Hagwon Advice…

esl kidsI’ve been around the (Korean) block a few times…

More specifically, I’ve been in the English as a Foreign Language (and as CDI or Chungdahm Learning likes to call it their patented ESL programs) industry for more than five years in Korea.  I get questions constantly about how to enter the industry, who to choose for work and honestly what to do if interested in this field if you want work.

Well, I just got another question (or should I say set of questions) asked of me about work here in Korea as an English teacher.  Instead of just answering this gentleman directly and minimizing the impact, I thought I’d write it up here so a few more can read and hopefully benefit from my advice.  In addition to reading the following, you can also read my piece called “Advice for Teachers” (they titled it that way even though I didn’t) which should actually be named “Advice for ‘Prospective’ English Teachers (in Korea).”

The guy asks:

I was wondering if you could recommend some reputable Korean language agencies other than just yours. I think I’m now interested in pursuing this and would like to do some research on various agencies.

I was told that the economy is not doing so well over there, like the rest of the world. Has that affected Korean language schools much? Are they still recruiting the same as always or has it been less or are they paying less?

From the research I’ve done so far, I read about such negative experiences. I can only assume this is because it’s usually people who have bad experiences who feel compelled to write about it.

Thanks for any additional info you can provide.

My answer:

I’m not an agency. I was a part of a company called Chungdahm Institute. I was the Director of Human Resources for the Busan region.  I basically managed over 140 teachers over 15 different April English and Chungdahm Learning Academies which served over 6800 students at one point.  Honestly, I hate “agencies” or “recruiting firms.”  They are ALL horrible.  If you want to know why, just comment below and if there’s enough asking, I’ll detail further why.

However, there is one exception.  The one recruiting agency I’ve ALWAYS had success with and trust more than most companies is Ben & his team at Footprints Recruiting.  His company is literally the best in the industry.  There’s too much that can go wrong on both sides of the coin, but Ben and his great staff help minimize it to almost nothing.  It was my goal as the main placement officer at Chungdahm Learning’s southern branches and it’s Ben’s as well.  We grouped together possibly one of the best groups of instructors in South Korea over the years.  It’s why my past bosses will benefit significantly in terms of monetary rewards.

There are some competing schools to Chungdahm Learning.  By the way, I think CDI or Chungdahm Learning is still the industry leader.  It’s probably the best place to work for minus the vacation policy and holidays.  Honestly, they are abusive when it comes to holidays — almost inhumane and while I was working there, it was the hardest thing to defend.   However, they have the strongest or best curriculum out there and looking forward, they are going to continue to do great things for kids…unless their greed gets the better of them, which is looking likely here and there.  It’s hard to say…

So, the ones I’d recommend besides Chungdahm Learning are: Avalon, Yes English, AND Polyschool, if you’re interested in the private sector.  There are others, but these stand out as the biggest chains.  They have their disadvantages and advantages.   Again, if you want to know more, please just comment below.

For the public positions, there’s basically the main one “EPIK” which is the public school system’s efforts to have a foreign teacher at every school.  I don’t like the public school positions yet because it’s a larger gamble that the private industry in terms of if you find a school that’s dealt with foreigners before or not.  The communication hurdles are massive at times.  There’s great experiences and the time off (vacation) and other benefits can really outweigh other private institutes, but the pay after even 3 years sometimes matches that of a starting CDI instructor as well.

It’s not the economy that has hit the schools (students were still enrolling by the droves before recently), but it was the swine flu that hit the industry financially. The industry will bounce back though. Also, there’s a move by the GNP party (basically the Republican party in Korea) to reduce private education costs. It won’t work. Koreans are addicted to anything that helps them become more competitive. The pay though is still around the same…not more, not less.  If you want to make more, you need to come here, learn the system and then take advantage of it (that is, if you’re savvy enough to figure it out – which isn’t rocket science though).

I could ramble on more about this business since it’s something I worked in for a while, but right now, I have to get back to my radio show which I’m focusing on and building my own business which will eventually show all of these businesses and public organizations how to really teach their kids for the future.  Honestly, the private industry is full of greedy business people running each of the academies (and HEAVILY lacking on the education focus; at least they seem to only use it as a means to an end) and the public school has a lot of scared old men who are daily doing what they can in order to “save their jobs” or protect their secure old style leather chair.  The private education industry not only in Korea, but throughout the world needs HUGE revamping (so does the public system as well!).



