The Language Policy Issues in Seoul Hiring Native Speaker by tob11086


									KyungHee Choi
Dr. Higgins
SLS 660
October 14, 2007
Paper #1

       The Language Policy Issues in Seoul: Hiring Native Speaker English Teachers

      In recent years great attention has been focused on the question of hiring native English-

speaking teachers in a number of Asian countries. The Foreign Expert (FE) scheme in China, the

Native English Teacher (NET) scheme in Hong Kong, and the Japan Exchange and Teaching

(JET) scheme in Japan (Jeon, & Lee, 2006) are good examples. Korea is not an exception, since

the Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) approach was introduced in the Sixth National

Curriculum for English in 1995 (Kwon, 2000; Nunan, 2003), and its use continued in the

Seventh revision of the National Curriculum for English (Guilloteaux, 2004). Affiliated to the

Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, the English Program in Korea

(EPIK) was formally established in 1995; with the purpose of fostering students‟ English

speaking proficiency, training teachers‟ English communication ability, enhancing cultural

awareness, developing English textbooks and materials, and improving English teaching

methodologies (Ahn, Park, & Ono, 1998). To meet their schools‟ increasing demand for placing

native English-speaking teachers, each metropolitan or provincial office of education has started

to take charge of their recruitment since 2004. One of those localized schemes, the Native

Speaker English Teacher (NSET) scheme, operated by Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education

(SMOE), is being considered in this paper, since it is a context that I am familiar with through

my own teaching experiences. The goal of this paper is to better understand the current policy on

hiring NSETs in Seoul, and to reflect upon the language ideologies. The following research

questions are addressed:

1. What are the different perspectives of KETs, NSETs and students?
                                                           The Language Policy Issues in Seoul         2

2. Does the current policy work? Which aspects are successful?

3. What problems exist in the current policy? What can be improved?

4. What is the influence of English as a Lingua Franca on English Language Teaching? What

implications does ELF have for the native speaker concept as a norm for ELT?

CONTEXT: Learning and Teaching English

      In Korea there has been growing interest in English education among students, teachers,

parents, publishers, policy makers, government officials and others. It is not surprising to see a

variety of advertisements related to learning English on the street or in the subway. Jeong (2004)

mentioned how much pressure to learn English exists in Korea, and described the whole country

as in the grip of “English fever.” It is easy to find English-related articles in the newspaper such

as, “the so called “English divide” is growing now that position, promotion and income may all

depend on facility in the language…(The Chosun Ilbo, July 18, 2007)”

      Along with this social demand, the policy on hiring native English-speaking teachers in

schools is organized by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development.

According to the Hankook Gyoyook Newspaper (January 7, 2007), more than 1909 native

English-speaking teachers work in the education system including primary and secondary

schools as of April, 2006. The native English-speaking teachers came from diverse areas

including 737 from Canada, 684 from the United States, 140 from New Zealand, 133 from

Australia, 131 from Britain, 34 from Ireland, and 32 from South Africa. Currently, several

agencies exist for recruiting foreign personnel: the EPIK (10.7%), metropolitan or provincial

education offices (34.2%), local governments (15.2%), schools (34.0%), and the others (5.9%).

The primary method for recruiting is through their own websites.

      The NSET scheme was launched by the SMOE with a Four-Year-Plan for English
                                                          The Language Policy Issues in Seoul     3

Education in Seoul. The SMOE announced “one NSET per school” policy, placing NSETs in

every elementary and junior high school by 2009, aiming to improve both students‟ and teachers‟

communication skills. Previously, only wealthy schools which have a large amount of school

supporting fees hired native English-speaking teachers by themselves, so it caused problems

such as an educational gap between schools or districts, and the recruitment of unqualified

native-speaking English teachers. Also, the existing EPIK scheme does not much help to provide

qualified native English-speaking teachers in Seoul, in that only 14 native English-speaking

teachers are hired from EPIK program to go to Seoul so far (Seoul already benefits in many ways

educationally and economically, so the national scheme, EPIK, does not focus on Seoul to cover

the shortage of native English-speaking teachers in the rest of the country). In order to solve

those problems and meet schools‟ demand of placing native English-speaking teachers in Seoul,

SMOE took charge of recruitment from 2004 and gave priority to schools in Seoul where the

educational quality has not been good for placing native English-speaking teachers.

