Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Indian English teachers in Korea?

From the Joongang:
Starting in the fall semester next year, around 100 teachers from India will be teaching English at elementary, middle and high schools nationwide, a high-ranking official with the Education Ministry said yesterday.

The ministry has recently confirmed a plan to “improve the system for assistant native teachers of English,” including hiring English-speaking Indians.

“The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement signed between Korea and India last Friday has opened a 1.2 billion-strong Indian market. We expect a number of qualified English teachers from India will come here,” said the source.

Also mentioned at The Marmot's Hole and Brian in Jeollanam-do's blog.
Brian quotes and says:
The ministry has spent more than 300 million won a year on hiring and training those teachers but experienced difficulty gaining sufficient “qualified” teachers, given that only 13 percent of them have official teaching certificates.

I wrote about the misuse of "qualified" and "unqualified"
in the Korea Herald in June, and have addressed it many timeson this site, to such an extent that I thought we moved beyond that misnomer. I guess it bears repeating, for those who missed it the last few times around, that it is Korea itself that determined a four-year degree and the right passport are the qualifications for teaching English here.
However, I'm sure these teachers come cheaper, and I consider their introduction more indication---together with the new domestic English test, the thousands of Korean English "lecturers," and the increased contract funny business by public schools---that South Korea is moving away from hiring native speakers from the Big 7. Though thousands of native speaker English teachers have been hired for public schools over the years, a near-total lack of planning and support on the part of co-teachers, schools, and education offices has prevented them from reaching their full potential and has essentially set them up to fail. I suspect it won't be too long until the NSET experiment is over.
Indeed, at the 2008 KOTESOL conference, one of the big-name speakers, in describing the future of ESL, discussed the end of "Native speaker English". The example given there was of a Chinese construction company hiring English teachers from Germany, who were more interested in communication, than in proper use of articles and the like.

Certainly, any teacher brought here from India will be well-qualified and experienced. In a third-world country with such a huge population, you're either good at something or you're unemployed. Students will learn excellent English-for-communication, although they might ask, "What is your good name?"

On the other hand, Korea Beat, in discussing a completely different article, reports that racist attitudes in Korea are unchanged. I should add that my very-traditional in-laws welcomed me into their family without reservation.

KwandongAlex is hungry - maybe more later.- Okay, he's fed. Post is as complete as it ever will be.


Brian said...

Indeed, I don't think that Indian English teachers can't be good . . . and given the misappplication of NSETs in public schools, I guess we might ask why doesn't Korea just hire cheaper teachers.

But I don't think the literature is too kind to native speakers---of English . . . I'd like to read something saying NNS are better at teaching, say, Chinese---but you can't bash NSETs just because it's trendy. You have to look at the system that sets them up to fail here.

If Korea was after quote-unquote qualified NSETs, they would have made these quote-unquote qualifications and qualification from the outset. As it is, they hired literally anyone off the street, and this is where we are.

Kushibo makes a good point in a comment on my post, though: a NSET with a Master's, experience, and a good resume will always have a job here. I think it's naive, and close-minded, to not think there's any room for NSETs. Then again, Korea doesn't necessarily seem interested in learning the culture that accompanies the language, a requisite if you're learning, say, Japanese or German.

kwandongbrian said...

I've read your posts about 'unqualified teachers' and I agree with you. In 1997, I had all the qualifications they asked for; a Canadian passport and a three year degree.

As for the last bit, about learning the culture, that's the point. English isn't exclusively the language of a small island to the west of Europe. Many Chinese want to learn English to conduct business with Koreans for example.

Your comment about a NSET with a Masters might be reassuring - we'll see when I start my Masters.