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Teaching ESL/EFL in Korea’s Public Schools

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Teaching ESL/EFL in Korea’s Public Schools

Teaching ESL/EFL in Korea’s Public Schools
Admin - Sep 29 2015

If you are on the lookout for a fulfilling English teaching job in Asia, South Korea’s public and private schools represent some of the region’s best career destinations.

Let’s do the Math to explain why. South Korea is a nation of nearly 50 million people, with an economy that has posted incredible growth and global integration over the past four decades. In 2004, the country joined the world’s trillion dollar club, rubbing elbows with economic powerhouses like Germany, Japan, China and the United States.  The nation currently ranks as the world’s 12th biggest economy, providing a solid backdrop to South Korea’s equally growing global influence in the realm of popular culture and technology.  Think Samsung, Hyundai, and K-Pop and you’ll see how much this northeast Asian country offers.

For ESL and TEFL practitioners, South Korea also offers a career haven, with English designated with Korean as an official language. English is widely taught in junior and high school, partly by thousands of resident language teachers from native English-speaking nations. Both the public and private school sectors currently have a strong demand for English educators, and both present unique benefits and drawbacks for people intending to teach in the country.

Public School Perks

According to the global teacher recruitment agency, Teach Away, the public school sector in South Korea offers a good working environment for foreign language teachers as well as opportunities to experience genuine Korean culture. Teachers serving in the country’s public schools directly work for the Korean Ministry of Education and are primarily hired either to teach English to the local population or to provide technical training to other teachers.

Because public schools adopt a highly structured teaching schedule, foreign ESL and EFL educators get to enjoy substantial free time on weekends and evenings. This allows for prolonged and highly satisfying forays into the country’s natural, cultural and culinary offerings. This teaching arrangement is best for foreign language educators who are interested in ramping up their international portfolio as well as those eager to discover a new and exotic culture.

In 1995, the government established EPIK, its flagship program for English language learning, with the goal of improving the English-speaking abilities of South Korea’s students and teachers. The program’s secondary goal is to promote cultural exchanges. Every year, the program recruits more than 1,000 people to fill ESL teaching jobs in the country.

EPIK teachers get to enjoy quite a number of perks:

  • a chance to work in any of South Korea’s scenic provinces
  • tiered salary scheme depending on educational/professional level and teaching location.  Entry-level teachers — those with bachelor’s degree in any discipline — could get between 1.8 M won (or about US$1,615) to as much as 2.1 M won (or about US$1,884). Meanwhile, practitioners with master’s degrees, relevant certifications, and local tenure may nab a monthly salary of 2.7 M won, or about US$2,422 or more.
  • full one-year contract
  • free single housing (utilities not included)
  • one-way ticket to South Korea
  • paid training
  • airport-to-location transport service
  • settlement allowance
  • paid 18-day vacation leave plus paid national holidays (about 13 to 15 days)

Foreign ESL and EFL teachers intending to enter South Korea through the EPIK program can work in any of the country’s provinces. However, if you prefer a particular province over another, it is best to submit your application and state your preferred teaching location as soon as you can because teaching assignments are granted on a first come-first served basis. For South Korea’s public schools, the two main hiring seasons are in February/March and August/September. Once your host province have been determined, the relevant Provincial Office of Education (POE) will then decide which specific primary or secondary school you will be assigned to.


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