      NSETs conduct English classes in collaboration with Korean English teachers (KETs). A

co-teaching system plays a significant role in the NSET scheme, but co-teaching is a complex

issue. Time constraints, misconceptions in CLT with co-teaching, and KETs‟ English proficiency

are all factors that prevent them from working well in collaboration.

      In addition, in spite of the growing need for NSETs and the increasing number of NSETs,

their deficiency in qualifications has always been an issue. The NSETs‟ lack of teaching

experience and professionalism are often pointed out.


      The NSET scheme is a new policy on hiring native English-speaking teachers although it

is partially based on what EPIK has done. In contrast to the JET program I was not able to find

any pamphlet or advertisement on NSET program; however I found some information on the
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official website of English Teachers in Seoul (ETIS) for NSETs. In order to become NSETs,

applicants must meet the qualifications as follows (ETIS website, 2006):

      1. Hold a minimum of Bachelor‟s degree from an accredited university.

      2. Be a citizen from a country where the only official language is English. Canadian

      citizens from the Quebec Province where English is a co-official language must have been

      taught in English-language schools from junior high school forth to the university level.

      *Ethnic Korean applicants with foreign citizenships or legal residencies must have been

      taught in English-language schools from junior high school forth and have lived abroad for

      minimum of 10 years. (If you are a male citizen of the Republic of Korea under the age of

      35, you must have either completed mandatory military service or have received an

      official waiver.)

      3. Be fluent and proficient in the English language grammar and structure and be able to

      communicate fluently with clear and distinct pronunciation and manner.

      4. Be mentally and physically capable of performing the specified responsibilities and

      duties. Must also have the ability and willingness to adapt to Korean culture and living.

      5. Meet the criteria of eligibility for E2 (work) visa set forth by the Korean Immigration


      NSETs are employed on a renewable, one-year (52 weeks) contract basis, working 40

hours per week (however, actual class instruction hours are maximum 22 hours per week).

Remuneration is varied depending on NSETs‟ teaching experience and educational background.

There are eight levels of pay from the lowest of 1.8 million Korean won (1,970 US dollars) to the

highest of 2.7 million Korean won (2,952 US dollars) per month (23,640 ~ 35,424 US dollars

annually). There are additional benefits such as: accommodation, round trip airfare, tax

exemption, and a settlement allowance. Furthermore, their duties are carried out under the
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supervision of the administrator assigned by the SMOE. NSETs are responsible for (ETIS

website, 2006):

      1. conducting English classes in cooperation with KETs,

      2. preparing teaching materials and activities for English language education,

      3. assisting with the development of teaching materials related to English language


      4. assisting with activities related to English language education and other extracurricular

      activities such as judging English speech contest, voice recording for English listening

      comprehension tests, conducting English conversational classes in the English camp

      during the winter or summer vacation.

      According to the SMOE, 200 new NSETs are employed mostly from the USA, Canada,

England, New Zealand, and Australia. They are mainly in their twenties or thirties, and have

degrees in Education, hold teaching certifications, or hold English education-related certification

such as ESL, TESL, and TESOL. NSETs also attend an orientation which includes learning the

Korean language and Korean culture. Once a year they also need to attend the NSET workshop.


      To explore the research questions, I have referred to newspapers, websites, and

government documents. Since the NSET scheme is quite a new one, there is not so much

previous material to work with. In addition, a survey was sent to approximately 70 people as an

email attachment to NSETs, KETs and students. However, only two NSETs, two KETs and three

students completed it, and the response rate was only 11%. However, at this time there was one

of the biggest holidays in Korea, and after that, the students had a mid-term test period. Thus,

follow-up interviews based on qualitative section (open-ended questions) of the survey were

used to analyze the data. Based on their responses, it is possible to mention their satisfaction or
                                                         The Language Policy Issues in Seoul      6

dissatisfaction with teaching and learning in Korea. Despite the small number of participants,

there are distinct perspectives about the NSET program among KETs, NSETs and the students.


