Monday, February 28, 2011

Formation of English Edutainers Group in Korea Causes Controversy

For years Koreans have struggled to master the English language, but despite the growth of private education into a multi-billion dollar industry in Korea, success with the language continues to elude most Koreans, despite the millions of won each individual often spends on private English or 'hagwon' classes every year.

Some educational researchers in Korea have suggested that there are two inherent problems in the Korean private English education market, which together prevent students from learning. The first is the business nature of the hagwon market, which incentivizes company owners to provide an ineffective service guaranteeing the return of students who would otherwise learn and move on to other studies. The second involves the foreign teachers themselves, who – given the need of the business owners to provide a poor service – are carefully selected from the ranks of academic underachievers as the least likely people to provide a genuine learning environment.

In a major twenty-part series last year, The Korea Times opened up a discussion under the tagline "Teaching English in Korea – the last refuge of the rascal", which eventually concluded "Unfortunately many native-English teachers who come here because they can't otherwise figure out what to do with their failing lives, under the illusion that they will be doing something constructive while in Korea, which is precisely what their employers don't want them to do."

But the growth of the Internet and sharing of information within the foreign teaching community has led some to a revelation. As one teacher wrote recently on a message board discussing the subject "ive been hear forever and I couldnt teach to svae my life we arent teachas we are edutainers", referring to the notion that far from actually teaching, most foreigners here are actually being employed to be 'educational entertainers' or 'edutainers'.

Now the newly formed Association of English Edutainers in Korea - AEEK - is hoping to take members away from the older established teaching unions, such as the Association in Korea for English Teachers (AKET) and the socialist group CRETIN - the Collectivized Response for English Teachers in Need – who AEEK founders say are giving English teaching a bad reputation with their constant whining about quality standards.

Unlike a tradition association or union, the Executive Committee of AEEK is not chosen through a normal democratic vote, but rather on the basis of who is making the most money. Members are encouraged to add fake qualifications such as TESOLs to their resumes, since 'nobody ever really checks'.

Other teachers, who waste their time preparing lesson plans aimed at motivating their students, and who in rare cases actually earned real teaching qualifications before coming to Korea, are appalled by AEEK's behavior, but the newly appointed AEEK President, Thomas Skelton, has no time for them - "were hear to make money", he wrote on the group's website "any one who spends there time worrying about the wellfair of the studnts they are edutaining is clearly a sotialist. i got my degree and may be im one of the most qualfied teachas hear." In a press statement AKET condemned the formation of the Edutainers Association "This is a sad day for English langauge education we are trying to make some profesionalism in our rolls".

Attempting to professionalize their edutainment industry, AEEK members will soon wear multi-colored uniforms in the classroom while carrying a mini-edutainer stick with a small head at one end containing a bell. The new president hopes this will clearly differentiate themselves from the socialist teachers, and the stick "really helps when a student asks a difficult question" he says.

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