Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2011 GEPIK Rumors

My open class was today and it went pretty smoothly. Really, what can I say if the people who attended showed up late and left early?

As an English teacher working for GEPIK these are just some of the unexepected turns this job can take. In fact, usually we don't know what is going on underneath the surface at our own school. On a broader scale being brought up to speed on changes within the curriculum and such are also kinds of information that somehow doesn't make it to us. If you have taught and worked in Korea for a while you will know that being told about changes usually come at the last minute.

However, I feel that instead of waiting for the information to come to me I will just dig it out of my peers and coteachers.

Recently I posted a topic on the GEPIK teacher's Facebook group probing its members to respond to my inquiry about upcoming changes. I also posted this same topic on a forum-based website for teachers in Korea.

The Rumors:
I would like folks to please post any rumors they have heard from coteachers or other Native Teachers about changes for 2011.

What I have heard:
- Grades 3 - 6 will get new books.
- Schools will choose the material / therefore not everyone will use the same book / meaning we may not be able to easily share materials
- Grades 5 & 6 will increase to 3 times a week

What have you heard???
The responses I received were very interesting and ranged from the serious to lazy. Things have calmed down now and not many people are posting so I thought it would be a good time to anonymously share their responses.

Most people seemed to know about the book changes and were familiar with that, however there were a few that didn't know our schools will end up choosing the book. In fact, I heard from my coteacher that the local government will pick 4 textbooks and then schools can take their choice from these 4.
3 & 4 are getting new books again next year. They are seen 3 times a week, as well. It is supposed to be twice by the native teacher and once by the Korean teacher alone. 5 & 6 will change text books the following year. I am pretty sure they will still be seen 3 times a week like they are now. I am aware that some schools do not have enough native speakers to cover the 2 classes per week, but based on the cirriculums, that is what they are supposed to be having. That being said, schools will adjust accordingly. For example, 5th grade in my school does not see the native teacher, but 4 and 6 see us twice a week. 3rd sees us once and the Korean teacher alone 2x.

Not sure if that is helpful or not.
Increasing the classes means increasing the teaching hours of Native Teachers. However most of us are at our max and already doing overtime with after school classes. Keep in mind that we can only go to a limit of 28 teaching hours per week. Typically, 20 - 22 of those are with the normal classes. 

Getting rid of Native Teachers???
how about the fact that the GPOE ditched the 'intern teachers' even when schools wanted to keep them, in favour of bringing more crappy teachers here... I work my butt off to keep my job and the GPOE would rather have someone who is less competent and pay them more... and that in 2012 the GPOE is gonna start getting rid of native speakers bc they think that they have enough Korean teachers who speak English well enough to teach conversation.

there are more important things than changing textbooks that we should be looking at.
This writer brings up a curious point that many teachers don't know about. Personally, I don't know what to believe or make of this. I agree, though, that there probably are more important things to worry about than our books changing. Certainly, if you think about it, we can't expect the Korean government to permanently continue to import Native Teachers. One person replied to this by saying:
Here's a fun one for you... by 2012, the Korean government is planning to replace all English teachers with Korean English teachers who can TEE (Teach English in English). I've seen official documents, I've been to a lecture about it; but luckily it is not just GEPIK, but EPIK and all other English Teachers in Korea. Good Luck Guys. Keep on top of it!
Personally, I have to think whether it will affect me or not. By 2012 what will I be doing?

More responses:
... no they are not. I think you've gotten something wrong in translation. I'm pretty sure it would be impossible for them to do that with any good effects. they are STARTING to do this. my coteach went to some meeting and her english is excellent, this is what she said. I'm also fairly certain that its ONLY gyeonggi as 1)GPOE is a bit crazy and 2) EPIK is still supporting TALK... also to note the Gyeonggi Education minister was re-elected, NOT the one who made all the changed last year, bc this guy was brought in part way thru the year AFTER the annoying changes had already been made...
the Teaching English in English thing is absolutely true as I know of co-teachers busy with the training at the moment. I do not see this working as the material itself is full of mistakes, but this seems to be what they are aiming for. I do not see them however firing all the native speakers at once, I think it will be a systematic replacement if that at all, because I fail to see even some of the most competent co-teachers teaching on their own. They have too much of a struggle with pronunciation first off and secondly grammatical structure is a nightmare to them. So, the education department will either realize this halfway throught their "replacement project" and keep us around OR they won't and in another 10 years start bringing native speakers back in again. I won't worry too much about it, cause if all else fail and you are really deadset on being an ESL teacher, there are always the hagwons, I doubt those are going away anytime soon ;)
I think you run the risk of wasting a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what is happening and obsessing about things you have no control over if you constantly try to keep up with what is happening internally at the education department. Also considering that each new minister changes things to his liking...

Bottomline: we are at the BOTTOM OF THE BOTTOM of the food chain here and we have no say. I have been with GEPIK for the last 4 years and if there is one thing I have learned it is not to worry about "what might happen".
Certain Native Teachers don't deserve to be here?
One individual made a complaint about how they see that some people don't deserve the job...take a look..
This brings about another topic...It may or may not be realated: I've met many foreign "teachers" who do not deserve to be teaching. The system needs to do better background checks and proper interviews and not choose teachers who "look" qualified. I have a friend who is leaving her middle school position at Byuk-jae middle school and when given two resumes (one a Vietnamese woman an impeccable resume and excited sounding cover leter and a Gyopo male with NO experience and dull sounding cover letter) to look over guess who the school chose?
 People responded like this:

As for people who are in jobs they don't deserve, ... I agree with Ji, I have lost count of the amount of people I have met who just not belong here.

