South Korea is one of those places and entire industries have been established to support students of all ages that are looking for supplemental learning opportunities outside of their normal schools. One such business aimed at providing English classes every day of the week is known as a hagwon. In this blog post, I am going to discuss the benefits of teaching in Korea and the advantages and downsides of Hagwon.
What Is a Hagwon?
Hagwons are designed with the intention of fostering a more personalized level of learning through smaller class sizes. Classes are usually filled with dedicated and driven students that are paying premiums for extra help and are therefore super motivated to improve their abilities or simply reinforce what they have learned previously. Some classes may also be comprised of struggling students looking to gain a foothold in their everyday curriculum and the smaller teacher-to-student ratio benefits them as well.
Benefits of Working in a Hagwon
The plus side of working in the private sector is that one often makes considerably more money at a hagwon compared to a public school (again, great for travelers, more money in a shorter amount of time). The number of hagwons operating in Korea is staggering with some blocks boasting multiple hagwons chains. Thanks to their abundance, there are ample English teaching jobs in Korea and a wide variety of establishments to choose from.
Another bonus about working in a hagwon is the additional expenses that are covered by the business – oftentimes the schools will pay for your housing and reimburse your airfare. Beneath the surface perks of working at a hagwon, you’re likely to have a greater say in the age group that you instruct (children, teens, or adults), as well as time. Since hagwons have classes running all day long, you can often choose to work mornings or afternoons. You will still have a full-time job, working the average 30-40 hours per week, so the worries of making ends meet should be nullified.
Downsides of Working in a Hagwon
Teachers working in the private sector are covered by fewer protective policies than teachers who work in public education. There is also the ever-present risk of either incoming or sudden business failure. If the business fails, you then run the risk of dealing with much more dire issues such as difficulty renewing or maintaining a visa, potential threats of eviction, and also the rare possibility of being shorted a paycheck.
Another common complaint among teachers who have previously worked in hagwons is the limited vacation time as public school teachers receive more vacation days than hagwon employees. That’s not to say vacation time is null at hagwons, rather all national holidays are recognized and many hagwons will offer sick days plus a week off in both the summer in winter. Being private entities, all hagwons are different and operate with their own set of rules and regulations. It’s up to you as the potential employee to research what values you would like to see expressed in potential employers (pro tip: speak to current teachers). If you’re willing to work for six months straight through, you’ll be receiving a higher salary than if you were to work for eight months at a public school, plus have more time for yourself to travel and explore the country.