Tuesday, June 17, 2014

5 signs of a sketchy hagwon

I always get lots of questions from people contemplating a move to Korea and a lot of them seem quite apprehensive.  And not without good reason: there are indeed a multitude of horror stories about teaching ESL in Korea, especially at Hagwons (private institutes).  A decade ago when I came to Korea for the first time, the Internet was a thing but there certainly wasn't that much information on it about specific schools in Korea.  These days however, it's very easy to find specific information about a certain school, even a small one out in the countryside.  Google and Facebook are your best friends in this case.

Anyway, here are my top 5 signs of a sketchy hagwon:

1. You are the only foreign teacher.  If you are a newbie to Korea, this will probably end up being your worst nightmare.  The more foreigners, the better when you're a newbie.  As long as you're not a total freak, you'll have an instant group of friends and people to help you settle in. 

2. The contract is too vague.  Things like not listing working days (Monday-Friday) or working hours (between 10:00am-6:00pm or something like that).  The contract should also list %'s for things like tax, health care and pension.  And, there should be mention of how a "teaching hour" is calculated.

3. They have a bad reputation on the Internet.  It's probably for good reason.  If it's only one bad report, take it with a grain of salt.  But, more than that?  Steer clear.  The Facebook group for the expats in that city is a good place to start your research because they'll have "boots on the ground."  

4. They're a new school.  Financial troubles often cause new schools to close within the first few months or year.  You'll lose your job, as well as your housing, bonus and airplane ticket home.

5. Flights and housing are still standard for Korean hagwons.  A contract without these things would have to offer a ridiculously high salary. And a contact with no mention of health care or pension?  Sketchy!  These things are mandatory and all foreign workers should have them.

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