More native English teachers are breaching agreed working terms in contracts made with public schools and are leaving Korea.I had to laugh when I did the simple math. looking at the number of teachers quitting early, going from 283 to 425 in 2008 and 2009, we see a 33.4% increase. Of course, if you look at those numbers as a percentage of the total number of teachers hired, you get different results.
According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the number of foreign teachers who failed to complete their working contracts last year rose to 425 from 283 a year ago. This year as well, 252 native English speakers have already left schools as of July, according to Rep. Kim Se-yeon of the governing Grand National Party (GNP) who asked the ministry to submit the statistics to the National Assembly.[...]
The number of language assistant teachers at elementary and secondary schools increased to 8,473 this year from 7,631 in 2009 and 5,115 in 2008, meaning about 80 percent of schools nationwide have foreign teachers this year, a sharp surge compared with 48 percent in 2007.
Particularly, nearly 30 percent of the foreign teachers who ended their contract worked for less than six months. Some 22 percent of them quit to study or transferred to other jobs, while about 15 percent left without prior notice and others for various reasons including difficulties in adapting to their schools, illness, and being involved in crimes.
The dropout rate also varied according to regions Rep. Kim Sun-dong of the GNP said. Busan topped the list, followed by Incheon, Seoul and Jeju Island.
“Many Koreans have to get through very hard training if they want to be a teacher. It is a kind of privilege for native English speakers to be invited here as teachers. So I earnestly ask them to be more responsible in their jobs,” said Oh Seok-hwan, a director at the ministry.
283 out of 5,115 is 5.53% and 425 out of 7,631 is 5.57%. Therefore, the rate of teachers quitting early rose from 5.53% in 2008 to 5.57% in 2009 - an increase of 0.04%. Well, that was certainly worth a headline, and deserving of a sanctimonious request for teachers to "be more responsible in their jobs."
As it turns out, however, the Korea Times' article is arguably the fairest of the several articles written about this, especially since, unlike the other articles, it provides all the figures needed to do the calculations I just did above.
As Brian notes, the Korea Herald, Joongang Ilbo, Yonhap and Hankyoreh issued reports, with the latter stating that "around two thirds of native-speaking English teachers in South Korea quit after six months on the job," while Yonhap reported that "more than a third" quit early, and the Herald stated that "4.7 percent" quit early. Confused yet?
It seems it all begins with Yonhap, who have been responsible before for articles which have highlighted a few bad apples in order to tar all foreign English teachers, or which have glossed over the arrest of over thirty Thais for drugs in order to focus on 2 English teachers (just two examples among many).
In this case, the very beginning is more innocuous. A September 28 Yonhap article titled “The native speaking assistant teacher placement rate in Korea is 81%” quoted Rep. Kim Sun-dong (GNP), about placement rates since 2007 and student – teacher ratios. Rep. Kim got the statistics from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
The same day, Yonhap also posted an article looking at student – teacher ratios Daejeon and Chungcheongnam-do, pointing out that in Daejeon 209 native speaking teachers teach 244,576 students (a ration of 1:1170), which is three times lower than Chungcheongnam-do, where 409 teachers teach 196,375 students (a ratio of 1:409). Nationally, the average is 1:931, up from 1:1147 last year.
This chart (from here) shows the number of students per teacher (left) and the percentage of schools with native English teachers (right).
This Hankyoreh article points to where some of the growing numbers of native speaking teachers were placed, as the number of teachers in Daegu increased from 132 last year to 247 this year (making the teacher to student ratio drop from 1:3021 to 1:1559), while the number of teachers in Gyeongsangbuk-do increased from 261 to 589 (causing the teacher to student ration to drop from 1:1435 to 1:614).
The first Yonhap article above was used in part for the Korea Times and other articles, but it was this Yonhap article, published at noon on the 29th, which is where the negative slant of the English language articles came from:
Half of native speaking English teachers are “6 month part-time workers”[Considering the 83.3% attrition rate in Daejeon, it's likely half the teachers in this photo had fled the country by the end of the day.] The article then lists ratios of native speaking teachers to students showing the gap between high levels (1:778 in Seoul, 1:804 in Busan, 1:799 in Gyeonggi-do) and low levels (1:1552 in Daegu, 1 :1298 in Gwangju, 1:1316 in Chungcheongbuk-do)
This year 66% broke their contract halfway through... regional polarization is increasing
It has been revealed that most of the native speaking English teachers teaching in Korea break their contracts after six months, causing the disruption of school conversation classes.
Especially outside the Seoul metropolitan area, the rate of native speaking teachers quitting halfway through their contract reaches 70-80%, and is a key factor intensifying regional disparities in English education.
According to data analyzed by National Assembly Education, Science and Technology Committee members Kim Se-yeon and Park Young-a (GNP), the percentage of native speaking English teachers not fulfilling their contract term (one year) and breaking their contract after six months has steeply increased every year, from 46% in 2008, to 57.6% in 2009, to 66.1% in 2010 (to the end of July).
