Thursday, November 29, 2007

British English teacher faces deportation or lashing in Sudan

A British woman, Gillian Gibbons, was arrested this Monday, November 27 in Khartoum, Sudan for insulting the prophet Mohammed. Her students named a stuffed animal after their profit, Muhammad. The act may result in the teacher’s deportation or worse, 40 lashes. The instructor has been given legal support from her Christian High School; however, the majority of parents who send their children to the school are actually Muslim and they are taking this matter very seriously. For the full story please read: SUDAN

The majority of countries that support ESL schools are safe. However, every country has some laws that may conflict with our beliefs or are perhaps unanticipated. Customs may also come into play that may make your job more difficult. Singapore used to have a law against gum chewing, Tylenol is illegal in some countries, blowing one’s nose is rude in Korea, women smoking in public is illegal in many countries… the list goes on. It is best to do research prior to your journey. Regardless, sometimes your best intentions can have serious consequences. Hold your ground, but remember you are in a different country with different laws.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Change is Imminent

By Korea Jim

The Korea Herald stated "According to a Ministry of Justice press release, foreigners who apply for teaching visas will have to submit a criminal background check and a medical check, and must undergo an interview at the closest Korean consulate to their home town. Visa runs to Japan will also be scrapped. Teachers must now receive and renew visas in their home country."

Regardless if you disagree with these policy changes, the visa process in Korea are changing. It should be noted this information comes on the heels of the announcement made by the Minister of Education and Human Resources Development, Kim Shinil, that in 2008 the number of foreign teachers will increase in the public school system and that English education will be made more of a priority, both increasing the number of hours of English class and number of foreign teachers.

One teacher I talked with, who did not wish to have his name disclosed, was not happy about the recent changes. "I have been in the country for over 5 years," he stated. "However, why would I return if it takes my whole vacation time just to renew my contract? I would have to travel to a city that I don’t live in [and] wait for an interview and visa to be processed. The trip would set me back too far. There are many other countries I can teach in, without the hassle of this change." This is a reality many teachers, both new and experienced, will face in the coming year.

Though some teachers are finding the positive side of these changes. One teacher I spoke with, who is married to a Korean woman, believes the new E2 visa requirements will mean "fewer teachers, greater demand [and] more money." Which is very likely as private schools will be forced to offer even more incentive to returning teachers, or even first-year teachers, to go through the hassle of the application process. "This is the change I have been waiting for," he said smiling. However, his F2 visa, which he received upon marrying, precludes him from having to submit to any of the new requirements to obtain employment. He is definitely a minority among foreign teachers.

Korean private schools pay thousands of dollars in recruiting fees to attract ESL and EFL teachers. The extra expense to return a teacher to their home country on a round trip for an interview with a consulate will probably force some smaller schools to shut down. These expenses will also likely affect public schools, which operate under strict budgets. This will hinder public schools in providing for their classes native English instructors, the very instructors the government wants more of in the coming year. It’s not clear whether the government will provide extra financial assistance to public schools to cope with the added burden of this expense, but at the moment they have not discussed the issue.

One outcome of the new changes could be foreigners working illegally on a visitor visa, something that already occurs and though the numbers of teachers doing this has declined recently, they could easily spike again in 2008. Fake marriages to obtain an F2 visa might also transpire. Another scenario could see a drastic drop in teacher recruitment as a result of teachers who simply refuse to work in Korea and submit themselves to a laborious application process.

The Korean government is pushing these new policies to increase the number of qualified, experienced teachers in the country; however, the consequences of these policies may discourage them coming in general. It will most likely increase the people who are willing to take the risk to come and work illegally without proper teaching credentials. Especially if private institutions are willing to increase the pay of illegal ESL instructors in order to avoid the new changes in the visa process.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Illegal Blacklist: Korean Foreign Teacher Recruiting Agency

By Spencer McCall

Even as restrictions for E2 visas become increasingly more rigorous, one Korean organization, the Korean Foreign Teacher Recruiting Agency, is taking a step they feel will further ensure the security of ESL schools from unqualified or dishonorable teachers. Only what they have done is illegal.

They have created their own, independent blacklist of foreign teachers they feel should be barred from teaching ESL and perhaps even entering the country. Such requests to have teachers banned or blacklisted have to be processed through immigration at the behest of a lawyer. The Agency has taken no such steps, but proceeded to post on their website a list of almost ten pages worth of foreign teacher names.

In most cases, the Agency’s grievance with the foreigner also includes other sensitive information pertaining to the teacher’s identities, including full names, nationalities, E2 visa and passport numbers, sex and age. Under Korean Law, this is considered libel and defamation and is illegal. However, many teachers are unaware they are on the list. And if they feel they might be, for whatever reason, there is hope to clear your name.

