Remember that devil-child I was forced to teach???! Well, he QUIT today. I've never been so ecstatic. I had to stop myself from doing cartwheels all over the office. I don't think it had anything to do with me personally. I think his crazy parents didn't think his English was improving fast enough. Korean teachers really get all the blame for that stuff. I'm teaching English and I'm the only foreign teacher at my school, but there are two other Korean teachers who also teach English. And mind you, only one of them is actually fluent. Weird right?? How in the world can you teach English when you don't even speak it well?! That's like me trying to teach Swahili. Ain't happenin! So anyway, yes, the little bastard is off my hands. :) Now I officially love all my classes and my students. I'll have to take pictures of them one day. I'm really getting attached to them. If any of my other students leave, I'm going to be pretty bummed. But thank God for God....He/She really answered my prayers on that one....
So, alright, let me break down how English works in Korea. About 15 or 20 years ago, Asia got really into English. English is the "lingua franca" of the moment, meaning it's used internationally for business. If you wanna do business in today's society, learning English is a top priority. The lingua franca is determined by which countries hold the most power I guess. So, not surprisingly, the US and England are big players internationally. Centuries ago, it was Latin so guess what everyone was learning?? That's right...Latin. If Chinese becomes the lingua franca, well....just get ready, that's all I'm saying. Anyway, Japan, China, and Korea pour billions of dollars into making sure their little ones are properly educated in the English language. I actually believe Korea was first on the bandwagon, but they didn't have backing from the government until recently. Then China and Japan. Other Asian countries are into it too now, like Thailand and Vietnam. I even got an offer from Dubai to teach English! And Argentina called me briefly, too. See how this works?
For South Korea, English is now a requirement in the public school system. The most lucrative teaching positions are through the public schools. The hours are more flexible and the vacation time is much longer, but you can have huge classes with 50+ students (especially in Seoul). This necessity to learn English also means a lot of privatization. Crazy parents pay BIG money to enroll their little kiddies in private language academies (where I work). I'm talking $100 a month or more per child. In certain affluent areas of Seoul like Apgujeong and Gangnam, it can be over $200 per kid per month. That might not seem like a lot and maybe it's not initially, but let's do some simple math. If you have 2 kids, you're shelling out $200/kid per month. $400 a month x 12 months = $4,800/year. Some of these English schools start in pre-school. YES, pre-school!! So multiply that by 12 years....yeah, you're taking English classes until high school. $4,800 x 12 = $57,600 worth of English school. Luckily in South Korea, college costs aren't skyhigh like back home. Even the top universities are quite affordable.
English schools are big business here and parents are the drivers. Kids go to public school from 8-3, they get a short break, then they go to a hagwon (private academy) from 4-930ish. Then they go home and study some more. But not surprisingly, most students' English does not improve significantly. Why?? Because there's no immersion component. If you're with me twice a week for 45 minutes and that's it, how are you supposed to become fluent?! You won't! But parents expect perfection and they make that very clear. I had one girl's father call and complain that my test was too hard for his daughter. She got the highest score!!! Ironically, his daughter happens to be the brightest student in her class, but because she didn't get a perfect score on the test, he's all crazy about it. It's obvious that some parents do not place value in their child learning the actual language. They really only care if they test well. Even some of my most advanced students can't speak in complete sentences. They just spit out phrases. They cannot communicate effectively. I ask a question and they pull random phrases from their mental Rolodexes and hope it makes sense. Often, It doesn't.
A lot of people are misled into thinking that Asians in general are super smart, especially in Math and Science. I would disagree that Asians are any smarter than anyone else in those areas. What you're seeing a lot of times is the ability to memorize large amounts of information. This is the byproduct of a society obsessed with perfection. Most schools in Asia focus on something called rote memorization. Many students can regurgitate information, but they have difficulty applying and analyzing it. Now, granted, US school systems definitely need help. We are falling behind in certain areas like Math & Science because of a lack of investment, but don't be so quick to assume that China, Japan, and Korea are producing all these geniuses. They are not. They are producing generations of young people who test extremely well and who can memorize numbers. Below I've linked an article about South Korea's skyrocketing suicide rates. It's pretty real.
On a happier note, I'm headed to Seoul in the morning to get a trim. Steve's good friend is a hairstylist so he's gonna help me out. And his friend apparently speaks English. Pray for me!!! Goodnight! <3 J