Home > Education, Korea, Politics, Teaching, USA > Korea: USA Teacher In Demand

Korea: USA Teacher In Demand

From the Korea Joongang Daily:

As many students emigrate from Korea to the United States for higher education opportunities, Korean hagwon (academies) and parents find it increasingly necessary to prepare children with exposure to a Western education by hiring American teachers.

Because Western norms have been embedded within these instructors’ gestures, speech and behavior, these teachers provide education in English while also exposing students to Western culture.

Kwon Yi-joo, a rising high school sophomore who currently attends a private academy in Gangnam District, Seoul, talked about the recent increase in the number of American teachers at her school. “In the past four years that I have attended this academy, there has been an increase in American teachers,” she said. “I think this [trend] is positive because as a student, I prefer having an American teacher, as it is guaranteed that someone who knows the material very well is capable of teaching the material precisely.”

“Sometimes Korean teachers can be somewhat unreliable when it comes to mastering a Westernized education.”A SAT academy in Daechi-dong, southern Seoul, has increased the number of American teachers it has hired in recent years. In 2000, the academy had only two American SAT instructors, but in 2011 this number increased to five.Similarly, another SAT prep academy in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, increased the number of courses taught by an American teacher from three, in 2009, to seven, in 2011.The Popularity of U.S. Study Abroad Programs has Fueled Demand for American Teachers.When discussing the reasons for recruiting American teachers, the Sinsa-dong academy described these American teachers as possessing something no Korean teacher can obtain: personal experience with American culture.

One tutor at a popular hagwon in an upscale south Seoul district, who asked to remain anonymous, described Korean students’ curiosity about the U.S.


“There’s a certain curiosity, and I’m sure they want to know what it’s like [in the U.S.],” said the tutor, who first travelled to Korea in 2000 to teach. “They can get that information from these teachers to gain knowledge about the country they’re going to study in – not just through the subject but also from the personal experiences of the teacher.”

This same tutor believes that an American teacher offers a certain trust to parents and students, which has increased their employment in Korea.

“There are lots of factors, but I think the overarching reason is that it is similar for most students,” he said. “[The] number one reason people go to these academies is to learn. And I think the biggest thing is [that they come with a] certain trust and feeling that they are going to get the best education from these native speakers rather than someone who can speak English but is not familiar with the culture. A lingering doubt evolves from that type of teacher.”

The trend has grown as numerous Korean hagwon are being swamped with an abundance of prospective students interested in studying in the U.S.

Competition is another driving force behind this trend, as Korean parents compete with one another to get their children to the top.

A woman with the surname Seo, who is the mother of a 15-year old teenage boy, hypothesized about why this trend is becoming prevalent.

“Because competition among students is becoming progressively more cutthroat, parents want their children to have a certain advantage over other students, in order to be victorious in the ‘battle,’” she said. “Therefore many students are registering at academies that offer courses taught by American teachers.”

In this environment, hagwon are also in constant competition with one another, and they are hiring American teachers to give themselves an edge.  Seo conveyed her aspirations for her son’s future.

“I want him to have the best future possible, so I think it is necessary to enroll him in courses taught by an American instructor,” she said. “Eventually he will be going to college in the States, so why not prepare him with someone who is familiar and has experience with not just the American academic system but with the people and culture itself.”



Random DanIt makes sense to want a language teacher from the country you will be studying in. But how much culture do you really expect to learn from a teacher (especially one that doesn’t speak your native tongue)?

I like this statement from the article: “I prefer having an American teacher, as it is guaranteed that someone who knows the material very well is capable of teaching the material precisely.” I’d argue that knowledge of material is definitely NOT guaranteed just because that teacher is from an English speaking country.

I’m not sure of the stats but I’d say 90% of the English teachers here don’t have masters degree and maybe 66%+ bachelor’s degrees aren’t related to teaching or English field (linguistics, literature, etc).

Maybe that’s why the requirements to teach in Korea (minimum: bachelors) are just for that reason: They don’t want an excellent grammar teacher or someone specializing in English but just having someone “provide education in English while also exposing students to Western culture.”  But like i said, how much culture do you expect from a teacher?  I didn’t learn any culture from my high school and university Spanish classes.  Maybe that was my fault, but I really doubt I would have learned much culture even if that was my only reason for taking those classes.

Well, I can’t complain that much.  I’m a white male from the USA between the ages of 25-40.  If only I had blue eyes I’d be the ‘ideal’ teaching candidate in Korea.

We can’t win ’em all.

Categories: Education, Korea, Politics, Teaching, USA
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