Wednesday, March 6, 2013

City Paper on Pittsburghers teaching English in Korea.

This week's Pittsburgh City Paper looks at locals who have gone overseas to teach English as a Foreign Language in South Korea.
Applicants do not have to have any teaching experience, but they must have earned a bachelor's degree in some field from an accredited university.

Monthly salaries vary by Korean province and the metropolitan area teachers are placed in. [English Program in Korea]'s site shows the minimum salary is about $1,700 per month. Salaries rise for applicants with teaching experience and for those with advanced degrees.

"The benefits of coming here are great. You make a good salary and have good vacation time. EPIK also pays for your plane ticket, gives you starting money and a furnished apartment that is rent-free," [Megan] Rees [of McKees Rocks] wrote in an email interview. "Americans living in Korea pay no taxes for two years and get the pension deductions from their paycheck back when they leave Korea."
. . .
EPIK teachers sign a one-year contract and have the option to renew. Giegel [of Observatory Hill] is considering signing on for another year. After two years in South Korea, Rees says she has decided to take a job to teach English in Japan beginning in May.

"My dream in life is to travel the world and experience living in different cultures," says Rees. "It gives you the [confidence to start] a new life from scratch, and it teaches you the world is bigger than what you have known growing up."
Even before the "Great Recession", teaching English in Asia has been an attractive option for recent college graduates. There are local chapters of the Japan Exchange and Teaching [JET] Programme, and there are numerous blogs by Pittsburghers in South Korea, including Brian in Jeollanam-do (teacher-turned-columnist) and Good for Man's Health (teacher-turned-bar-owner).

Teaching overseas is a viable short-term option, but in recent years the market has soured for older, experienced teachers who price themselves out of jobs because schools only want to pay young, cheap ones. Conveniently enough, the Korea Herald today has part one of a two-part series on the phasing-out of native-speaker English teachers in South Korea, cuts and shifting priorities that started several years ago.
[Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education] and [Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education] emphasized that their programs, both started in 2005, were never meant to last.

The English Program in Korea ― similar to the programs run by Seoul and Gyeonggi and South Jeolla provinces, but run in the rest of Korea ― was started in 1995 to enhance English education, and promote cultural understanding. The NETs would work alongside and train English-proficient Korean teachers, who would eventually replace them.

Seoul said the phaseout was ahead of schedule. It placed NETs in all public schools by 2010, two years earlier than planned, and says its Korean staff’s skills have improved dramatically.

SMOE claimed that 95.6 percent of Korean English teachers had “teaching English in English capacity” by the end of 2011, and began to phase out NETs last year.

GEPIK officials said that while the reductions were planned out, the timing was not. However, they said it was entering the next phase ― handing the classes over to English-proficient Korean teachers.