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Teacher shortage hits Korea

The number of native speakers heading to Korea to teach English has plummeted to one-third of its pre-pandemic levels, according to Korea JoongAng Daily.

In 2019, statistics show 29,115 foreign citizens arrived in the country with E2 visas, the long-term work visa for foreign language teachers. In 2022, that had dropped to 10,515, although that represents nearly double the number who arrived in 2020.

Most foreign teachers work in the country’s network of 100,000 cram schools, known as hogwan, whose after school classes in English and other academic subjects are attended by an estimated 95% of all Korean students.

Hogwan did particularly well during Covid. They were allowed to remain open even when all state schools were forced to close, but they are now struggling to recruit the mostly North American teachers who traditionally arrive in the country every year.

The government-backed programme which places native speaker teachers in mainstream state schools across the country has also been hit, with numbers dropping 30%, leaving 10% of positions unfilled in 2022, according to the National Institute for International Education (NIIED)

The NIIED, which blames low levels of graduate unemployment in the US for the teacher shortfall, is particularly rigid when it comes to insisting on native speaker status for all teachers. In one case reported to the Gazette, a British citizen with a degree from a British university and two British parents was turned down on the grounds he had attended high school in Spain.

By contrast, Vietnam, which recently began issuing work visas to qualified non-native speaker English teachers with C1 language skills has seen a flood of new teachers streaming in to fill positions at the burgeoning number of cheaper language schools opening across the country. Native speakers who have been resident in the country for years complain that wage rates are dropping rapidly to levels as low as they were in 2006. Many native speakers are reported to be heading for Cambodia and Laos, where a lower cost of living makes life easier. 

Image courtesy of Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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