Language Learning Challenge From The Seoul Times

One teacher looks at Korea’s English language challenges and puts a large amount of responsibility on the shoulders of the government. He not only cites what he considers too-low requirements for teachers (both Korean and foreign), but also proposes that the government is not doing much to change things. Why?

Because of the influence exerted by the hagwon (private/commercial language school) industry and the revenue it creates; these hagwons collect money from people who want English classes and need to find teachers to teach those classes. The more teachers, the more lessons, and of course the bigger profits made. He does admit that the government’s position is understandable, if not acceptable, given the fact that the demand for English still outstrips the supply.

I don’t know that much about the system in Korea, but in general terms, it is interesting to me whenever someone looks for underlying causes rather than directly blaming only the most visible party (individual teachers) or cultural factors. It is in some ways similar to Scott Sommers’ well-thought out post on native speaker teacher programs. While both of these happen to be focused on Asia, I think these issues are relevant to TEFL in general; maybe the problem seems more severe in Korea only because of the scale of the demand for English. I think there are other countries which don’t require native speaker teachers to have many qualifications beyond the degree, and as valuable as I think a four-week certificate is, I certainly don’t think the certificate alone is what makes one teacher more effective than another. So many factors – including the context the teachers are put in and working conditions they face – influence the quality of teaching.

I’m going to finish by taking perhaps the easiest way out, which is to say that a variety of factors conspire to make things the way they are today, though I suppose I would agree with the author that government bodies are often the participants in the best position to bring about change. (Thanks to for the link!)