By Kang Shin-who
The association of foreign language institutes or hagwon said Monday that the government should block the inflow of unqualified native English teachers, making clear its opposition to a policy to increase the number of “questionable instructors.’’
The Korea Association of Foreign Language Academies (KAFLA) complained that the government was “recklessly’’ opening the door to foreigners without building any safeguard against unqualified teachers. The association has about 7,000 members.
“The government is under the illusion that an unlimited number of English teachers exists overseas,’’ said Seo Jung-sook, information director of the association. “Inviting more foreign teachers will eventually degrade the average quality of instructors and drive up costs for us.’’
Native English speakers who have no teaching experience in their 20s receive the same salaries as Koreans who have taught English for more than 10 years, she said.
The association said the Korea Immigration Service (KIS) does not retain data on foreign nationals who have had work experience here. “No hagwon owners want to work with unqualified foreigners. Most hagwon employers terminate contracts of unacceptable foreigners, those guilty of sexual harassment or taking drugs,” general director Choi Chang-jin said.
“However, many of these `blacklisted’ foreigners return and teach English at other hagwon. I have seen a foreigner, who was expelled on drug charges, return here within three days. This is because the government does not keep records on these foreigners,” Choi said.
The association is protesting the government’s move to revise two clauses of regulations on English-teaching, or E-2 visas.
Under current rules, E-2 visa holders sign contracts with hagwon owners on a one-year basis and are required to work at least nine months at a maximum of only two locations.
The immigration authorities told the association on April 16 that it will let E-2 visa holders transfer to other working places after a month and allow them to work at more than two locations. The planned relaxation of the rules is aimed at maximizing the convenience for foreign English teachers, according to the KIS. Hagwon owners, however, are worried that this will lead to a high job turnover rate and jack up wages.
As for the proposed association for native English-speaking instructors, the owners said they will not hire teachers hired who belong to the union-like body.
“I don’t think the association will truly represent foreign English teachers, so we don’t see any point in talking with it, even if it is established,” Choi said. KAFLA said it will take all measures possible to prevent foreign teachers from forming the representative body.
Currently, some 17,500 foreigners are registered with the KIS on English-teaching visas, but if ethnic Koreans are added, the number doubles. KIS estimates about 50,000 foreigners teach English here, including those who are doing so illegally.