Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

Working in a Korean hagwon: a native English teacher's view

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  • My thesis explains the several problems that arise when a person from a Western English speaking country goes to work as an English teacher at private institutes in South Korea. It is based on my own experiences when I worked as an English teacher at private institutes in South Korea from February 1999 to February 2003. I am also using the experiences of other native English speaking teachers from other English speaking countries, such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and England. I have also done research in written materials. Much of my data come from business sources. Business people have had to learn about the cultural differences between the Western culture and the Korean culture, in order to be able to conduct business with South Koreans. I want to write about this problem because of the shock that the native English speakers experience when they start working at the schools in South Korea. The directors of the private schools, called hagwons, are not happy with the situation, either. Both sides in this situation feel that the other side is treating them very badly. Both sides feel that the other side is untrustworthy and disrespectful. The situation originates due to the difference in the values between the cultures. The native English teacher is coming from the Western idealistic values of equality and treating everyone the same. The Korean hagwon director is coming from the Confucian idealistic values of everyone having a place in a hierarchy, and giving respect and deference to those above them, in the hierarchy. Native English speaking teachers and other expatriates should have some type of training about the Korean values based on Confucian principles before or shortly after going to South Korea. Training should use the five dimensions of power distance issues or equality between people, uncertainty avoidance or ability to deal with uncertainty, whether this society is run by individualistic or collective ideals, and if the society is one where male and female orientations are overlapping or clearly delineated. There is also a fifth dimension of long-term orientation, which shows the amount that a society is willing to devote itself to long-term traditional and forward thinking values. This fifth dimension is integrated into the other dimensions such as power distance, uncertainty avoidance, and even masculinity. These dimensions were created by Geert Hofstede for teaching business people to understand the society that they would soon be living within. I am integrating the anthropological values orientation method designed by Florence Kluckhohn with Geert Hofstede's dimensions. By integrating the two views from the two different disciplines, a more complete picture of the situation can be seen. The major points of the value orientation method are the person to nature orientation, the time orientation, the activity orientation, and the human relations orientation. From looking at the various conflicts that occur between the hagwon directors and the native English teachers, the human relations orientation is the point that shows the most conflict. The activity orientation shows the second area of conflict. The time orientation shows the third amount of conflict. The person to nature orientation shows the least amount of conflict.
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