Friday, November 19, 2010

Let's Play Coteachers and Indians!

Bang! Bang!  You got me!  Just Kidding...  Korea finally has its first Indian English teacher in a public school classroom.  If the pilot program of these first hundred English teachers from Indian is successful, that number could potentially get up into the thousands.

WANJU, North Jeolla ― For many Koreans, English is a language that only those from Western countries can teach. However, a small private school in North Jeolla Province has challenged this prejudice by inviting the first-ever Indian English teacher here last September. 
Wanju High School became the destination of the teacher, Abby Thomas, who made English education history in Korea. Although some cautiously raised concerns that it may be difficult to understand an Indian English accent, the school students, parents and other fellow teachers responded positively to the Indian teacher. 
“I cannot tell much difference between Thomas and other Westerners from whom I learned English when I was in middle school,” said Yang Gang-yeal, a second grader at the school. 
In case of Na Eun-ha, another student, the Indian teacher’s English is easier to understand, compared to other foreign teachers she has experienced. “Thomas is very friendly and I really enjoy the class,” she said. “I can also learn Indian culture and traditions from him.” 
The North Jeolla Province Office of Education has so far recruited two Indian teachers including Thomas. Another teacher Robins Mathew is working at an English experience center in the province. Lee Chae-chong, a supervisor dealing with English teacher recruitment at the education office, said, “Their English is understandable like that of South Africa. We plan to recruit more teachers from India, depending on responses from students and parents.”
“Indian teachers are quite friendly and respect our culture,” Lee added. 
The salary for Indian teachers has been set much lower than that of those from the seven countries that are named as providing native English speakers. Normally, Korean schools pay 2.1 million won per month for native English speakers with a bachelor’s degree, while the Indian teachers will receive 1.8 million won each month. According to the Education Ministry, the North Gyeongsang Province plans to join in the move to invite Indian teachers.
The article goes on, but it was authored by a Korean journalist who is heavily prejudiced against native English speakers.  Bloggers have been speculating if he just made up some of the quotes in this story because they seemed to fit his desired narrative too perfectly.  I did not include them above because they are pretty cheesy.

Other than that, good for this guy!  I welcome Indian teachers.  Their accents are a fair criticism, but it is no different than native English speakers I know here teaching with thick Irish, Scottish, or Australian accents.  I myself have trouble understanding other native speakers sometimes.  When these teachers are in the classroom, they have to slightly modify the way they speak so that can they can be understood.  That is just the way it has to be.  The Indian teachers will be no different and I am sure they will do their best to ensure their English is proper and intelligible to Koreans.

If I may, I would also speculate that this Indian is a huge success at his school because he has so much scrutiny and pressure on him right now.  This man is already a certified English teacher and was hand selected out of pool of potential applicants from India that were probably in the thousands.  He also knows the reputation and employment future of his countrymen depend on his professionalism and success.  Of course he is going to be better than the average native English speaker brought here from the big seven.

The expectations and qualifications of native English speakers brought here from the big seven are basically just a bachelor's degree in anything and a clean criminal record.  I agree with critics, there are many native English speaking teachers that should not be here.  Opening up the employment market to Indians will help increase the supply of English teachers in Korea that will take the job seriously.  My job isn't at risk, so I say let them in.


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