Teaching in South Korea

For over the past year and a half, I have lived and taught English in two different after school academies. Certainly I am no expert in the field, yet I feel that the structure of the system needs some improvement. Not that any educational structure is imperfect, but in terms of learning English, I feel the South Korean government, private companies, and even the parents have unrealistic expectations of the teachers, as well as the students.

One of the major issues I have with the system is: the parents. For one, the parents have unrealistic expectations for their children. Some kids are not “gifted” or learn languages easily. Yet, their parents expect incredible improvements in the span of mere months. In my experience, learning a language takes complete immersion and more than just an hour or two a day with a native teacher. Furthermore, parents want their students to always improve, and schools record these results through examinations. Not spoken examinations, but multiple choice examinations. It’s truly a shame that parents, and most countries in the world, put an emphasis on tests.

Tests truly don’t show the aptitude for students, in my opinion. Instead, I remember constantly studying for hours, then after the exam I forget all of the information. I mean seriously. The only way to remember, especially for me, is constant exposure. I remember in Spanish class in high school, my teacher played tapes and CDs and everyday we repeated the words. And to this day I still remember how to ask for the basics and even remember some other random words that I learned over 8 years ago. Maybe that’s because the English and Spanish language vocabularies are slightly similar (necessary= necessito). However, parents should be more patient, yet I can understand them. A society that requires testing with high scores in order to get into good universities, and positions that determine the rest of your life, is extremely stressful and worrisome.

My previous school’s teachers all spoke English to their students, which definitely helped the students increase their English listening and speaking abilities. Even my younger students could talk to me on a basic level. Unlike my previous school, my current school’s students are incredibly low. The boss informed me of this issue, so I had no expectations of the students. However, I was quite surprised. I cannot hold a  conversation with the students. Though they do have more fun. The students do not receive the same strenuous types of work as other hagwons, so these students seem happier. I guess it’s a give and take.

All and all, so far the experience of working and teaching in Korea has been stressful, but rewarding. I do enjoy teaching students, but I don’t think I can teach students something like English. Maybe art or something fun. One day, maybe I will try to teach adults or college students. Most of these students, I have heard, try harder since they pay for the classes themselves in order to achieve better results in their life, or on some required exam. Either way, these kids have impacted my life, and I hope I have made a slight impact on theirs.

Stay humble. Work hard. Be kind.



4 thoughts on “Teaching in South Korea

  1. It was because of mostly Asian education culture. Asian has been taught to master all kind of stuffs at once. I dislike their method but I can’t say that it is a wrong thing to do. A lot of my friends were able to get a good grade at school but again it’s just a grade written in a paper. Yes that’s how sucks Asian school education system is.

    Parents would like their kids to have good grades and master everything like god. It’s happening now and very much different than it used to be. Studying has become a fierce battlefield which is not fun anymore. What more can we say? If you don’t have a good grade, you won’t be accepted in any kind of job.

    For me it’s just a myth in the past. If you want to get rich go pursue your dreams not your parents’ dreams.

    1. I guess the education system can be specifically defined as “asian education culture,” with so much emphasis on tests. Even the vocabulary tests are just memorizing the order in which the words are written, and not learning their actual application or meanings. The system is just whats the problem, and the administration who control it.
      Yet, I can relate. In my case, my parents focused heavily on my education and passing school tests and exams, I feel I really didn’t learn any life skills. They wanted me to only do what “they thought was best.” So there went music lessons, or anything related to art. I was only able to take art classes and other exploratory subjects in high school, against my parents wishes. So much turbulence. Anyway, you are right, pursue your dreams and not your parents’ dreams. Kind of hard when you so desperately want their approval, but instead have to ignore it.

      1. That’s right. The unsupportive condition what has made success hard to achieve. Sometimes we face wall on our way and what’s surprising is the wall is our own family. I understand no support from family is truly hard.

        I can’t judge myself about which education system is the most correct and should be applied but sometimes it’s our job to evaluate which one is the best for us. I wish I hadn’t taken economy degree on my univ back then. I am more specialized in arts but my parents were against me at that time saying that studying art has no future. I had no choice too. But again if I hadn’t taken business economy degree, I wouldn’t have been able to become a successful BlackBerry developer back then. I used my potential economy theory I learnt back then to decide when to release my products and just counting on my raw art skills to survive. Sometimes determination also count. Many factors rather than regretting your past.

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