[Letters]A better system for hiring teachers

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[Letters]A better system for hiring teachers

The article “Visa rules for foreign English teachers challenged” [Feb. 5] was of great interest to me because I have noted the general decline in the proficiency of English teachers in Korea and the ensuing deterioration in public perception of the profession. I express my support for the Korea Immigration Service’s intention behind their system but I disagree with their method.

In the globalized world that we live in, the significance of English education has become ever more important, and as a result, the number of foreign English teachers in Korea proliferated over a short period to meet heightened demand. I initially welcomed the influx of native English speakers because I believe that frequent encounters with said speakers are necessary for people to hone their conversational skills. However, indiscriminate and unsystematic hiring of instructors has led to an overall decline in their quality and reputation. This definitely calls for a need to come up with a screening method for English teachers, which makes me respect and further sympathize with the intent of the Justice Ministry’s Korea Immigration Service.

Unfortunately, I believe that their approach on establishing an effective screening method borders on infringement of human rights. As a Korean student studying abroad, I would feel not only insulted but violated if the U.S. immigration service required drug tests, HIV tests, and criminal background checks during the F-1 visa application process. I understand the benefits of such a system, which effectively filters out candidates who may pose significant dangers to students. However, I believe there are less restrictive and heavy-handed methods capable of achieving the same or similar results.

The biggest source of the current problem with foreign teachers lies in English-teaching institutes that hire teachers without careful review. Many profit-driven institutes have been employing as many Caucasian English teachers as possible without conducting thorough checks because the marketing benefits from such practice outweigh the long-term side effects. This is why I believe an alternative and less troubling solution to the problem is to establish a system that makes it more difficult for the institutions to hire foreign and Korean instructors alike for teaching English. This can be achieved by requiring the institutes to secure approval from the government before hiring the candidates. They would have to file extensive documentation on the candidates’ attributes as part of the application. In turn, the government must review each application carefully and grant approval only to those candidates that meet specified educational criteria and police clearance. Such a system will reduce the number of foreign teachers being hired in Korea. Furthermore, it will force the institutes to implement better review of their teaching candidates, thereby hiring teachers with better qualifications.

Establishing such a system cannot be achieved immediately and will be expensive. However, I believe it is essential to correct the current problem, and that it will serve as a catalyst for improving Koreans’ English proficiency by enhancing the quality of instructors.

I believe in the need for an effective screening process. But I also believe that human rights of foreigners must be respected, which is not being done by the present method employed by Korea’s Immigration Service.

Chae Dong-Yoon, University of Texas at Austin, United States

*e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219
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