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Good and Bad Points About Hagwons in South Korea

Updated on August 8, 2014

Hagwons (Private Institutes) in Korea

It can be safe to say that Korean students studying at a hagwon has gradually become the norm in South Korea nowadays. Hagwons have always had a mixed reputation, mostly bad. To be fair, no one can compare one hagwon with another. Besides the bad points about working at such places, some hagwons do have some good points about them, too.

Good Points about Hagwons

*Smaller class sizes.

Most good hagwons would keep the class sizes around 8 to 15 students per class.

*Already established curriculum and lesson plans (For large franchises).

Even if you have to teach 30 classes a week, if the hagwon provides the lesson plans and classroom materials for you already, then it makes a teacher's job much easier to focus on teaching more than lesson planning.

*Possibility to make more money at a hagwon than at a public school.

It is possible for someone working at a hagwon to earn more money. One plus for some hagwons is that they would allow you to work a second place, as long as you get permission from both your main school and immigration.

*More interaction time with the students.

In the public school system here, it is not unusual for foreign teachers to see their students once or twice a week. At a hagwon, on the other hand, you will likely see your students three to five times a week, depending on the class schedule.

*More than one foreign teacher working.

Large franchise hagwons tend to have around 3 to 10 foreign teachers on average. This can make it easier for people new to teaching and working in another country because they will have co-workers from other countries to consult when they need.

*You teach your own class.

This can be either good or bad based on the number of years you have been teaching. If you have been teaching for a while and prefer to have more control over the class alone, then working at some hagwons may allow you to have your own class without co-teaching with another teacher. While co-teaching is fine for some people, some teachers would like to have their own class more than sharing tasks with another teacher.

*Opportunities to contribute to the hagwon's current curriculum.

Some established hagwons may encourage teachers to come up with new lessons and other classroom ideas to be utilized at their current hagwon or with other branches, if the hagwon is huge. This can be a great chance for someone looking into getting involve in curriculum design, which may also lead to curriculum and instructional designer jobs in South Korea and other countries along the way.

Bad Points about Hagwons

*Late payment.

You may have to wait a week to as long as two or three months to get your "full" salary for a given month.

*Getting fired 11 months into your contract to avoid paying severance.

Small hagwons (the "mom and pop" academy some people coin them) may fire you for a bunch of reasonable or unreasonable causes.

*Teaching 30~40 classes a week (Could be a little more or less depending on the hagwon).

Unless you are a workhorse, you should be very cautious about working at any hagwon that demands you to work those number of hours with little to no breaks in between.

*Hagwon doesn't pay into national pension plan and/or health insurance.

This can create some legal problems for you when you apply for a pension refund only to find out your hagwon hasn't been paying into it, which is required by the Korean government.

*Lack of resources (textbooks, office supplies).

Some hagwons may not have enough textbooks for the students or maybe the textbooks are so old and impractical that no teacher in their right mind would use them. It may also not come as a surprise for some teachers to be told not to waste any paper or whatever resources they do have. Otherwise, you may have to pay for whatever extra materials out of your own paycheck.

*Toxic work environment (verbally abusive boss, difficult coworkers).

Whether you are working with a Korean or another foreigner like yourself, toxic personalities at the workplace can make it difficult for anyone to do their jobs well, which can happen in any country.

*Only 8~10 vacation days.

Some people may or may not care about the number of days off they have at a hagwon. However, if you enjoy traveling for extended periods of time, then working at a hagwon may not suit you. Another thing to keep in mind, depending on the hagwon, a teacher's vacation days may either be taken in one full week or at pre-established times throughout the year.

*No curriculum at all.

This might happen at a small hagwon. New teachers will be expected to create lesson plans and other teaching material all from scratch if the hagwon doesn't have any sort of established curriculum for teachers to follow. It may be either good or bad depending on the teacher, but may also be a little troublesome for someone with a 30 teaching hour schedule every week.

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List of Well Know and (Suitable) Hagwons in South Korea

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