Survey Results – Part 8: Fixing ESL Workplace in Korea

In a Better World; Fixing Korean ESL

The previous parts of this series can be found here: Part 1 – Dating & DownloadablesPart 2 – Lifestyle and PetsPart 3A – Teaching Resources (Hakwon vs Public School)Part 3B – Hakwon vs Public School Workplace SatisfactionPart 4 – Websites UsedPart 5 – Coworkers, Part 6: Korean Students Academic and Social Skills and Part 7: Korean Students Life Skills and Outlook.

You can find the original, raw data in part 1 of this series.

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What is it that Native English Speaking Teachers (NESTs) most want to see changed?  We have looked at most of the aspects of the Korean work environment including co-workers, students and teaching resources.  Interestingly none of these were high on the list of things teachers want to see changed (although I didn’t ask about students directly but then again most teachers find them enjoyable to teach).

So what was the top thing most teachers wanted to see changed?

Overall what Korean English teachers want to see change

So overall the most popular answer is “Korean Work Culture” and a lot of the open comments addressed elements of this like last-minute schedule changes, desk-warming, etc.  Amazingly enough the third most popular response was “No Opinion”.

There was a big difference in how hakwon teachers answered this question versus how public school teachers answered it.

ESL Korea - Attitudes of students in hakwons versus public schools according to their western teachers

The number one response for hakwon teachers was “Better boss/manager” at 24% whereas this response was only chosen by a paltry 3% of public school teachers.  I guess it’s not surprising considering the “Boss” in government schools is the headmaster whom most NESTs rarely see (cafeteria not included) whereas the hakwon teachers see their boss more regularly.  I’m actually a tad surprised the number wasn’t higher in hakwons but we’ll see why in a bit.

Hakwon owners and managers are notoriously toughThe big response from public school teachers was that “Korean Work Culture” is the thing they’d like to see changed, coming it at 36% of respondents (it was 22% for hakwon teachers).  I didn’t think to consider including questions about desk warming and last minute schedule change until after I released the survey but my guess it’s these type of shenanigans that made this a popular answer choice.  Either way, it seems like a popular answer for both groups but it’s probably the hardest one to change.

Another stand-out result was that 13% of public school teachers  nominated “Better rules” whereas 0% of hakwon teachers said the same.  Personally I would have expected it  to be the other way around as I think of public schools as being more ‘establishment’ and hakwons being more ‘anything goes’.  Shows what I know.

Oh and 15% of hakwon teachers cited “Not having the parents determining what I teach” as the main thing they want to change.  When it came to “Better resources” both teachers hovered around 10% which is an interesting result given the huge disparity in resources that emerged from the survey.


Before I did this survey I reckoned that the biggest pain point in the lives of NESTs in Korea was not having the resources.  Part of this was validated – that many teachers, especially the 25% of teachers who are in public schools (mostly elementary schools) feel under-resourced.  The part I got wrong was that this was the biggest pain point, at least, according to the survey.

I still wonder if the other problems are symptoms rather than causes of frustration in the work place but clearly most people feel the problems they have at work (if we look solely at the figures and not at the comments) can be traced back to culture, people and environment.

Stay tuned for more in the next post where I’ll be looking at what NESTs think about each other.

Question: Do you agree with these results? What do you most want to see changed?
Photo Credit: toughkidcst via photopin cc

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