Assessment of the NSET scheme

      According to surveys (ETIS website, 2006) conducted by the SMOE in 2005, Korean

teachers, students and their parents were satisfied with the NSET program. The SOME said that

“through a co-teaching system, students have opportunities to speak with native speakers of

English and are able to decrease their fear of a foreign language. In addition, young students

motivate themselves studying English while working with various activities” on its website.

Based on the positive results of the NSET implementation, the SMOE plans to hire NSETs in

more elementary and junior high schools. However, it should carefully examine the question of

its success and more reliable surveys need to be done. Based on what I have examined,

experienced, and researched, I would like to discuss further what is working, what is not working,

and why.

Positive Aspects of The NSET Scheme

(a) Success in affective factors such as motivation and fear

      To a certain extent, the NSET program is working well. No one disagrees that having a

NSET in schools motivates students and gives them a positive influence about English. While

students are working with the NSET, they are motivated to learn English and their fear and

anxiety of using a foreign language like English or talking with foreigners. The NSETs, the KETs

and the students said that such as:

      “Definitely – some students are not interested in English and for those students, NSETs

      will make no difference. But for most students I believe they are more motivated to learn

      because of the NSET program. I think the scheme is definitely working but its impossible
                                                           The Language Policy Issues in Seoul         7

        to gauge in a tangible way. Go to any school and see how the students get excited by the

        NSETs, how they interact with them and the atmosphere they bring to the school. That‟s

        where the success lies – in the everyday running of the school.”(NSET, S.)

        “Students enjoy learning with an NSET more than a KET. It is exciting for them. The

        students are learning and they enjoy the company of the NSETs.”(NSET, F.)

        “Learning from a NSET could be good for motivating students.”(KET, J.)

        “I had no interest in English, but I have some interest now through the NSET. Also, I‟m

        not embarrassed to see other foreigners and I can approach them.”(Student, H.)

 (b) Effort of solution to “English Divide”

         As I mentioned earlier, there are problems such as an educational gap between schools or

districts, since only wealthy schools which have a large amount of budget recruit native English-

speaking teachers. Through the NSET scheme, the SMOE has been placed NSETs to schools in

poor districts with the priority order. As the table 1 (Seoul Education News, 2006) indicates, it

rarely provided NSETs to the school districts of Gangdong (GD) and Gangnam (GN) which are

considered as wealthy districts in Seoul. This gives a potential solution to the English Divide.

   Name of       Dong   Seo    Nam    Buk    Joong Gang Gang Gang Dong Seong Seong
    School        Bu     Bu    Bu     Bu      Bu    Dong   Seo    Nam    Jak    Dong   Buk     Total
    District     (DB)   (SB)   (NB)   (BB)   (JB)   (GD)   (GS)   (GN)   (DJ)   (SD)   (SB‟)
Elem-     2005     7     6      5      6      4      1      5      0      6      6      4      (50)
          2006    11     11    12     12      9      2     11      0      9      13     10     100

Junior    2005     6     6      5     10      3      2      2      0      6      3      7      (50)
School 2006       11     8     13     13      5      7     11      4     11      5      12     100

 Total (2006)     22     19    25     25      14     9     22      4     20      18     22     200

Table 1: The number of NSETs‟ placement to each school district as of September, 2006
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Most people would agree that the poor students do not have any opportunity to use English, or

even to see a native-speaking English teacher.

      Furthermore, the schools increase a variety of activities in English. NSETs assistance in

English-related activities enlarges English programs in public schools. According to the SMOE

(Seoul Education News, 2007), there has been English conversational classes held in English

camps during summer and winter, and NSETs are judging English speech contests. Moreover,

they assist with materials development like making voice recording for English listening

comprehension tests. The NSETs also participate with KETs in running the English-only zones in

schools which are similar to English villages that give students more opportunities to be involved

in English activities.

Problematic Aspects of The NSET Scheme

      Although the NSET program can be seen to have advantageous aspects and seems to be

working, there are some problems in terms of the goal of the program. The main goal of the

program is not to help students to be motivated or to overcome their fears of speaking English

with foreigners; but it is to improve students‟ English proficiency.

