Saturday, April 07, 2007

Korean Trends: Education vs Experience

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In my seven years of teaching ESL in Korea, my base salary has changed very little. I have even encountered an occasion when an inexperienced teacher has received better accommodations and a higher salary from a school in which I worked. I have also observed numerous times, through colleagues and independent research, teachers with doctorates and masters degrees being hired for different positions in different institutes and yet receiving the same salary as myself. With this question in mind I have attempted to discover what discrimination exists towards experience and/or education in the hiring of foreign English teachers in Korea.

In the following experiment, I have chosen to compare teachers with varying educational backgrounds to teachers who share the same education but who possess more experience. I have chosen a sample of individuals with the same nationality, age range, and sex . I did not provide these teachers with pictures to limit discrimination from race and appearance. I have placed the resumes on websites that do not provide space for pictures. The teachers’ educational backgrounds are as follows: B.Sc Biology, B.A. English Literature, B. EDU, M.A. TESOL, and PhD. English EDU. These educational backgrounds were placed for two people; one with no teaching experience and the other with 5 years teaching experience. Three people were placed with a B.A. in English Literature: the last one was given 10 years experience. These people were posted on several major Korean job boards for one week. The number of email contacts were gathered and compared.

The results are as follows (Please click an image to enlarge)

As you can see from the results, the order of most desired non-experienced teacher to least desired non-experienced teacher is: Bachelor of Education - Bachelor of Arts [English Literature] - Masters in TESOL - Bachelor of Science - Doctorate in English Lit. (The last two are the same). The teachers with 5 years experience follow almost the same order of importance as the non-experienced teachers with the exception of Bachelor of Science and Doctorate in English Lit. In this instance the Doctor applicant is the second least popular and the Bachelor of Science applicant is the least favorite. When comparing the experienced with non-experienced teachers (See Chart Two: Experience Comparison), the non-experienced teachers are always more favored. The teacher with 10 years experience was the least popular out of all the candidates.

In the final chart (Chart Three: Email Response Breakdown) there is only an 18.1% difference between the various educational backgrounds of the non-experienced teachers and the response from recruiters. The number increases to a 21.6% difference with the contact of individual schools, lending one to believe schools are more particular about their educational background when they hire non-experienced teachers. With five years experience, there is only an 8.6 difference between the responses from recruiters and the different degrees of the teachers. However, there is a significant 15.6% drop in recruiter responses from the most desired non-experienced teacher (BSc. Biology) and the most desired experienced teacher (BEd.). Recruiters seem less enticed to respond to teachers with experience. There is only a 6.5% difference between recruiter and individual school responses for experienced teachers with different educational backgrounds. But again the contacts from individual schools drop by a larger 8.2% from the most desired non-experienced teacher (B.A. English Lit.) to the most desired experienced teacher (PhD. English EDu).

When comparing recruiter and individual contacts, the teachers with the least experience receive the most contacts. The more education, training and experience a teacher possessed, the more responses from ‘other’ contacts were received. “Other” being contacts from countries other than Korea and private sector jobs unrelated to public and private educational institutions. The teacher with ten years experience and a B.A. in English Lit was least popular amongst recruiters, average for individual contacts and average for responses from “other” companies. There seemed to be no advantage for having any experience over five years.

In a separate experiment, two American teachers were posted with Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. Both teachers had 2 years teaching experience in Korea and both were the same in age, sex and motivation to teach. The one difference was one teacher possessed a TESOL certificate. The difference in email responses was quite small, with only a 3.5% advantage for the teacher with the TESOL certificate.

In summary, education is important when obtaining a job in Korea. Related education greatly increases your job potential, Bachelors of Education, etc. However, graduate degrees and either classroom or on-the-job-training actually reduces your opportunities in Korea for securing a good job with a high salary. Your qualifications may help you get a job at a university, or editing, but you may not find those jobs on the Internet job boards. It is better to apply for those jobs individually by searching on the Internet for the company itself or by networking. It might be better not to focus on your experience when applying for work in Korea. At the end of the day, it is more important to have a good education than to have experience. And all you really need to land a decent teaching position in Korea is a Bachelor of Arts degree. When searching for teaching jobs in Korea and you read ‘experience is an asset’ or ‘experienced teachers are desired’ be careful how you respond.

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