The ONLY thing so many foreigners are here to do is drink as much soju as they can, go to work hung over as often as they can, in other words extend the life of being a student with just one more year. They take as little pride and show as little interest as is humanly possible in the job they are here to do. And this is one of the main reasons why foreigners have the reputation they do with Koreans/parents in general, because we have created it for ourselves and unfortunately the system is doing nothing to correct this.(nor is the behavior of some might I add)
I have to say I can agree with this writer here. One of the best places to experience this closely is the Orientation. There were people in the group who seemed to just snooze through everything so that they can get out and drink later. Certainly the aspect of teaching in Korea as a post-college party is a topic worthy of debate. Partying is cool and all, but let's not forget about the image we portray to our colleagues and neighbors. 

Back to the Books...is the change a sign of things to come?
One writer from the forum website wrote this insightful comment:

At an EPIK workshop last year, I heard that there would be several "approved" textbook programs, and the schools did indeed get to "choose" from the approved vendors.  The kickbacks and profits of the textbook publishers, and their relationship to the education ministry and the ruling party, as well as the local school districts, must be a factor in this.

As offensive, inappropriately suggestive, and just plain wrong the current textbook series is, from the Korean pedagogues point of view, it serves the function of keeping children away from English language based culture that has not been mediated by Korean translation.  Additionally, the tests designed around it have proven to be significantly obscure, allowing the testing to serve the historic gatekeeper function: That is, a test which helps to winnow a serviceable elite, not a test of actual ability or knowledge.  Notice how the tests measure the ability to relate certain Korean concepts to other Korean concepts in the "correct" way, with the English language keys thrown in as a tertiary check on "correctness".

The elementary part of the old curriculum was anarchic enough that rational approaches to grammar could be used effectively within its framework.  And for Korean teachers unfamiliar with, and quite possibly resentful towards, English, the old curriculum allowed the schools to spend a little more time honing the basics of Korean with their most recalcitrant charges, under the guise of studying English.  At the more advanced levels, the method of having to explain everything in Korean, the memorization of equivalents ad infinitum, and other methodologies, helped to prepare the students to invest further in the Hagwan and tutor industries, perhaps developing them into lifelong consumers of this commodity inappropriately labeled as English.  It's the Korean economy, . . . . .

Joybot0's suggestion that we pool our resources in digesting these changes is well received.  We'll be in a better position to exploit the upsides in what will hopefully be a mixed bag.  There may even be some evidence that the old Korean paradigm of focusing myopically on East Asian reference points is starting to shift.
 One of the regenerating topics that came up at Orientation was the influence of Native Teachers on not only the children but how they are receiving their education...

Leads me to my own topic:
What impact do Native Teachers have on Public School teaching methods?

It was told to me during Orientation that our presence in the classroom is a modern experience for the students. This is because we teach them using references from how we were taught back in our home country. Typically this contrasts greatly with how Korean children are taught in school. Just for example, it is typical for Korean teachers to stand in the front of class and direct the class with dictation and speech. Children listen and repeat. From what I know there is little Q & A going on. Basically what you need to do is imagine that a classroom in Korea is taught differently from that in the west.
I personally feel that I am not on a mission here to change the Korean classroom and oppress them with my ethnocentric ideas of how children should learn. However, I do believe that as we teach the classes in our natural non-Korean ways that things could rub off elsewhere. Even if English time is the only time they experience a different way of learning they are still having a different experience.

Some of the examples people at the Orientation talked about were that when we teach English we usually walk around the classroom. We look over the students shoulder and check their work. Or we ask them for their opinion and thoughts. I was told that nowadays the Korean coteachers are participating and going around the classroom getting personal with the students.

My conclusion is that Korean public schools will never really look and feel like they do in the west. Instead they will modernize and advance in their own way depending on the will of the Korean teachers and the materials they have at their disposal. So if the materials change, not just for English, then perhaps methods of teaching will reshape as well. I bet I could find someone who taught here a long time to tell me how much things have changed.

There you have it people a long and clustered post about rumors for changes within the GEPIK public school system. Remember this was focused on Elementary school teaching and I have no clue what could be happening with Middle or High.

In the end, I would really like to know more about this replacement program they have brewing and whether it will be a threat or not. Till then I am just going to whistle my way through summer and look forward to my vacation.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a member of that Facebook group so I can't post anything there, and am not sure I want to monitor that long conversation anyway. Just a couple points:

    * The "intern" teachers were to be Koreans who were supposedly skilled at English communication. They weren't necessarily there to replace NSETs, but to fill in at schools that didn't have proper English teachers. For example, I've taught at schools where the English teachers were science teachers or gym teachers filling in.

    * There is no evidence that they'll get rid of NSETs by 2012 b/c of the TEE thing, though I've speculated on my own blog with evidence that the experiment will likely end soon. TEE means teach all English classes in English---reading, grammar, listening---and shouldn't have any influence on the "speaking" classes NSETs currently teach.

    * There are a lot of party animals, and I do agree it's inappropriate for orientation. But it's wrong for Ji-young to go on there complaining about how some "foreign" teachers are "unqualified" when (1) they're perfectly qualified according to the government, and (2) "qualifications" don't matter much in the EFL business.


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