Recently I was discussing job ads for EFL jobs in South Korea with a friend (who also happens to be a former advisee and hopefully will be a future co-author). After he’d read a sampling of ads from a popular “ESL” jobs website he was struck by how few job ads professed any desire for teachers with experience, qualifications, or personal characteristics or anything except a heartbeat and an ability to acquire the appropriate visa. “How is everyone fine with this?” he wondered.
He said he couldn’t get his head around how these language schools seemed not to care at all about experience or anything related to the job itself. The idea of language schools in Korea (and indeed around the world) just looking for a young (White?) face with “the right” accent is nothing new but I thought his question was poignant.
He went on, “How can these school directors be happy with such high turnover? How can they be happy to get new teachers with no experience showing up every year? How can parents be happy with this situation? How is this better for the students? How is everyone fine with this?” As he asked these questions he was referring to the job ads not mentioning qualifications and also how some ads seemed to paint teaching in Korea as something of a vacation from life.
This is as good a time as any for me to mention that I not talking about all language schools in Korea. I’m doing my best to base these thoughts on the handful of ads I saw on a popular site. And yea, just a handful or two so all thoughts can be taken with a healthy portion of salt. Perhaps there are hundreds or even thousands of schools interested in hiring the best teachers and providing the best possible education for their paying customers. I don’t want to besmirch the reputation of a whole industry and I apologize for any over generalizations here. I cannot claim to know the reasons schools would not mention qualifications in their ads. When I speculate wildly as I do below please keep in mind I am only speculating wildly about a few places and not every single hogwon in Korea. Again, I’m just sharing some thoughts based on what I saw on job ads and a discussion I had.
When my friend asked how everyone was fine with the situation I was feeling quite cynical and suggested maybe school directors and owners don’t want teachers with experience or strong beliefs because teachers without these are likely more pliable. While quite cynical I don’t think it’s an unreasonable explanation. I think in the private education business (both in and out of Korea) teachers are asked to do things for reasons other than maximizing students’ learning. Some typical examples of such reasons might be, “that is what the parents want,” “that is what our competitors are doing,” “that is what we have always done.” My idea was that teachers who know about the field might resist doing things like swamping students with word lists of over 30 words to memorize daily.
In the conversation with my friend I didn’t mention the desire of language schools to cut costs and the assumption that more experienced teachers would cost more money. I can see how hiring more expensive teachers would cut into the profits of a small business. I suppose part of the issue here is that from the view of many employers experience is not really worth paying for.
This leads me to darker and even more cynical points. Maybe the schools simply don’t care at all. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe knowledge, attitude, skills, and awareness are not important to the objective of getting students to pay for English lessons.
I have only mentioned three potential reasons here. I have a sense I might be missing some potential reasons for the dearth of requirements related to the job of teaching in the job ads we saw. Any additional theories are welcome. What am I missing?
Lingering over this whole discussion is the native speaker fallacy and the idea any “native speaker” will do. I think this pernicious belief influences students, parents, teachers, schools and the whole industry. I don’t even know who benefits from this situation (with the possible exception of recruiters). How is everyone fine with this?