(a) The ratio of NSETs to schools: “One NSET per school”

     The NSETs said that such as, “Absolutely, the students that put effort into talking to NSETs

and are motivated to talk to NSET‟s definitely improve their speaking proficiency,” and “KETs

can teach the same content and use the same activities but the students are not forced to use

English and the NSET also has the advantage of a native accent.”

      KETs agreed that the NSET program led students to be motivated and excited, but the

program seemed not to be working very much when it comes to its effectiveness for students‟

progress in English speaking. They said it would be better than having nothing, however,

because of the ratio of NSETs to schools made this program useless.
                                                          The Language Policy Issues in Seoul       9

      On the students‟ part, they said they were having fun in classes with NSET, but they could

not understand and participate in classroom activities without KET. This implies how important

collaborative teaching is for the students and indicates their degree of proficiency. They do not

see themselves as improving their speaking proficiency although they happened to have less fear

and anxiety toward foreigners.

      “I do not think my speaking proficiency has increased.” (Student, M.)

       “I do not understand NSET, so I have to ask KET. I‟m afraid of English classes. Since I

      don‟t understand English much, if I have a class with NSET, I become so nervous and

      worried.” (Student, E.)

      “Others may be improved, but I did not participate well. So, my proficiency is still in the

      same level.”(Student, H.)

      As Nunan (2003) pointed out “to achieve consistent and measurable improvements in the

target language, learners need adequate exposure to it.” However, the students do not receive

enough input because there is only one NSET per school, although the program may provide

opportunities for learning English with the NSET. The students need to be more exposed to

English. If the program does not provide more interaction in English instead of providing one

hour a week for students, the NSET scheme is useless.

(b) Failure in co-teaching

      As I mentioned before, collaborative teaching is an important factor in the NSET scheme.

When students can not understand and participate in classroom activities, the KETs need to

provide adequate instructions to students. However, a lack of KETs‟ proficiency often caused a

poor co-teaching. There is a lack of interaction between NSETs and KETs which is caused by

KETs‟ lack of language proficiency, although there are other factors like time-constraints. One of

KETs said that, “There are different teaching styles, different cultural backgrounds and
                                                          The Language Policy Issues in Seoul 10

misunderstanding. To cope with those problems, by having conversation is of course hard.”

      In addition, one of main reasons that co-teaching is not working is because both NSETs

and KETs have misunderstandings about it. The NSETs and KETs said such as:

      “My co-teacher does nothing – I do all of the planning.”(NSET, F.)

      “Co-teaching is not that effective. Some Korean English teachers feel they are being

      assistants not co-teachers.” (KET, J.)

The case in which one teacher performs a lesson and the other stands or sits by and watches, or

one teacher decides what is to be taught or how it will be taught is not about co-teaching (Villa,

Thousand, & Nevin, 2004). Because of cultural differences, age differences among other reasons,

there exists the question of how NSETs and KETs will collaborate. Park Won-young, president of

Korea Secondary English Teachers‟ Association said, “Native English-speaking teachers are not

only for the benefit of students but also Korean teachers. But the reality is different when the

foreign teachers attend the classes, many Korean teachers stay out of class and take a rest.” (The

Hankook Ilbo, November 15, 2006)

(c) Low participation in Korean English teacher training

      Since many English-related activities increased in the schools, the SMOE and schools urge

the KETs to be trained to practice their communication abilities in English. However, one of the

KETs said that the English teachers training program did not function well. She mentioned it

seemed that senior teachers were reluctant to participate in the programs, because most trainees

of the courses were young Korean instructors (Age relationship in Korea is important, since we

have learned that the younger should give precedence to the elder). However, I see participation

in English teacher training as potentially improving, since the SMOE announced in September,

2006 that the NSETs will work to improve KETs‟ speaking proficiency, and there will be

obligatory courses every three years.
                                                           The Language Policy Issues in Seoul 11

      KETs‟ school-driven training is more difficult to implement compared to ministry-driven

training. When I was working at a junior high school, there was conversational practice in

English with a NSET. However, when it came to KETs‟ participation, it failed. Out of the ten

KET on staff, only one KET participated. These poor results are often related to their level of

English proficiency, but the reasons are difficult to quantify. However, to encourage KETs to join

in the conversational class, it would be a good idea to run one class for KETs and another class

for the other teachers.

