely up for debate---but the middle(wo)men aren't trying to appeal to teachers' professional development.

I think newly-graduated teachers from the US and other countries might give South Korea and Asia a second look. Spending a year or two overseas teaching English as a certified, credentialed teacher might be preferrable to spending a year or two unemployed, or underemployed, or substitute teaching, or working in an unrelated industry. "Teaching" "English" in a Korean cramschool or working as a native speaker assistant teacher in a public school is hardly the same as teaching your subject back home, and there's no guarantee potential employers are going to be impressed with your international experience. But even though salaries in Korea's EFL industry have been stagnant for years, and the start-up costs for new teachers have gone up, it still remains a good deal for a 22-year-old.

That's good, because schools and recruiters pretty much just want 22-year-olds. Last month I posted about English Program in Korea [EPIK], Gyeonggi English Program in Korea [GEPIK], and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education [SMOE] not wanting to hire older, experienced, "qualified" teachers because they are unable and unwilling to pay them. I'll have an update to that news in the near future, but just to refresh a reader forwarded me an email from WorknPlay Consulting, 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.

Another recruiter, Korvia, says on its website that teachers over 50 "may be excluded for the selection process" by the three organizations, with the EPIK official website saying teachers are to "Be a maximum of 55 years of age".

It wouldn't make financial sense for most 50-year-old teachers in the US to leave their jobs and move to South Korea, and fiftysomething teachers who find themselves unemployed aren't likely to have the freedom to pick up and move halfway across the world, even if public schools would hire them and even if schools would pay them more than $30,000 per year. But the policies of these organizations, and the recruiters that hire for them, damage the industry by preventing teachers with experience in Korea from staying with their schools, and ultimately staying in Korea. However, as everybody saw from that April post, and as everybody has been saying for years, it doesn't really matter if native speaker English teachers here are "experienced" or "qualified," and the role a 22-year-old biology major plays in the classroom is essentially the same as a teacher with experience and training. South Korea is potentially missing out on an opportunity to attract trained teachers to its schools, but a lot about the English business here would have to change to accomodate them, a change that people with experience in Korea know isn't coming anytime soon. In fact, I would be surprised if the native speaker English teacher experiment lasts another five years in South Korean public schools.

Browse the "English in the news" category for more posts on English and English education in South Korea, and see the following selection for discussion on the issues and challenges faced by native speaker English teachers there.

* (3/19/2010) Korea's robot English teachers won't go away.
* (12/3/2009) Are native speakers part of English here? Your thoughts on the 2009 GETA International Conference.
* (12/2/2009) In the Korea Herald, writing about mandatory culture classes for foreign teachers.
* (6/26/2009) Korea Herald: Just what makes a teacher "qualified"?
* (6/15/2009) Not enough applicants for those "English Lecturer" jobs.
* (6/5/2009) Seoul wants English classes to be taught in English, will give TEE certs out.
* (5/13/2009) Korea Herald: The media bias against foreign teachers.
* (5/6/2009) 12% of native speaker teachers in Ulsan not retained.
* (5/1/2009) Korea Times: Foreign teachers wrongly portrayed in Korea.
* (4/7/2009) Korea Herald: Stop the scatter-shot approach to English.
* (12/30/2008) Half of foreign teachers leave after one year? GREAT! That's an article that should be brought up every now and again, because a MOE official in charge of native speaker English teachers says
``They are neither regular teachers nor lecturers who can conduct classes independently. They are `assistant teachers,' hence their teaching experience doesn't matter much,'' he said. ``Rather, it's better for students to have more new teachers so that they can meet various kinds of foreigners,'' he added.

* (12/10/2008): Poor guy.
* (11/24/2008): EPIK in the news some more.
* (11/21/2008): 4,000 "English Lecturers" coming in 2010.
* (11/14/2008): A must-read: an account of teaching English in South Korea in the sixties.
* (10/6/2008): More money going into English education next year.
* (9/11/2008): More English-Only classrooms, more gimmicks.
* (6/23/2008): Pronunciation matters.
* (11/28/2007) A reaction to Kang-Eun-hee's "Korean English Teachers."


kushibo said...

Brian, I know it's not the theme of the post, but I hope you find something soon.

I don't know if you just felt you needed a change from Chŏllanam-do or what, but my advice to anyone right now who is thinking of leaving Korea is to try your best to line up your next gig (job, school, whatever) before you leave.

I think it's the same in the rest of the country, but I know I can speak for SoCal and Hawaii, and it sucks big time.

Anyway, good luck.

chuck said...

brian you really know how to depress a guy, we are thinking of coming back for good next year. on the upside when we move the wife will likely be with the same company she is with here. just hope some school district will value a certified secondary social studies teacher with an MA and 14 years of univ teaching here. I'm already sending out emails to school districts in texas asking how i should go about applying for fall 2011

kushibo said...

