Friday, March 07, 2014

What is the problem with hiring foreign instructors?

On February 18, Ilyo Sinmun published the following article:
What is the problem with hiring foreign instructors?
As long as they're pretty or handsome, it's okay?

Foreigners who want to work in Korea as English instructors must submit documents such as criminal record checks and medical certificates which include drug test results. Nevertheless, reports have continually appeared in the media about molestation or drug use by foreign instructors or their denigration of Koreans, creating headaches for employment agencies.

A representative of the company 'Job In Korea,' which arranges for the employment of foreign instructors, said that ,"Before hiring a foreign instructor, they must submit things like a criminal record check from their home country. Misdemeanors like drunk driving here are also inquired into." "However the fact is it's difficult to inquire into their character by only looking into crimes. Currently when a teacher finishes a one year contract in Korea and moves to another hagwon, it's more difficult to make an inquiry into a Korean criminal record."

However, industry officials point out that employers' attitudes have not changed in that their first worry is the foreign instructor's appearance or nationality rather than their ability. In particular, 'appearance' is considered the top qualification for foreign instructors. A representative of a foreign instructor agency who requested anonymity said, "Every time problems with foreign instructors stand out in society, hagwon owners who employ them are very sensitive to it. But even in such a situation the first instructor they want to find is a 'pretty girl.'

Eric Kim (50), of another foreign instructor agency, ESL, said, "There are hagwon directors who say in a word [they want] 'White North American women in their late 20s.' Most, but not all, are like this." "There are hagwon directors who claim that after interviewing them over skype, the foreign instructor who arrives in Korea is different than the person seen over skype, or that their photos are different. It's also unusual in the US to request a photo during the hiring process. There is little consideration given to character or ability [in Korea]."

It's argued that since the fact will never change that employers' preferences are for appearance or particular region [or origin], even if the foreign instructor process is improved it won't be effective.

Eric Kim said, "When he sent in a resume, one white male simply wrote on one line, 'Only Hongdae' (the foreign instructor's preferred area). I don't know how angry I got. In order to improve the learning environment, there should be no cases in which foreign instructors who have ability and like children are excluded because they are black or because of their appearance."
While it starts off by looking at crimes by foreign teachers (though, it must be noted, it correctly notes that "reports have continually appeared in the media" about foreign teacher crime), and makes a bizarre claim about people using stand-ins during Skype interviews (which, what with fake test-taker stories I've heard in Korea, may be a case of projecting), the rest of the article makes good points about the one of the main problems with the system being the choices made by hagwon owners. Of course, they'll simply say they're catering to parents and following what the market wants. The 2011 revision to the Hagwon law was made in part to make sure the hagwon owners were doing what they were supposed to in checking the backgrounds of foreign teachers, and though there were excesses (the drug test requirement and duplication of criminal record checks for E-2 visa holders), there have been some improvements, at least. Even though it comes off as a bit of an advertorial for some recruiting agencies, I wouldn't mind seeing more articles criticize hagwon owners for their lack of due diligence when hiring instructors.


K said...

'Only Hongdae' made a recruiter furious? Why? And what does this have to do with rest of the article? Eric Kim (if that is his real name) gives a (supposedly) unreasonable demand by a teacher as an example of unreasonable hagwon owner demands? Lost in translation, I guess. Anyway, you make a good point: hagwon owners are responsible for the 'calibre' of teacher in Korea, too.

Yule said...

"There are hagwon directors who say in a word [they want] 'White North American women in their late 20s"

Why late 20s? I thought it'd be early 20s.