Filed under Advice, Busan stuff, Business, Business practices, Entrepreneurial life, Entrepreneurship, ESL, Expat, Impressive, Inspirational, Jobs, Korea life, Kyopo - Korean American, Kyopo life, Rants, Theories by Brandon, Unfortunate, Work

11 responses to “Hagwon Advice…

  1. Bill

    What is CDI’s vacation policy specifically?

    • teacher who left

      And another thing, the whole CDI pays more than other hakwons is a blatant lie. CDI pays more in hardcash, and that is the main branch which pays hourly. In comparison to other hakwons, of many that pays you only 2/3 what CDI pays BUT gives you free housing and other benefits, comparatively you end up saving more hardcash each month with them. Rent + util can run anywhere from 600-1000$ or more.

  2. teacher who left

    CDI is alright, except the Junggye branch, which is reputed as the joke of CDI. HIs are morons, FM is a pussie, and the whole place is just corrupted. There’s a reason CDI almost closed down that branch a few years ago.

  3. teacher who left

    CDI is alright, except for the Junggye branch which is reputed as the joke of CDI. The HIs there are morons and the FM is a wuss. The Korean staff at that place is just anal and takes it out on the teachers. There’s a reason why CDI almost closed this branch a few years ago. The teachers there arent teachers, they’re expected to be clowns to entertain the kids.

    There’s a misconception about CDI payment also. CDI is known to have the highest pay in hardcash, and that is only the hourly pay. However, this contract nulls not only vacation but any other kinds of benefits. Other hakwons, of many will provide free housing and utility and offers about only 2/3 hardcash as CDI. But the reality is living in Korea (housing and util) can run anywhere from 600-1500$$. So one migh actually save more in their bank each month with the free housing.

  4. teacher who left

    sorry i comment as i read and sorry about the double comment above, my web-browswer sucks.

    yes, EPIK. i was offered $2300 monthly with free housing in the gangnam area. Gangnam rent runs above $1000, give and take 200 more for util… monthly salary average of $3500. back at CDI, working at an average of 24 hrs (this branch sucks, can never get enough students to offer more hours) Made approx $3000-3300 monthly. So I was definately making more at EPIK and it came with benefits such as health and stuff and 3 weeks paid vacation a year.

  5. shit

    I was placed at Junggye branch. What should I do to survive?

  6. CDI is satan's asshole

    CDI is a business, not a school. They’re aiming for test prep instead of maximizing students English abilities. English should be fun for the kids. It’s all about magic numbers with CDI. Numbers make Korean parents happy. They feed you all these wonderful numbers from the get go, but in reality the pay isn’t worth the job. The devil is in the fine details of a CDI contract.

    • William Nairatre

      As a head teacher at an elite hogwan with 12 years of experience in Korea, I’ve interviewed thousands of students for level placement – including hundreds with one to six years of study at CDI. Based on what the students actually have learned at CDI, I’d rate their learning system as abysmal.
      At my institute the students progress in months to a level that takes years at CDI. No CDI student has placed beyond the beginner level based on learning at CDI – only if they had lived in another country could they join our high level students.

      • therealsouthkorea

        Thanks for your reply William. Do you mind sharing the name of your institute?

        As you can read above, I can’t say CDI or as it’s called now “Chungdahm Learning” is perfect, but I’ve definitely seen some impressive results with kids I’ve taught or ones I’ve seen other teachers help over the years. For example, I saw a recent class of kids who were at the bottom of the levels at CDI a year or two before and now are at the highest levels with some of the best English abilities I would say a kid could have given their age.

        Nevertheless, there are exceptions.

        CDI still pays some of the best wages outside of boutique schools. But the latter also require more work of the instructors.

        Again, I can’t defend everything at the company, but there’s a reason why many still work there. However, you’ll have to ask them why they do.

  7. damn

    Ok. Any more insight on the Junggye branch?

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