Is the future of Korea’s English Education still Bright?

Future of Korea's Education system

Is the future of Korea’s English Education still Bright?

What’s the future for public school and university jobs in Korea? How about hagwons?

Will Korea end these types of programs in the name of economic reform, or is the country’s insatiable appetite for English unstoppable?

What plans does the government have for the ROK?

And what’s the future of middle and high school English programs?

What will it take for foreigners to exit Korea en masse? Salary drops below 1.0 million KRW?

Can’t see kindergarten or elementary school programs ending anytime soon.

University jobs will stay but will conversation classes be replaced by more academic ones?

One of my friends no longer teaches conversation classes at his university. It’s all American culture… Gosh, do people really need to take a class for that?

Test prep courses like the TOEIC and TOEFL have always been huge in Korea…

Some celebrity TOEIC  instructors like Kim Dae Gyun at Sisa teach TOEIC classes to over 800 students.

They fill up his auditorium, hanging on his every word, taking notes voraciously, spending their parents money on his books and CDS in order to learn his special tips to master the TOEIC test.


So they can slap a 900 score on their resumes and land a corporate in Korea at one of the big 5 companies… Samsung, LG, etc… Fast tracking at it’s finest!

It’s still all about the test scores in Korea. Not much emphasis on debate, essays or presentation. Doubt that will change.

Despite these indicators some argue that the English education market in Korea is contracting.

Government funding is being cut.

Parents are spending less (although I’d debate that one)

Korea is going the way of the 1 child family (or perhaps 0.5) Raising a kid in Korea is not easy, it’s competitive in schools, and not cheap given after school hagwon expenses.  Just ask your Korean friends about it.

Too many teacher applicants per jobs? Hagwons for the most part only want native speakers. If we factor in other nationalities applying outside of the US, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ and South Africa I suppose that will skew the numbers…

Still some of us (teachers) would say the market is just as strong as it ever was.

There’s still a starving crowd of recruiters ready to hire native speakers, pay 100%  of their flights, put them up in an apartment rent free, pay them a fat bonus at the end of their contract. It’s all gravy!

How many times have I changed my email address because I get on a bulk email list of Korean recruiters? They’re relentless and for good reason. The market demands it.

And then there are the elite Korean business and celebs ready, willing and able to throw 50,000-60,000 won per hour just to have a coffee or dinner (graciously paid by them of course) to have a 1 hour conversation with a native speaker.

Private lessons are illegal. But who’s looking? As long as it’s between your Korean friends and family, right?

Of course whenever a Korean university advertises an English teacher job, we’ll hear teachers complaining.

They’ll say how low the pay is and how they wouldn’t work for so little based on their credentials and experience, and how much more they get paid teaching at their hagwon coupled with a few private lessons each week. Everyone to their opinions.

But I don’t think institutions of higher learning (in any country) are ever that short of qualified applicants. Most of us would still take working at a university over a hagwon gig no matter what the pay any day. I’m sure there are some amazing hagwons (NOT).

I’m also doubtful there are many chats over pints of Cass in Itaewon or Hongdae on Saturday nights from teachers worried about losing their jobs..

If we say that the TEFL market in Korea isn’t as good as it once was, it could be because the currency isn’t as strong, or we’re living in times where a lot more college graduates want to head overseas.

It used to be about 1 in 100 of us would go over to Korea to teach. If 2 in 100 are doing it now that certainly increases competition, doesn’t it?

Korea is a lot more comfortable than it used to be… You’ve got your Facebook foreigner groups in almost every city or town, all kinds of western food, free ways to call back home.. All the more reason to head over for a year or more and experience some travel and culture.

Of course, you’ll need to shell out a few bucks for a TEFL certificate (not required before) just to pad your resume, but hey you’re a teacher now, so it will only make you a better and more confident with it.

Will Koreans ever become an English fluent country? Maybe more fluent than the Japanese. I’ve heard they did better at some type of standardized English test thingy, but who believes that stuff anyway. It’s all manipulated statistics…

And then there’s EPIK… The program has gone through some cuts and schools realize they can get by partly with Korean nationals as teachers…

Hagwon salaries haven’t inched up much in years.  But, seriously, is the sky really falling in Korea?

I’d bet my next meal of kimchi and rice that it will be a long, long time, before Korea (or Japan or China) closes its border on foreign English teachers.

After all, the money in Korea is real, and you can still make a decent living teaching, but are your hagwon teaching skills transferable?

They can be if you’re resourceful and creative…. That is if you have any desire to ever go back home. But that’s another conversation entirely.

Just my random thoughts…

What’s your HO (humble opinion) on the English teaching market in Korea?

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