Part one: Being a TEFL teacher in South Korea
by Jonathan Last @JonathanLast1
Author of Teaching English with Chopsticks: TEFL from the Frontline
South Korea is one of the most popular Asian destinations for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). Working in one of the major cities, you’ll find westerners including Americans, Canadians, South Africans, Australians, New Zealanders, British and Irish.
Korea itself, however, is almost entirely indigenous and has millions of children who are seeking (or, to be more accurate, whose parents wish them to have) improved English. The native English-speaking teacher is usually required to help with speaking and listening skills (your official job title is likely to be ‘English Conversation Instructor’), as the children receive lessons in grammar, reading and writing in their schools.
State school or Private?
There are two main types of institutions: state schools and private language academies. The former usually offers a better deal in terms of hours, holiday allocation, salary and so on, but they are more selective about candidates and will probably insist on prior experience – either in state school teaching or TEFL – and vocational qualifications, such as a Cambridge CELTA or Trinity College TESOL. The novice TEFL teacher is more likely to find employment in a private academy, or hagwon, where the only prerequisite is a university degree (in any discipline). However, it is strongly recommended that you do a theory or, even better, theory and practice English language teaching qualification – and providers of these often act as an agent for finding a teaching role, which gives you some extra security and the confidence that you will be working somewhere reputable.
What are Hagwons?
Hagwons provide extra schooling to Korean schoolchildren, and as such are open during ‘after school’ hours; typically from around 2pm to 8pm (these hours may change during the main winter and summer school holidays). The exception is kindergarten-age children, around four years old, who tend to have classes in the early morning; if the hagwon provideskindergarten classes, then it is likely you will start work at 9am, but if not, your hours will be something like 1pm to 8pm. Lunch is typically provided and included in the pay, as is rent – the academies often own properties that they house their foreign teachers in, and the accommodation should come fully equipped with modern conveniences, such as cooking facilities, bed, bathroom, television, internet, etc.
Contracts tend to be for a year, with a bonus month’s pay for completing your time. Often flights there and back are paid for, too. Holiday allocation varies, but doesn’t tend to be too generous: eight days, not including Korean national holidays, is a standard amount.
In my next blog, I’ll be exploring South Korea’s culture and character.
Jonathan Last’s humorous autobiographical novel “Teaching with Chopsticks: TEFL from the Frontline” is available to download to PC, smart phone and various e-book readers, such as Kindle, Kobo and Nook.
You can watch a video interview with him about the book on his blog.
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