As the average rate of breaking a contract halfway through (after 6 months) over the last three years is 56.4% (950 people), one out of two native speaking teachers fail to fulfill their promised stay and leave their schools.
The main reason given for breaking the contract was to study or to get a new job (22.7%), and the average rate for those who left without notice over the last three years was 15.4%.
In particular, the rate of those quitting to study or get a new job saw a large increase from 18.5% in 2008 to 22.1% in 2009 to 28.3% in 2010. Foreigners living in Korea are realizing that the native speaking assistant teacher system is a “path to a part time job” and the trend is growing stronger.
The crime rate for native speaking English teachers was 0% in 2008, 0.5% in 2009, and 1.6% in 2010, showing an increasing tendency despite the insignificant level.
Also, there is a great difference between cities and provinces in rates of native speaking English teachers quitting, as well as a disparity between rates of native speaker recruitment and of those teachers possessing qualifications, leading to concerns that this will increase the polarization of English education levels between the cities and provinces.
The places where rates of native speaking English teachers breaking their contracts after six months were the highest include Ulsan, at 90%, Jeollanam-do at 84.6%, Daejeon at 83.3%, Chungcheongbuk-do at 75%, and Daegu at 72.2%. Alternately, rates in the capital area are lower than the average, with Seoul at 57.8%, Gyeonggi-do at 49.8%, and Incheon at 60.4%.
It also notes the gap in rates of teachers who have qualifications (either teaching, TESOL, or TEFL certificates) between the two areas with the highest rates (Kwangju, 74%, and Seoul, 70%) and the areas with the lowest rates (Ulsan, 29%, and Gyeongsanbuk-do, 30%). Over the last three years in Gyeonggi-do and Gyeongsangnam-do, the number of native speaking teachers has sharply increased, but the percentage of them with qualifications has actually dropped. It ends with this quote:
Rep. Park Yeong-a urged that reforms be prepared: “As the university entrance exam English test will become conversation-oriented, the importance of native speaking teachers will expand. Considering the reality that it is also difficult to find English hagwons in areas outside of the capital region and large cities, if the system [continues to be] operated as it is now, the regional English education gap cannot help but expand.”We see above that "the percentage of native speaking English teachers not fulfilling their contract term (one year) and breaking their contract after six months steeply increased every year, from 46% in 2008, to 57.6% in 2009, to 66.1% in 2010 (to the end of July)" and "the average rate of breaking a contract halfway through (after 6 months) over the last three years is 56.4% (950 people)". Therefore, divide 950 people who quit early by 3 years and multiply the result by 2 to get the approximate number of teachers hired (if 56% were quitting early) and you end up with... a total of around 600 teachers? It should have been clear something was wrong with those figures. (It should also be noted that it's irresponsible to offer percentages for 2010, as the year isn't finished yet).
There clearly was a problem, because four hours later, Yonhap posted an article with the new title "Severe regional disparity in procurement of native speaking English teachers (composite)," which sported some changes to the information:
950 native speaking teachers quit halfway through their contract over the last three years (4.7% of the total) and among those who quit, the percentage who quit after six months steeply increased every year, from 46% in 2008, to 57.6% in 2009, to 66.1% in 2010 (to the end of July).[Emphasis added.]Clearly, that makes more sense. The "4.7% of the total" comes from average percentage of those who quit over the past three years (5.53% in 2008, 5.57% in 2009, and 2.92% so far this year).
However, four hours after that article, Yonhap posted another amended article with the title "Severe regional disparity in procurement of native speaking English teachers (composite 2)":
950 native speaking teachers failed to fulfill their one year contract over the last three years (4.7% of the total) and among those who quit, the percentage who quit after six months totaled 34% in 2008, to 42.4% in 2009, and 34% in 2010 (to the end of July).Suddenly the percentages over the past three years change from 46%, 57.6%, and 66.1% to 34%, 42.4%, and 34%. Clearly, someone was not doing the math correctly, and the question is whether the fault lies with the National Assembly Education, Science and Technology Committee or with Yonhap reporter Lee Jun-sam.
Seeing how it was pointed out to Rep. Choi Young-hee's office that she had used the wrong immigration statistics to paint 22,000 E-2 visa holders as being 'missing' and no correction was ever issued, I have reason to doubt that the National Assembly Committee suddenly noticed a mistake on their part and quickly corrected it. It's not impossible, however. Still, it seems more likely that Yonhap made the mistake (having had to post two corrected articles), and the tale of foreigners living in Korea taking advantage of the native speaking English teacher system to be "6 month part time workers" was concocted from the incorrect statistics (and no one said the jobs or studies they left their teaching jobs to pursue were in Korea). There are some pretty wild claims in the original article:
- most of the native speaking English teachers teaching in Korea break their contracts after six months, causing the disruption of school conversation classes.Most of the direct quotes from the National Assembly members focus on the regional disparities and the need to check qualifications of teachers, and earlier articles focused only on the regional disparities. Then along comes a Yonhap article shifting blame from the Ministry of Education to the 50% of foreign teachers who take advantage of the Korean education system to be "six month part time workers" whose disruption of English classes is "a key factor intensifying regional disparities in English education." It seems like someone has an axe to grind.