Recently, a teacher successfully removed her name from the list after a lawyer from the Korean Bar Association threatened to sue the owner of the website. She was not charged any money for this service and would not have had to pay if any action was further pursued.

To read more about the successful teacher go to Koreabridge Job Advice

The Korean Bar Association is located in Seocho in Seoul

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Education in the Korean Presidential Elections

By Spencer McCall

Whoever wins the December 19th elections, one thing is for certain, Korea’s public education system is going to receive some significant changes under the new administration, particularly in English education.

Front-runner nominee Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party, is proposing, among other things, to add more English classes to public schools to narrow the disparity gap between the nation’s wealthy who attend high-priced private English schools (Hagwons) and the underprivileged who cannot afford such luxuries. It is part of his larger economic reform policy intended to make the country more competitive in the global market place and is reminiscent of American President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.

More hours in school will require more teachers. Lee intends to train more Korean teachers to have a high degree of English proficiency to fill this gap. Whether this will push foreign teachers out of the job remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a possibility. By January 2008, the process of applying for an E2 visa will be stricter (extensive criminal background checks, medical histories and physicals and further verification to authenticate degrees) and will likely take a considerable amount of time longer to receive.

Add them together and one can easily see the strain these proposed reforms will have on the private sector of the economy, particularly the private schools who rely on foreign teachers to add expertise and prestige to their businesses. Job loss in this market is a real possibility not only to business owners, but to Korean and foreign teachers as well.

Other candidates Chung Dong-young of the United New Democratic Party, Rhee In-jae of the Democratic Party, and Moon Kook-hyun, an independent, all promise economic reform and growth.

However, the E2 visa reforms were introduced by current president Roh Moo-hyun, so either way you slice it, education reform, and in particular English education reform, is on the mind of everyone in or near the president’s seat.

For an extensive review of the candidates go to

In a Teacher’s Opinion

By John Pipes
The following is a composite of “types” a friend of mine and I compiled over an afternoon spent discussing the ESL industry in South Korea. The conversation revolved around a central question: Whom are the people today choosing to be ESL teachers?
We are both concerned in the direction the industry is taking. As ESL teachers of many years and experience in South Korea, we have both noticed changes throughout the years, not only on the business end of things, but also changes in the different personalities and backgrounds of the teachers coming to work here.

The teacher “types” we have compiled in this list, by no means comprehensive, but hopefully insightful, are based on teachers we currently know or have been colleagues of in the past. And though it is based solely on our experience, many of the "character types" that we came up with seem to hold true.

I felt so strongly about this topic and the conversation we had that I felt by sharing it some people might find it educational, especially those who are considering a career in ESL. And perhaps it will be humorous to those professionals who have encountered these “types” during their career.

See if you can spot yourself in any of these descriptions.

The Backpacker/Adventurer The backpacker or adventure has no real interest in quality education or doing a good job. He/She is looking for adventure or excitement in foreign lands and teaching English is a free ticket for a long trip. Though a few of these types do make good teachers, this generally has more to do with their personality and genuine interest in people and other cultures than any desire to provide quality education.

The LBH: Looser Back HomeAlthough this is a harsh title, many teachers will be able to recollect encountering people such as these. They are people who usually couldn't survive in "the real world,” i.e. unable to survive in a competitive job market, lacking social skills, unable to network to advance their careers. He or she would probably be skipping from one minimum wage job to another. They most likely couldn't hold down a job for a long period of time and perhaps are still living at home with their parents. Many such types may be carrying a lot of emotional baggage. They may even be sociopaths, alcoholics or drug abusers and unable to "fit in" with their peer group. Many will have an "I don't care" attitude. Asia is a place where they can lose themselves while running away from their problems.

The Escapee The Escapee has a lot in common with the LBH, but isn’t quite as pathetic. They may have run into insurmountable business or personal problems that force them into a decision to teach ESL as a last ditch effort to start over. He or she may feel that by escaping their old life, they can start afresh and begin to build anew. Unfortunately, with such excess of emotional baggage, it is questionable whether or not they would make decent teachers.

I Don't Care/Just give me the money People with this attitude don't have any interest in teaching English whatsoever and would be seen as lazy. They don't care about the job or the students they teach. A lot of these types may not have all their qualifications such as a Bachelor's Degree or College Diploma. All they're looking for is a "free ride" and are wandering through life aimlessly. With no interest in education or even doing a good job, all they will most likely do is photocopy articles and say "Let's talk about this today."

