A public school job is highly desirable and with good reason. That being said, public school jobs are highly sought after, extremely time sensitive, and offer no guarantees of successful placement. As well, the qualifications that public schools are looking for have been raised substantially. All of these factors combine to make a public school job particularly difficult to secure for first time teachers. Accordingly, first time teachers might consider teaching for one year with a Hagwon first before applying to teach in a public school.
The following are 10 of the most common reasons why many English teachers will choose to teach English at a hagwon.
1. Ability to choose a city
Hagwons are present in virtually every city and their ubiquitous presence is also their strength because a teacher can choose the exact location that he or she wants. Compared to the public school teaching positions administered by EPIK (English Program In Korea) or other programs, where teachers may only put down a general category preference i.e. Metropolitan city, province etc. hagwons allow a teacher to zero in on the city that really interests him or her. With a public school, even if you applied early, there is simply no guarantees that you will be placed in a city that you desire. If you apply late, the odds of you being placed in a metropolitan city are small. While small cities and rural cities undoubtedly have their charms, there is no mistaking where all the action is. Thus, if you are very location specific, teaching at a hagwon might be for you.
2. Ability to choose a school
Your ability to choose a school is very important. With a private school, I Love ESL Ltd. will be able to show you pictures of the school itself, as well put you in touch with a teacher presently working there. This will allow you to get answers to your questions and make a more informed decision. There are many stories about “nightmare” hagwons on the internet. We are sure that you’ve read your share of them. With over 14 years of experience in this field, we have made it a point of pride to weed out the schools that we deem are not reliable. Rest assured that I Love ESL Ltd. only deals with the most honest, reliable, and well run hagwons.
3. Easier to settle in
One upside to teaching English at a Hagwon is that they usually have more native English teachers who can help you adapt to life in Korea (at a public school, you are the sole native English teacher). Your initial transition to Korea and Korean culture will be smoother as the foreign teachers at your school will teach you the ropes and help you settle in. They will give you critical feedback on your lessons, ideas on how to teach as well as give you confidence when you are nervous. If this is your first time teaching in Korea, having a built-in support group may prove invaluable.
4. Easier process to secure a job (compared to the public school)
Recently, the teaching qualifications for public school jobs have been raised. This makes an already complex, time intensive and laborious process even more challenging. Whereas securing a job with a private school will take, depending on your nationality and the documents you have on hand between 1 - 3 months to finalize (with substantially lower costs). The average time that is necessary to secure a job in the public school system is around 6-9 months. And even then, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get the job at all (there are numerous potential failure points and lots of competition) or secure the location that you had in mind.
5. Jobs year round
Hagwon jobs are available year round, which gives you more flexibility with regards to when and where to teach. The public school sector has two hiring sessions per year: one in the spring (March) and one in the fall (September) that coincides with the start date for the public school semesters. If you miss these two hiring deadlines you will be out of luck. Although there are a few jobs available between these two time frames, they are rare and unpredictable.
6. Minimal lesson preparation time
It is relatively easy to teach English at a Hagwon as the teaching curriculum, textbook, lesson plans, and lesson materials are usually provided for you. This means that, in most cases, you do not have to make your own lesson materials as you would normally do if you were to teach English at a public school. Basically, everything is laid out for you. Do not underestimate this point. Lesson preparation, especially if done right and of a sufficiently high quality, requires a considerable amount of time. At a public school, where you are responsible for making your own lessons and materials, the prep time required could exceed the amount of time you have during school hours, leading to extra work outside of school hours. The downside of course is your inability to make much change in the established curriculum or exercise your creativity when making lessons.
7. Smaller class sizes
Class sizes at a private institution tend to be a lot smaller than at a public school, with the number of students ranging from about 8-16. Contrast this with teaching at a public school, where class sizes in excess of 30 students are more the norm than the exception. Smaller class sizes allow you to become more familiar with your students, learn their names, their strengths and weaknesses, abilities and personality. This will ultimately allow you to be a better teacher for these students. However, a hagwon teaching job usually entails a greater number of actual teaching hours per week (about 30 in-class hours versus 22 in-class hours at a Public School).
8. Student levels are (more) uniform
Students are divided into more or less equal levels resulting in an easier time for you as a teacher. The student ability levels tend to be higher (sometimes much higher) than your average public school student, as well. Contrast this to a public school situation where you will, more than likely, have to teach a mixed ability class. The differences in ability can be quite pronounced with some students being able to understand virtually everything you said, whereas a handful will not know their ABCs. The rest will be in between. Making a lesson that is satisfactory for students of all levels is incredibly challenging.
9. Higher salaries
For both public and private school options, the maximum salaries will be similar, with slight variances dependent upon your qualifications. However, when you are first starting out, hagwons tend to pay higher monthly salaries than some public schools. Therefore, public schools will demand higher qualifications but tend to pay lower starting salaries.
10. Teach only at one school
In some cases, while working for a public school, you may be placed in a rural area of South Korea. This is usually the case for those applicants that apply later in the application process. After a certain point, all the best positions and locations will be taken up. That’s not all. Because schools in this area might be small, it is not possible to have a foreign teacher for every school. Thus, you may be asked to teach at multiple schools in order to raise the level of English for the most number of students. Also, the travel time between the schools (in some cases) can be challenging. Of course you will be compensated for it but whether or not the compensation is adequate will be for you to decide. Meanwhile, teaching at a private school means that you only have to work at one place: your school.