Tuesday, October 19, 2010

1.5 A Month for Rural Teaching?

According to this article, a government agency signed a memorandum of understanding with a bunch of US universities to recruit students to teach in Korea.

The program will bring hundreds of students to Korea to teach in rural schools, and give foreigners a chance to learn Korean culture.

The monthly stipend is 1 500 000 won, and it's run by the National Institute for International Education.


This is a little more realistic than thinking that Korean Studies students and Kyopos would want to teach in the countryside for free, I suppose... and it'd be good for those rural schools to have native speakers in their classrooms, I suppose.

and maybe this program is trying to imitate the Fulbright placement program, which my friend, who went through it, tells me was very successful, and where the pay was similar, but which was successful because of the people it recruited, and the level of training and preparation and cultural orientation they'd received before they even entered the classroom... (more on Fulbright vs. EPIK here)

On the other hand,


if the Korean government is ready to hire people who haven't even graduated, and low-ball them at freaking 1.5 million a month...

can we please, pretty pretty please, stop hearing about low quality English teachers,

when it's become obvious that the gatekeepers don't give a damn, and will lower the bar this low, to get bodies in classrooms?

Is that too much to ask?

It probably is.

One of the greatest Marmot's Hole comments I read, and I wish I could find the source, was simply this:

Lots of foreign English teachers.
Trained & qualified English teachers.
Cheap English teachers.

Korea has to choose two.

Yeah, right now it's an employers' market: the people doing the hiring have more choices now than before, as lots of educators and people with postgraduate degrees from America are looking for work, given the bad economy over there.

But 1.5 a month, for non-graduates?

If Korea really wants to attract high quality teachers in their schools?  How about this:

Designate public school teachers "teachers" instead of "assistant teachers": this way, the years an education graduate spends in Korea count as real years of teaching experience on grad school and job applications, once they go back home.  Or say that teachers who renew for a second year get "full teacher" designation if they want it, or if they meet certain criteria, to count those years on their resume as true years of teaching experience.  Then years of teaching in Korea's public schools would no longer basically appear as black holes on professional educators' resumes, and give professional, ambitious, career educators an incentive to come, or even stay a second year.

That'd raise the caliber a lot right there.

And I haven't even mentioned visa portability yet.


3gyupsal said...

1.5, for rural teaching? EPIK give you a 100,000 bonus for teaching outside of the five big cities, and another 100,000 bonus if you work in the middle of a rice field. A new EPIK recruit, whose salary is 1.8 million can make up to 2,000,000 if they work out in the deliverance regions. How is a person making 1.5 going to feel when they find that out?

I also wonder what they are defining as rural. There are a lot of rural schools in Korea that only have 30 students in a whole elementary or middle school. Would one of these recruits have to work at two or three different schools, or could they get the 1.5 million at one school, teach 10 hours a week and go hiking the rest of the time?

B.T.W. last December I went to a big provincial EPIK training pow wow, where they lumped EPIK and TALK folks together. I wouldn't be surprised if they did that again with EPIK, TALK, and whatever this new thing is called. They gave us these free Korean lessons that met for two two-hour sessions. I wonder if the "Korean-study," opportunity is going to be something like that. (If you don't live in a big city, it is pretty damn hard to find scholarly Korean lessons.)

Dan said...


Article indicates that this is under the auspices of the TaLK program so nothing new here, just an expansion.

My understanding is that TaLK is basically teaching 15 hrs/week and hiking the rest of the time anyway (I only knew 1 TaLK guy but he showed up for 3 hrs/day 5 days/wk ONLY). So you're probably right.

I lived in rural Korea (Hampyeong) for 1.9 my first year and I worked 20 hrs/week AND I had to work in several schools (extra money tho) but my home school was 25 min bus ride away.

Lesson: Yes working in rural Korea presents challenges (and a few opportunities) but 1.5 for literally working 15 hrs/week is pretty great. If the vacation benefits were comparable to EPIK/JLP I think you could argue that 15 hrs/week at 1.5 is as good as the entry level 2.0 for 22 hrs/week that many folks here earn for living in similar places.

I wonder how me from 2008 (1.9 mil 4 schools, ES MS AND HS, rural) would react if I met a TaLKer back then, especially one living in a late-night busable suburb of a city.

Like any program I think this could be potentially wonderful or terrible depending on the situation (which will vary) and the nature of the individual.

kushibo said...

3gyupsal wrote:
How is a person making 1.5 going to feel when they find that out?

Not good. But isn't Roboseyo talking about not-yet-graduated students, versus the college grads who would be getting EPIK jobs?

On this end of the Pacific, there is a dearth of jobs, and a lot of people might see this as a paid internship.

kushibo said...

I did the math, and I'd say it works out to be much better pay than the local Starbucks, which is a sought-after job in this horrible economy.

C.W. Bush said...

Jeez, no wonder I'm having trouble finding work :-p

kissmykimchi said...

So are these students taking a semester off from school? It counts as college credit? Does the student have to be a current student or simply someone who might have taken a class or two and then dropped out?

After work hours will they be taken out to learn about Korean culture, life, or language?

