Survey Results – Part 3B: Are Public School Teachers Happier At Work Than Hakwon Teachers?

Are Public School Teachers Happier At Work Than Hakwon Teachers?

This post is the third post in a series and should be read in conjunction with Survey Results – Part 3A: Who Gets More of the Good Stuff?.  Go to the first post for downloadables: Survey Results – Part 1: Dating.  The previous post was: Survey Results – Part 2: Lifestyle and Pets.

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Hunting and Gathering

With a lot of the questions in the survey the respondents could choose more than one question.  This was true of question 19: “19. Where do you currently find resources for your classes? (choose all that apply)”.  Answers they could choose included the internet, the teacher buying them, etc…  So the most interesting results was that when I added up how many answers were chosen per respondent the ratios for were 1.6 for hakwon teachers and 1.9 for public school teachers.  This means the average public school teacher is more likely to get their resources from different places than hakwon teachers which is no surprise given the previous two graphics.

A breakdown of how many hours hakwon and public school teachers spend looking for resources every day

Question 20: “How many hours per work day do you spend looking for teaching resources?”.  23% of hakwon teachers responded “None – don’t need to” whereas only 2.7% of public school teachers said the same.  That’s huge.  29.5% of hakwon teachers spend less than an hour unlike the 15% for public school teachers.  The totals for teachers spending two hours or more was 26% for hakwons and 60% for public school teachers.

I also worked out that the average hakwon teacher spends 1.2 hours a day looking for resources whereas public school teachers spend 2.3 hours a day.  The median response for hakwon teachers was “less than one hour” whereas it was 2 hours for public school teachers.


Question 21 had some interesting results but overall it wasn’t my proudest question on the survey and although there’s a lot of interesting data there the one that jumps out at first is that 71% of hakwon teachers rated their textbooks as their most used resources whereas only 46% of public teachers did.  But as we know from before, fewer public school teachers have textbooks so that would explain a lot of that discrepancy.  The second mot used resource for hakwon teachers were handouts (37%).  For public school teachers this numbers was 12%.

How often public school teachers and hakwon teachers assign homework

When it came to homework 40% of hakwon teachers always set homework whereas only 4% of public school teachers do.  In fact, 64% of public school teachers said they never set homework whereas only 23% of hakwon teachers said the same.  Those are some pretty significant gaps.  Which just goes to show that hakwon teachers are a bigger bunch of meanies than public school teachers.


The average rating satisfaction with work situation for hakwon teachers was 6.16 out of10, for public school teachers this number was 6.70.  So it’s significant without being a lot.  What I found interesting was that 5 public school teachers (4.4%) said their work situation was a 10 whereas there wasn’t a single hakwon teacher who claimed a 10.  How about 9/10?  That would be 17.7% of public school teachers versus 14.8% for hakwon teachers.

Workplace satisfaction amongst both hakwon and public school teachers in Korea.

So let’s get this straight, even though public school teachers have fewer resources, think their current resources are lower quality, search far longer for resources, have less teaching experience than the average hakwon teacher and are less likely to have an outline they’re far more likely to be happy with their work situation?  They’re also far more likely to re-sign with their current employer?  How does that work?

Well, as will become clear, job satisfaction and happiness in Korea depends less on what goes on in the classroom between teacher and student and more on what goes on at work outside of the classroom.  But we’ll get to that in a future post.


Hakwons clearly get more and better resources and their teachers spend less time searching for lesson materials.  Despite this the average public school teacher is happier at work than the average hakwon teacher.  As such it would seem that lesson resources and their quality are not the primary determinants of a teacher’s happiness.  As we’ll see in later posts, other factors are more important in predicting how a teacher is going to feel about their work situation.

Question of the day: What has the biggest effect on your workplace happiness?  Is it having good lesson resources or something else?

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  1. Katie - January 22, 2013, 10:47 am Report user

    Office politics play a huge role in my happiness; I can make any classroom work, with any amount or resources, or lack of resources, but nasty office politics will drive me away faster than ANYTHING else.

    • Christian Thurston - February 12, 2013, 7:15 pm

      Sorry for the late reply Katie, I know what you mean, people are the most important factor when it comes to workplace happiness I’d say.

  2. Joe - February 12, 2013, 12:45 pm Report user

    I think hagwon teachers give more homework because they’re required to. Parents complain if their kids aren’t overwhelmed with hagwon homework.

    • Christian Thurston - February 12, 2013, 7:18 pm

      Makes sense, it’s one of those ‘if it looks like I’m doing x then I am doing x’ things that occurs in Korea. That’s why you see day hikers dressed to climb Everest, appearances count for most it seems

  3. Jeremy - February 12, 2013, 2:00 pm Report user

    On question 20:

    Comparing my hagwon stint five years ago to my public schools, I’d have answered “none” to the former, but only because I could barely get a single free moment, random bad materials forced on me with no time to prepare a thing. As opposed to my current public school, where the entire afternoon, every day, is *free* to look for resources.

    • Christian Thurston - February 12, 2013, 7:20 pm

      I know what you mean Jeremy, public schools have a lot more free time whereas hakwons want to get the most return on their asset investment, ie. you.

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