Doors Closed Back Home A large number of teachers fall into this category. Though a person may be well educated and have a bank of life experience and knowledge, they find it difficult to secure a decent job back home and are unable to establish a life for themselves. A feeling of limbo is common. In choosing ESL teaching, he or she may feel it is a way of moving forward. Unfortunately, many also share the feeling that in deciding to move to Asia, there is nothing to go back home to except family. Some may have feelings of leading a "wasted life" or are afraid for their future, having cut themselves off from connections at home. On the positive side, quite a few from this category become genuinely interested in ESL teaching and do make good teachers.

The Professionals These individuals are genuinely interested in ESL teaching and are concerned about being the best teacher they can. They bring with them good degrees and in most cases backgrounds in Education. People from this group make excellent teachers through their genuine and conscientious approach to doing a good job. They have a positive impact on their student’s lives and the ESL industry in general.

The Ex-teachers This category is somewhat smaller than the others. The Ex-teachers are usually retired teachers themselves who are not ready for "the rocking chair" or after having worked in the regular public school systems back home, want a positive change. They quite often make excellent ESL teachers. However, there is a danger they have become disillusioned with teaching or are cynical towards students. Unfortunately, with a few of these types, they go around bragging that they are "real teachers", isolating themselves from the rest of the ESL community by their "all high and mighty" attitude.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

ESL Instructor Killed in Afghanistan

Terrorism quite often reaches out to civilians and this time extended out to an ESL teacher. On Wednesday November 14, 2007, an Afghan English teacher was killed in Kabul. For full story please read: ESL Instructor Killed in Afghanistan

Afghanistan, having a huge demand for English and English teachers, but in the midst of a civil war, generally pays quite high for ESL instructors to work at Universities and other educational institutions. The English teachers from foreign countries are faced with the complications of the war and in some situations be a target for Taliban terrorists. A teacher looking to work in a particularly violent country should first research the country and the conditions of the particular job. How secure is the instructor’s home and school from violence? High pay has its advantages but ones security should come first.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Asian English Language School Salary Comparison

Coming to Asia to teach English has a lot to offer. Each country has different Salary and benefits. Keep in mind that the benefits and salary varies depending on what city you are in. Some of the major Countries are as follows (money is in US dollars).

South Korea: Average Salary: $1900 - $2500, Housing: included,
Health Care: 50/50 Airfare: included.

Thailand: Average Salary: $400 – $700, Housing: Sometimes,
Health Care: Usually Not, Airfare: Usually Not.

Japan: Average Salary: $2000 - $3000 Housing: Sometimes,
Health Care: Usually, Airfare: Sometimes or partial.

China: Average Salary: $400 – $700, Housing: Included,
Health Care: Included, Airfare: Partial.

Vietnam: Average Salary: $800 up, Housing: Most include,
Health Care: Partial, Airfare: Sometimes or Partial.

Taiwan: Average Salary: $1500 - $2000 Housing: Most places,
Health Care: Most, Airfare: Partial or in full.

Hong Kong: Average Salary: $1200 - $1700, Housing: Included,
Health Care: Sometimes, Airfare: Partial.

Laos: Average Salary: $200 - $400, Housing: No,
Health Care: No, Airfare: No

There are many other Asian countries offering ESL jobs such as Malaysia and Cambodia. Each country has it’s own pay rate. Some countries have higher expectations of it’s teachers than others, be aware of the criteria. You can find jobs and their criteria through websites like or Many contracts now require you to send a copy of your university degree (if not the original) and other documents to process your work visa. Visa work can take up to or more than a month, it is best to start your search early.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A Korean Paradox

The Korea Herald News paper stated in the front page today that:

“Regulations on foreigners set to be eased… Government looks to make the life of foreign residents in Korea easier.” The Korean Herald, Monday October 29, 2007. However, the Korean Herald also reported on the same day by the same author “Entry requirements for foreign teachers to be toughened… Starting in December, foreign English teachers coming to Korea will be required to submit their criminal and health records when applying for their visas…” The Korean Herald, Monday October 29, 2007.

People who wish to teach in Korea will soon be required not only to submit their original degrees, sealed transcripts, photos, and scanned passports, they will also have to submit a police background check along with their medical history. Furthermore, the Gyeong-gi Board of Education now demands teachers give further proof of their degrees and transcripts, i.e. verification of school alumni.

Speaking from experience, it is difficult to receive a criminal record check while outside your native country. Teachers already in Korea may be expected to give criminal and medical history checks from their native country upon finding a new job in Korea, adding further stress in applying for employment.

Perhaps the relaxation of “regulations on foreigners” as stated earlier will push more and more foreigners to teach privately, rather than dealing with the tougher policies for legal English teachers.