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Korea ranks second on the global education index

Notorious for the amount spent on higher education, Korea reaps the rewards ranking second out of 50 countries by Pearson Education on a new global education index called the Learning Curve.


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Investment in the future of one’s offspring is a Confucian principle entrenched in Korean society. From an early age children are pushed to excel in all academic subjects, enter a reputable university, and gain respectable, well-paid employment to support their parents through retirement. Most students, especially those from middle class and affluent backgrounds, go to regular school and then attend various private academies (hagwons) during the evening. It is common for parents spend up to 40% of their monthly income on private after school programs.

English, along with mathematics, science and social studies makes up one of the four core subjects taught in Korea. The ability to speak English is seen as the cornerstone to a successful career due to the country relying so heavily on exports to maintain its rapid growth. The ESL (English as a Second Language) phenomenon hit Korea in the early nineties and has been booming ever since with numerous English hagwons opening all over the country.

Education in Korea

Korea has developed from a third world country to the fifteenth largest economy in just 50 years. Despite an absence of natural resources, the country has prospered due to the success of huge corporations such as Samsung, Hyundai and LG through the export of technology and engineering oversees. Part of Korea’s success in these fields can be accredited to the country’s educational policy in producing a highly motivated, competitive and intelligent workforce.


Educational Philosophy

We recommend you also read the pages on being a teacher and culture in the workplace

The benefits of hagwons are clear; they offer small, focused and for the most part challenging classroom settings. Because hagwons can choose their own teaching syllabus they cover national curriculum content well in advance of when it is taught in public schools. Students are encouraged to develop their skills with peers of a similar level.

In contrast the public school system is over- crowded, rigid and students are rarely given the personal attention needed for them to prosper. For example, some kids will be fluent in English by the time they start elementary school and can probably speak English better than their teacher yet the public school system insists they learn the ABC’s. Minimizing the gulf between education in public and private schools is a source of great concern for the government.    

As you will come to learn, rivalry between hagwons is intense as they compete to enrol students and grow their businesses. A considerable part of their marketing campaigns revolve around their students’ scores in the end of year public school exams. If parents are unhappy with their children’s results they won’t hesitate to move them to another private school. Fortunately, as a native teacher you will have very little contact with the parent’s, providing the kids come away happy with your class you will not feel any of the pressure experienced by your Korean co-teachers.

An important thing to understand about hagowns is that they are owned by independent business people; many will have who will have very little or even no experience in education. Most hagwons are franchises of other successful national or regional branches that supply the brand name. The majority of the day to day business decisions regarding student intake, teacher recruitment and the teaching curriculum are made by the director of the school therefore the standard, even within a franchise model, can vary massively from school to school. For this reason, as a teacher moving to Korea, it is important that you do your due diligence and find out as much about the hagwon as possible.

At Teach Koreans we help you do this, we only work with schools that we have personally vetted and put you in touch with the foreign teacher who you are replacing so you can get independent impartial advice about the working environment.

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