I think the program has merit depending on what shape it takes.

3gyupsal said...

Yeah, actually I would have liked something like that back when I was in college. The school I went to didn't have any Korean classes. I hope that the program includes ways to learn Korean and is a real program rather than just having college kids teaching EPIK classes.

Roboseyo said...

If it's similar to the Fulbright English teaching program, it'd be a pretty great program... if.

Gomushin Girl said...

They key here will be providing the interns with a chance to learn as well as teach, including comprehensive teacher training, along with language, culture, history, and other seminars, workshops, or classes. Fulbright has been successful precisely because it provides those opportunities, and treats its ETA grantees as scholars as well as teachers.
I agree that this can be an attractive program for students interested in teaching and/or Korea, but it'll only work if they have a solid support network to rely on. I'd like to see a network set up matching the interns with local universities and professors to help them continue studying as well as teaching. That said, my hopes aren't high that somehow this time the Korean gov. will put in the required effort and resources to make the program successful.

Chris in South Korea said...

@gomushingirl: And why would they? Giving teachers - especially these teachers - the support they would need would indicate they somehow need it. If they need it, the other teachers already here presumably would need it too. They would want the same opportunities as these 'scholars' would - just because they came for a job doesn't make their ambitions less honorable.

This whole idea smells of Korea's 'me-too'! behavior - find something worth emulating, then throw money at it until something happens, then spend more money celebrating your 'achievement' and cover up any faults that might exist. Sorry to sound so cynical, but 'Korea' and 'originality' are two words that aren't usually found in the same sentence.

Gomushin Girl said...

@ Chris:
I don't agree that all programs have to offer the same benefits, or that other teachers will start demanding the exact same things. If I come here to teach as a full time job, I'm going to approach that job differently and expect different benefits (i.e. better pay) than if I come as a university student on a paid internship. And while I think there's a criminal lack of support for teachers already here, you can at least make the case that these are fully-fledged, educated adults. The same case can't be made for undergraduate students, who are still in the process of completing their formal education.
While it'd be nice if the former got a little more in terms of Korean language classes, culture classes, etc. with support from the system, if you've brought a student over on an internship, then those elements become essential. And while I know many teachers would like to have more opportunities to study and learn, they're also making more money, here for a longer term, and are "real adults." I'm not saying that people who come over on a professional basis to teach are somehow less honorable, but that their formal education is generally considered to be complete.
Of course the Korean government and educational institutions are still not taking steps to ensure that the native English teachers are culturally and linguistically equipped to function. But, for this program to work, there absolutely must be some kind of scholastic pay off to be attractive enough for students to participate and for their universities to see the program as a viable opportunity for their students.

3gyupsal said...

I checked out some information on TALK. One source said that the TALK people get 4 weeks of training. That would be nice, but I can see a pretty big flaw with this program.

It seems to be completely worthless when it comes to college credit. If you are a Junior or a Senior in college, doing this program is about the same as taking six months or a year off to go work somewhere.

I see no problem with taking time off to work, but this program would be better if it actually advanced people's collegiate careers.

The first time I came to Korea, I did a TESOL certificate course that was through a partnership with Gyeongnam University and the Univeristy of California Santa Cruz extension. I'm not sure how well recognized my certificate is, since the program fizzled out after three semesters, but I did get real transcripts from UCSC.

Instead I envision that these college students are getting training from other people who have been here for a few years who have pictures of temples and information on Kimchi. That has been my experience with Korean government run training programs.

Now suppose, TALK and EPIK got their acts together and organized a kind of applied linguistics training center that offered their own accredited TESOL certificates, and offered real training programs for taking the TOPIK (Most Embassy jobs in Seoul require a level 4 proficiency in Korean for application.) That would be awesome.

조안나 said...

This sounds to me like a paid study abroad. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. Some people pay 10-20,000$ a semester to study/volunteer abroad while in college, to work and get immersed (cuz lets face it, you're not gona find many foreigners out there) in a new culture AND get paid for it sounds like a good deal to me. If I had known about this while I was in school I def would have thought about it. And I'm sure if you're getting a teaching degree you can pull strings at your school and get some kind of course credit for it.

And as Kushibo says... it's way better pay than the local Starbucks, plus I'm sure you get apartment/ medical/ hell, maybe even pension. Never say no to money people. Especially when you're a poor college student.

Gomushin Girl said...

It's only a paid study abroad if they actually study. The program needs to include some kind of structured academic component if it's going to be successful - and it has to be something students can get credit for, or schools are going to be the one nixing the program.

Anonymous said...

I think one month for 1.5 million is acceptable, providing that these "teachers" do not stay long term without furthering their own education first. It seems more like a cultural exchange than a job per se, though my own college had a very similar program of “field work” for two months, so maybe this just seems normal to me.

I couldn’t agree more with you idea about promoting assistant teachers to just plain old teachers. As a professional educator (masters in education and three years experience), I am a little concerned as to how merely being an assistant will look to future employers. I feel that if you work in public school with no co-teacher (my situation) you should automatically be classified as a “real teacher”, and I love the idea about renewing your contract and gaining this status as well.