Chuck, do you have a teaching credential? When I looked into this for a friend, we found that at many schools (particularly DoDDS, but not just there), a master's does not trump a teaching credential. It only takes a year to get one, and some of the work can be done online, depending on where you attend.

That won't guarantee you a job, but it will open the door to job opportunities you might not otherwise have.

Brian said...

Thanks, kushibo.

I won't get into that all here, but it's not all doom and gloom. There are a good many jobs available . . . just a good many more applicants.

Brian said...

But I'll add that yes, it's pretty shitty.

chuck said...

kush, yes i do have a texas teaching certificate in secondary (6-12) social studies. its just a matter where the wife winds up, a lot depends on her company she could wind up in new york with the editorial division or as a sales rep somewhere else. trying to decide if i should do an online esl credential this fall

The Central Scrutinizer said...

Reading through those Korean recruiter 'entice-vertisements' I'm filled me with a netizen-style seething-rage™!

Koreans who write and promote these ads turn around and wring their hands about how terrible it is that "over 100,000" foreign English teachers with "no experience" are having wild "adventures" in Korea and "making money," "money," "money" only to use on "continued travel in Asia", etc., etc.

If the contents of these ads were in a Dave's positing it'd have probably been flagged by the media or the vigilante groups.

kushibo said...

Koreans who write and promote these ads turn around and wring their hands about how terrible it is that "over 100,000" foreign English teachers with "no experience" are having wild "adventures" in Korea and "making money," "money," "money" only to use on "continued travel in Asia", etc., etc.

For the most part, I doubt the ad writers and the hand-wringers are the same people.

le limonaire said...

For the most part, I doubt the ad writers and the hand-wringers are the same people.

And apparently neither group is honest enough to admit: "hey we're hypocrites to complain about getting the kind of people we begged to come!"

It's a shocker that the foreign English teacher population is as high-quality as it is when Koreans do their utmost to attract the absolute bottom of the barrel dogs-bodies so as to get their foreign faces cheap & easy and shirk the effort and cost it takes to select highly qualified professionals. Shows how much people really care despite all the histrionics in the press about "our precious children's education" -- what a load of malrkey! The beauty part is when they drag some cut-throat back to the homeland and the fucker goes seven-thirty they can always blame it on his race! "He's a freakin' way-gook! What d'ya expect?!"

Peter said...

"a MOE official in charge of native speaker English teachers says
``They are neither regular teachers nor lecturers who can conduct classes independently. They are `assistant teachers,' hence their teaching experience doesn't matter much,'' he said. ``Rather, it's better for students to have more new teachers so that they can meet various kinds of foreigners,'' he added."

No matter what anyone in the Korean media says about "qualified" or "unqualified" teachers, I'm pretty sure that that MOE official's view is the predominant one among public school administration in Korea. And of course the recruiters respond to that, making a point of attracting inexperienced, "adventure"-seeking teachers who aren't likely to stay longer than a year or two.

The truth is, I think certified, experienced, established foreign teachers would likely be viewed as a liability by Korean public school staff. Those teachers would have their own clearly defined ideas of how and what to teach, and they would probably expect to take far more ownership of their classes than the supervised "assistant teacher" position allows, inevitably creating tension with their Korean supervisors. And from the teacher's point of view, I can't see such a position being fulfilling for a certified teacher with experience. Ironically, they'd probably be more satisfied at a high-end hagwon than a Korean public school.

By the way, I agree entirely with Kushibo -- if you're planning to leave Korea, try to have things lined up before you leave. I learned that lesson the hard way: I did find work eventually, I just burned through a good chunk of my savings while I was looking.

sonagi92 said...

just hope some school district will value a certified secondary social studies teacher with an MA and 14 years of univ teaching here.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but this truly is the worst job market in decades for teachers. According to family in Texas, Fort Bend ISD is laying off about 300 teachers this year. You probably know that hundreds of applicants often apply for social studies positions around the country. Your university teaching experience in Korea won't count for much unless you're applying in a district with a large Korean population. I'm fortunate that I was hired a few years ago, when my district was short of qualified ESOL teachers, and was given 1/2 credit on the salary scale for each year of university teaching in Korea plus full credit for my experience at a private K-12 school in China. The first US district I worked for gave me zero credit and started me at the bottom of the scale.

Adding an endorsement such as ESOL is a good idea if you can afford it. There is less competition for ESOL positions and having both endorsements would qualify you to teach sheltered social studies courses for ESOL students.

If you speak Spanish, that is a definite plus. Spanish speakers rule, even in diverse districts.

3gyupsal said...

When you apply for a Michigan teaching certificate, it clearly states that if you had any job where you were considered an assistant teacher, they do not recognize that as relevant experience. So if you worked at a Korean public school, you are pretty much screwed if you want to go home and get a good job teaching. Might as well go back to school and get degree in something that people want.

kushibo said...

