$4 million a year…teaching English?

Categories Korea, Living in Korea, Teaching English

Recently, the internet has gone crazy about an article published in the Wall Street Journal regarding an English teacher in Korea who makes $4 million a year.  A link to the article can be found here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324635904578639780253571520.html.

I wanted to comment on the aforementioned article a little bit on my blog to give people a better understanding about what the significance of this article really is (in my opinion, of course).

Can you make a lot of money teaching English (or any subject) in Korea?

Sure, but don’t expect to rake in a ton of money without working for it.  The main thing this article points out is the fact that education is more highly valued in Korea than it is in the USA (or other countries).  Education has been turned into a commodity in Korea and can be sold just like any other professional service.  In Korea, education can be sold just like insurance, legal services, financial services, etc. are sold in the United States.  If you’re a top professional in your field, you can expect to be financially rewarded for the effort you put in.

Why is education so highly valued in Korea?

Koreans have a higher perceived value of education than United States citizens because education actually does matter a lot more here.  Any student that graduates from one of the best universities in Korea has got it made.  Top name college degrees hold a lot more weight in Korea than they do in the USA, respectively [for example, “SKY” school graduates (Korea’s Ivy League equivalent) in Korea are held in even higher esteem than that of their Ivy League counterparts in the USA-this can probably be argued but I really believe it’s true).  In Korea, it’s not as much about “who you know” as it is about what school you graduated from (and even what you look like but that’s a whole other deal).

What can other countries learn from Korea’s educational system?

A lot, but not so fast.  Some of my students study from 6 AM in the morning until 11 PM at night.  That’s insane (diminishing marginal returns).  However, another observation that I will share is that due to the structure of education in Korea, my Korean friends are much more goal-oriented than the majority of the Americans I grew up with.  Koreans are forced to think about their future starting from a very young age and regardless of whether or not they are pressured into pursuing a career path they don’t necessarily have a passion for, at the end of the day Korean students end up with something and they contribute to the economy.  Korean students seem to have more direction than American students, overall.  Is the previous scenario better than the 37 year-old liberal arts school graduate bar-tending in Jackson Hole, Wyoming still trying to figure things out?  I’m really not sure.  I’m definitely not saying that the way Korean education is structured is the way it ought to be, but it certainly makes you think.  Perhaps there is some middle ground….

PLEASE NOTE: I put some thought into this before posing but obviously didn’t hash everything out.  Education is not an easy topic to discuss and this is obviously something that could be talked about for hours.  I think education is SO SO SO important and I am lucky to have had the opportunity to study at such a great institution for my undergraduate years.  

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