Sunday, June 29, 2008

So, um, college drop-outs can become English teachers now?

Today's Korea Times tells us:
``Some foreign students have to give up their university studies due to financial difficulties. We will invite those young English-speaking foreigners to our schools for the program,'' Hwang Ik-jung, an official at the education office, told The Korea Times. ``It is very helpful for our country as those students can be emissaries for Korea in the future.''

Talk about mixed signals. People bitch and moan all the time about quote-unquote unqualified teachers, and that term is used as a catch-all under which all foreigners' offenses fall. Foreigners sleeping with Korean women? Unqualified teachers. Foreigners taking drugs? Unqualified teachers. Foreigners earning high salaries? Unqualified teachers. Foreigners teaching private lessons, just like countless Korean teachers and college students? Unqualified teachers. Foreigners coming to South Korea at the invitation of the government and at the behest of the free market? Unqualified teachers.

Korean teachers aren't, of course, painted with the same wide brush domestically. There are plenty of legitimate gripes against foreigners here, and I make them pretty frequently, but you can't just hire white people willy-nilly with no plans in place and expect things to improve. Well, okay Korea can and probably will, but I meant to say they shouldn't. I suspect this won't sit well with the Korean Association of Foreign Language Academies, who told the Korea Times last month:
``The government is under the illusion that an unlimited number of English teachers exists overseas,’’ said Seo Jung-sook, information director of the association. ``Inviting more foreign teachers will eventually degrade the average quality of instructors and drive up costs for us.’’

``No hagwon owners want to work with unqualified foreigners. Most hagwon employers terminate contracts of unacceptable foreigners, those guilty of sexual harassment or taking drugs,'' general director Choi Chang-jin said.

``However, many of these `blacklisted' foreigners return and teach English at other hagwon. I have seen a foreigner, who was expelled on drug charges, return here within three days. This is because the government does not keep records on these foreigners,'' Choi said.

I already extended KAFLA an invitation to have intercourse with itself, but I'm a generous man and have no qualms about issuing another, should the opportunity present itself.

Stolen from here.

As most of us know, it was just last fall that foreign teachers---foreign teachers on E-2 visas, I mean---were the subject of a moral panic that arose when a teacher in Gwangju was arrested on child molestation charges for stuff he did in another country. We---foreign teachers on E-2 visas, I mean---were hit with all kinds of new regulations making the visa process more grueling and stringent. But because foreign teachers stopped applying---a recruiter on a Seoul Podcast episode said applicants were down by about 2/3rds---and because the teachers here started leaving, these regulations were greatly relaxed. So much so that I have no idea what they even are, and can't get any clear answers from my higher-ups at the local education office, a cause for concern since I need to renew my visa, like, soon. As I mentioned before, it's worth remembering that the Korean government went ahead and imposed all these regulations, even though foreign embassies were not equipped or interested in complying. We ought to call to mind, too, the arrogance of some officials, who had the gall to say shit like:
“I just don’t understand why [foreign embassies] cannot make some exceptions to accommodate the needs of their own nationals,” Choi [at the Justice Ministry] said. “In Korea, criminal records can be easily obtained online. But they don’t have a centralized system.”

As if South Korea has done anything of late to warrant this sort of consideration from foreign governments.

Also important to remember the statement immigration released last fall, in the middle of the moral panic:
The Korean Government will prevent illegal activities by verifying requirements of native English teacher and tighten their non-immigrant status [...] [and will] eradicate illegal activities of native English teachers who are causing social problems such as ineligible lectures, taking drugs and sex crimes. English teachers, who disturb social order during their staying in Korea such as illegal teaching, taking drugs and sex crimes, will be banned from entering South Korea.[...] [They will] prevent illegal English teaching activities and the taking of drugs and sexual harassment of English teachers, [...] teachers who disrupt the social order by taking drugs, committing sexual harassment and alcohol intoxication.

Um, that in the land where 73% of Korean men drink every day, in the land where rougly half smoke cigarettes, in the land that was labeled a "danger country for women," in the land where human trafficking is permitted to thrive and the sex trade openly plied, in the land where teachers routinely behave very badly, and in the land where private tutoring (.pdf) and after-school academies have long been part of the local culture, immigration decided to come out with that directed at a few thousand residents. Anyway, there have been all kinds of recruitment campaigns to get more foreigners in Korean schools after, paradoxically, the government and other forces had been working so hard to drive them away. Because there is little to no attention paid to how foreign teachers are to be used in schools, and because they often serve no greater purpose than window dressing, I do have to question how effective they'll be. But, given the extremely low abilities of many Korean English teachers, I suppose boatloads of foreigners can't do much worse. And given Koreans' remarkably low test scores, especially considering that education here revolves entirely around teaching toward tests, perhaps it is time for a change.

* Update: Galbijim brought up a good point:
Just wait till these guys see how little 1.6 is in this industry and how much they can make in privates or moonlighting at local hagwons and the govt realizes that they’ve created 600 teachers working illegally.

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