If what 3gyupsal just said is true, then that is something ATEK should be working on: using their clout (e.g., their numbers) to work with MOEs in order to have job descriptions and responsibilities changed (for those that want it) so that they can have a more substantial résumé.

Danny said...


Since no one on here seems to be much of a marketing expert, how should a school advertise a decent position to the weyguks still in the US/Canada/etc?

Granted, I know what wont work for me "com exprienc adventuring and make a new child friend!" but how can these guys come off as being sincere and providing the opportunity short of hyperbole without blogs like this crashing down around their heads?

Brian said...

It's not up for me to decide how schools and recruiters advertise.

It would be naive of anyone to think the opportunity for travel and adventure doesn't bring people in, because it does. You won't find too many people moving to East Asia in their early 20s if they're not interested in travel or adventure.

My point is that it's simply absurd for schools, reporters, and politicians to complain, as they do, that NSETs only care about travel, adventure, and money, when in fact the middle(wo)men doing the hiring are advertising travel, adventure, and money.

These advertisements, and the hiring practices and evaluations of Korean schools, tell us what we already know: that experience and "qualifications" aren't really important. A 22-year-old f.o.b. is asked to do the same job in a public school or cramschool as a 35-year-old with seven years of experience and teacher training. And, given all the challenges NSETs face, they might accomplish about the same as well.

greg said...

I tend to agree that it's not the recruiters who are complaining about the quality of English teaching in Korea. So long as they make a few bucks they will continue to do things according to the status quo.

A recruiter friend of mine (an American) just told me that some recruiters hire a representative in the states so that applicants can get their CBC done in that county. 100% of the teachers have a check made from that county. Of course they don't live there so it comes back with no flags.

Some recruiters are virtuous, but many are horrible scammers - we know this.

Attracting new graduates with no plans is child's play compared to attracting qualified or experienced teachers to migrat to Korea for any length of time.

I'm personally glad that 22-year-olds have an option after college besides temping or being a waiter, but there should be some scale here. Those with more training and education should be rewarded and retained because of their committment to teaching.

The problem, as everyone here seems to be stating in some other way, is that the entire system does not value quality. In fact, teaching professionals are a liablity because they ask too many questions about the pedigogical methods or curriculum. We know how much Koreans love foreigners challenging their methods....

When teachers are not hired based on a photograph, gender, age, or the pedigree of their degree and instead are interviewed to find out if they are unable to construct a lucid sentence we might see some improvement in quality.

Perhaps we shouldn't care. Perhaps those of us who have been here a while should accept that this expeience whether 1 year or 10 is basically the same. It's possible to have a more comfortable life with more years here, but there are fewer and fewer opportunities to advance professionally or be compensated for skill.

That's why I focus on improving the quality of day-to-day life. As hard is that is, I feel there's more room for progress than in re-shaping the entire climate of opinion of the MOE or the "consumers" of education.

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
登山 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
3gyupsal said...

A remedy I might suggest would be to model a program after my first teaching stint in Korea.

I came for the free TESOL certificate from Gyeongsang National University. It was a 360 hour course that included a practicum. They didn't really pay us for teaching the freshman English classes, they gave us a stipend of 300,000 won per month, and our TESOL courses earned us credit at the University of California Santa Cruz.

What we got was a free TESOL certificate with actual credit at an American University in exchange for (slave) teaching labor. I wouldn't be so silly as to suggest that similar practices be introduced all over Korea, but if there were something from teaching English that could actually be used for career building, then that would be great. As it stands now, doing EPIK just about turns people into the target audience for all of those Devry commercials that used to come on during Maury Povich in the afternoons.

3gyupsal said...

I rechecked my previous post about the teaching certificate. I was wrong. You need three years of teaching experience towards getting the certificate, and then you have to take 18 hours of professional development training, so I guess you can get a job as a teacher and then work towards getting the certificate. Nonetheless, experience in Korea would be invalid.

Brian said...

Recruiters are on craigslist, too, looking in Pittsburgh:

Nothing screams reliability like somebody recruiting on Craig's List.

kushibo said...

3gyupsal wrote:
Nonetheless, experience in Korea would be invalid.

I can not reiterate enough how ATEK needs to make changing this a major long-term goal. KOTESOL, too, I suppose.

kushibo said...

Brian wrote:
Nothing screams reliability like somebody recruiting on Craig's List.

I think you're being a bit hard on CL, which has become the default Classifieds for connected society today.

CL is just as legitimate as, say, an advert posted on a board in front of a campus library (which I also see in relation to Korea job postings).

What doesn't scream reliability is that there is no website to go along with this, so someone can get an idea what the recruiter is doing, but they do provide an email. It's not how I would do it (I would have a more thorough CL ad and have a nice website to back it up), but I think even then there's legitimacy in using this.

I've gotten tenants through CL and bought my Hawaii vehicle through CL. It's your neighborhood Classifieds, online.

3gyupsal said...

The guy who was tutoring the Wonder Girls in New York got his job through Craig's List.