(d) Imbalance between the policy and reality

      The KETs‟ communication skills and training is important, since the NSET program is

mainly focused on a CLT approach. Language is viewed as a means of communication, thus the

forms and meanings are just a part of communicative competence (Larsen-Freeman, 2000).

However, English classes still seem deeply committed to grammar and vocabulary, and not

speaking and listening. There is a huge gap between CLT and curriculum as well as CLT and

materials. KETs often complained about how hard it is to satisfy everything such as entrance

exams, grammar and reading oriented lessons and parents and principal‟s expectations.

Guilloteaux (2004) mentioned that, “most teachers approve of the theory behind CLT but many

of them are not enthusiastic about putting it into practice in their own classrooms because they

often feel that it is not applicable to their contexts.”

      In addition, English as a Lingua Franca(ELF) and English as an International Language

(ELI) with globalization influenced on the English language teaching, and its effect created a

policy on hiring native English-speaking teachers, but there is a huge gap between the realities of

the ELT context and administrative rhetoric. Seidlhofer (2005, cited in Jenkins, 2006) mentioned

that “much of the problem results from a mismatch the meta level, where WEs and ELF scholars

are asserting the need for pluricentrism, and „grassroots practice‟, where there is still
                                                           The Language Policy Issues in Seoul 12

„(unquestioning) submission to native-speaker norms‟.” The policy-makers of the NSET scheme

did not seem to aware of perspectives in applied linguistics regarding ELF and ELI, in that they

made some criteria such as “be a citizen from a country where the only official language is

English,” and “be fluent and proficient in the English language grammar and structure and be

able to communicate fluently with clear and distinct pronunciation and manner.”

      Moreover, the NSETs I surveyed seemed to have a strong sense of “ownership of English”

(Widdowson, 1994, cited in Jenkins, 2006) even though they were aware of teaching other

varieties of English into classrooms. One of NSETs said that, “as an Australian I haven‟t had any

problems. We have to accept that North American English is the recognized form of English

spoken and taught in Korea. The system should be flexible and open enough to consider other

types of English and other accents,” and then made a contradictory statement, “Inner-circle

countries only! English speakers from other countries are not „native‟ speakers!”


      This paper has attempted to sketch out the positive and problematic aspects of the NSET

scheme, and has pointed out possible suggestions to the negative aspects. Summing up all of the

preceding reasoning and returning to the question posed at the outset of the paper, it seems

appropriate to state that the NSET scheme does not seem to be working very well in the point of

achieving English speaking proficiency among Korean students, although it sounds like the

success lies in affective factors. However, it is too early to present a detailed assessment of the

success of the NSET scheme, for it started a several years ago. The present study is the first to

examine and research the NSET scheme except the policy-making agency, the SMOE. Also, the

present paper was limited in scope, thus further studies on different large scale assessments are

                                                         The Language Policy Issues in Seoul 13


Ahn, S., Park, M, & Ono, S. (1998). A comparative study of the EPIK program and the JET

      program. English Teaching 53(3), 241-267.

Chosun Ilbo. (Julu 18, 2007) 'English Divide' Grows Between People, Nations

ETIS Website (2006). English Teachers in Seoul.

Guilloteaux, M. (2004). Korean teachers‟ practical understanding of CLT. English Teaching 59(3),


Hankook Gyoyook Newspaper (January 7, 2007). Native English-speaking teachers to all

      elementary schools and junior high schools in Seoul원어민

Hankook Ilbo. (Novemeber 15, 2006) Teachers Sour Over English Training Plan


Jenkins, J. (2006). Current perspectives on teaching World Englishes and English as a Lingua

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Larsen-Freeman, D. (2000). Techniques and principles in language teaching. Oxford University

                                                         The Language Policy Issues in Seoul 14

Nunan, D. (2003). The impact of language as a global language on educational policies and

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Seoul Education News (September 4, 2006). The SMOE, NSETs‟ replacement to schools. 47.

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      camps. 63.

Villa, R., Thousand, J. & Nevin, A. (2004) A Guide to Co-Teaching: Practical Tips for

      Facilitating Student Learning. Florida International University.

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