Schools in this southeastern port city will begin full-blown evaluations of foreign teachers for their teaching skills and working attitude next year, the city’s top educator said.
Lim Hea-kyung, superintendent of the Busan Metropolitan City of Education, said, “The comprehensive appraisals will ultimately upgrade the quality of English education, with those teachers who rate poorly being kicked out of schools.”
It is the first time that a major city in the country will evaluate foreign teachers.
Under the plan, the city education authorities will assess assistant teachers for English conversation classes in teaching ability, working attitude and manners.
Their classes will be observed by an evaluation team three times a year and teachers who get lower than 70 or 80 points on the full scale of 100 will no longer be allowed to teach and lose their jobs.
Instead, the top 10 percent in the evaluation will receive a financial incentive reward of 100,000 won ($87) per month.
“We should strengthen our training program to help improve the teaching methodology of native English teachers,” said Lim. “We will also evaluate how well the foreign assistant teachers cooperate with their Korean teacher counterparts.”
An earlier long look I took at NSET evaluations came in December, after Kang Shin-who reported on a plan concocted in tandem with English Program in Korea [EPIK]. While few would argue against attempts to make better use of NSETs in South Korea, the chief problems with evaluating foreign English teachers is that schools and districts spend little to no time planning on how to use them, and that few administrators and coteachers are qualified to judge what an effective conversation class is. To quote from last December:
As I've written nearly every time NSETs come up, no planning or support goes into using native speaker English teachers in school. If there is no plan in place for using these teachers, there can also not be a system for evaluating them. You can't evaluate teachers on certain standards when they were not held to them throughout the contract.
Furthermore, when schools aren't prepared to use native speaker English teachers, it's also likely that schools and teachers aren't familiar with the teaching styles used by them (and, vice versa, native speaker English teachers aren't familiar with the methods used among Koreans). Will a teacher get marked down for having students move around and talk to one another? Those are certainly foreign techniques to the Korean classroom, but ones that might fit in well when teaching how to communicate in English. I anticipate a lot of evaluations that say "Brian is good teacher. He is handsom guy^^" or "mr. Brian is not good. He is not smile and his class is not funny." Do Korean teachers and administrators, most of whom learned English from other Koreans with even worse English then them, really have the faintest idea how to evaluate native speaker English teachers?
An additional drawback to NSET evaluations insofar as they're meant to improve English education in schools is, to quote from a July 1st post on the topic, that
[N]ative speaker English teachers aren't given the same opportunities to evaluate their Korean co-teachers.
This is a point raised by poster "Yoda" on an ExpatKorea thread on September 30th:
Korean teachers classes should be monitored by three foreigners three times a year and if they score less than 70 or 80 they too should lose their job.
To continue to quote fro my July 1st post,
I grant that Korean teachers, with stronger ties to the school and obviously to the country, will be given authority and a voice to help shape the English program. But when you have Korean English co-teachers who don't come to class, who don't attend the mandatory workshops, who don't participate in lesson planning, who don't have an adequate knowledge of English for instruction or communication, who behave violently toward students, who falsify attendance records for workshops and afterschool classes, and who fail their students and co-teachers in other ways, the complete lack of accountability is unacceptable. It is unfair and inaccurate to suggest that all Korean English teachers possess those unpleasant characteristics. But considering the attention paid to "unqualified" and "incompetent" foreign English teachers, it is proper to look inadequate Korean English teachers, who after all do most of the instruction in the English education business. It is troubling that Korean English teachers have the power to dismiss, and potentially "blacklist" a foreign teacher they for whatever reason don't like, while that NSET's comments on punctuality, professionalism, proficiency, and other p-words aren't taken into consideration. There is ultimately no accountability for what does and doesn't go on in Korea's English classrooms.
When the end of our one-year contracts approach, we are given a short questionnaire about our experiences at the school and in the country. The open-ended questions include:+ What has been your greatest challenge in Korea and what kind of impact did it have on your stay in Korea?
+ Do you believe that your apartment was adequate? Was there anything missing that you feel you needed?
+ Have you ever had a confrontation or argument with your co-teacher or other members of your school?
+ What have you liked best about Korea?
+ What have you liked least of Korea?
It is of course completed in English, is given to our primary co-teacher for perusal, and may be seen by our other coworkers with no hint of anonymity.
On the other hand, Korean co-teachers and administrators are given a lengthy questionnaire in Korean withDO NOT SHOW OR DISCUSS THIS MATERIAL WITH YOUR NATIVE SPEAKER.
on top, to be completed in Korean, on a number of points that given their often infrequent participation in classes and workshops, they are unable to answer.
Doing further damage to the pursuit of skilled native speaker English teachers is that many school districts, and in turn their recruiters, aren't hiring older, experienced teachers because schools don't want to pay them. When an article writes, as the Korea Herald did yesterday, about North Gyeongsang province that "only 30 percent of [NSETs] were professionally qualified to teach the language," it behooves observers to take into account why: schools don't require professional qualifications, and schools don't hire or retain teachers that have them.
The solution isn't to not have some form of evaluation, to throw up hands and say "well this will probably never work," but to have a plan in place when importing thousands of these native speaker English teachers, and hold accountable both the NSETs and the administrators responsible for them.