- outside the Seoul metropolitan area, the rate of native speaking teachers quitting halfway through their contract reaches 70-80%, and is a key factor intensifying regional disparities in English education. [...]
- Foreigners living in Korea are realizing that the native speaking assistant teacher system is a “path to a part time job” and the trend is growing stronger.
Also interesting is the "insignificant" but "increasing" crime rate for native speaking English teachers (0% in 2008, 0.5% in 2009, and 1.6% in 2010). If you take the average percentage of those who quit early to start a new job or study (22%) and apply it to the 4.7% of all English teachers who quit early, you end up with about 1% of all teachers over the last three years quitting to study or start new jobs, a figure lower than the "insignificant" 1.6% 2010 crime rate.
And yet the Korea Herald, cribbing from Yonhap, writes that, "English teaching is largely considered among native speakers as an easily accessible part-time job." Yes, all 1% of them. Add that to the 0.04% increase in rates of teachers quitting early between 2008 and 2009, and you have a complete and utter non-story, but one which has now repeated in several places (even after Yonhap made corrections and changed the title, they kept the "6 month part time worker" description in their articles).
In addition to the three Yonhap stories about this, there were reprints of the first Yonhap 'part time worker' story in both the Chosun Ilbo and Joongang Ilbo, as well as unflattering summaries of the Yonhap article in the Maeil Gyeongje and Focus News Network, which reported that:
It has been revealed that most of the native speaking English teachers teaching English in Korea think of their school classes as a "6 month part time job" and easily break their contracts, causing the disruption of school conversation classes.Papers like the Segye Ilbo, on the other hand, cribbed from the original 'part time worker' Yonhap article but left out the broken contract section entirely.
In the Korean language articles which dealt with the broken contract non-story, they only mentioned that some teachers quit to find a new job or study, or fled the country, but otherwise said nothing about why around 5% of teachers were dissatisfied with "privileged" teaching jobs.
That there might actually be reasons for them wanting to leave is not looked at very closely, but given the chance to blame them for "disrupting" conversation classes and being a "key factor" in regional disparities in English education, off the reporter goes. Not that we should leave the government out of this, as politicians have described foreign teacher crime as serious, despite using statistics that revealed the opposite, have used incorrect statistics to claim there were 22,000 teachers missing in Korea, and have used the occasion of a Korean man brutally raping a Korean child to state that foreign teachers are "especially potential child molesters" and that their sex crime rate is higher than what is recorded because of "undisclosed crimes."
To be sure, things are rarely looked at from the foreign teachers' points of view. The closest reporters might actually get is to glance at the blogs or Facebook pages of teachers. Internet sources provided much of the meat in this article from two weeks ago about the "GEPIK orientation's introduction to Korean culture through drinking parties." Needless to say, the internet writings of foreign teachers are used to make them look bad, and the internet writings of Korean teachers are... also used to make foreign teachers look bad.
The article begins with the exciting phrase "A crack in the management of the Gyeonggi Education Office's adaptation program for native speaking teachers has been exposed." It then reveals that the Facebook pages and blogs of teachers who attended GEPIK orientation reveal that drinking parties were going on during orientation. Teachers are quoted from their blogs saying that orientation reminded them of university or that they wanted to die. GEPIK officials express shock and promise to get to the bottom of things, tighten up management of the program, and prevent future outrages.
From there the reporter uses another online source - a community of Korean English teachers, especially part-time English instructors working on contract in public schools. Miss Hwang (28), a member of the online community working at an elementary school in Ansan, reveals that "I've been driven to the edge by the insincere attitude towards work that the native speaking English teacher has."
From there she talks about insincere foreign teachers, their low English skills, the way other staff in the school bow down to them, and how she and others vent ("I'm fed up!" "I'm worn out by this sadaejuui (toadyism)") because the foreigners are paid more than them. The article ends with this paragraph:
As the GEPIK orientation drinking problem and attitude of the schools which bow down to native speaking teachers become known, it has led the English education related online community to the opinion that “The low quality foreign teacher problem is not simply a problem with the foreign teacher’s mind. Our country’s growing disposition towards sadaejuui (toadyism) is also an important reason.”As AES's Lee Eun-ung once put it, "Ah, the eternal subject - the low quality foreign English teacher."
I'll leave a closer look at the new foreign English teacher crime statistics released two weeks ago for another day.