I’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.
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!).