What Education Means to Korean Parents
Success in Korea begins at the tender age of…. well being born. My friend is already talking about the preschools she has planned for her newborn and the Kindergarten’s that she has applied to. Korea mandated that all public Kindergartens are tuition free for citizens and that has created a rush of anxious parents who want their children to be in the best one. Wait lists for Kindergarten classes can be 3+ years so parents are signing their kids up before they start walking.
It is believed that a better education equals a successful life. This includes learning to speak English. English is so important that I was stopped on the side of the road by a mom who wanted me to be a language exchange partner with her ay-gee (baby). She kept saying over and over that her ay-gee needed more English practice and she cajoled my phone number from me. Turns out her ay-gee is 25 years old and works at a bank. She declined to be my language exchange partner, she was just as freaked out as I was by her mother flagging down a total stranger and trying to play matchmaking.
As of February, 2016, the Ministry of Education restricted the amount of English lessons elementary children can receive in public school, arguing that learning two languages at such a young age is stressful and confusing. It’s no secret that parents send their children to after school tutoring and language immersion programs so this ruling was an attempt to reduce the workload for 6-10 year olds. Article Link.
Personally, I have found Korean public education to be relaxing and fun. My boys (K and 1st grade) have almost no homework and they spend their days playing games, making arts and crafts and enjoying music while still getting their workbooks done. The stress of the Korean education system comes from the after school tutoring, hagwons 학원(cram schools) and extra- curricular activities mandated by the parents.
Do not Tutor without a Licence
With the success of a child’s life hinging upon their education, private English tutoring is an extremely lucrative business in South Korea. Illegal tutoring, when a foreigner teaches without a licence or a visa, is a hot topic as Korea tries to enforce rules to reduce stress on students and to reduce the amount of money parents spend on education.
Illegal English tutoring may be lucrative but it’s not worth it. Illegal tutors are contributing to the rising costs of raising children in South Korea, taking money away from country and causing more stress on already overworked students. The South Korean immigration office often conducts raids on schools to find illegal tutors and being deported would not look well to a spouse’s USFK employer or command team.
That doesn’t mean USFK family members shouldn’t try to get a job teaching English in South Korea. It’s easy to do with flexible hours and no Korean language requirements. Public schools, hagwons and English schools are always hiring native speakers and USFK family members are allowed to obtain a Visa from a future employer. Teachers can expect to make anywhere from $20-$100 an hour depending on the level of education they are teaching. Most prefer teachers who have a bachelors degree but that depends on the school.
Moral of the story, don’t teach English illegally, not even to the TaeKwonDo master’s son. Find an employer, watch spouse pages on Facebook, and get a Visa and a license the right way.