by Emmy Bjerre-Jensen
When you interview in Korea, it’s important that you decide what is important to you before you make a decision on where you want to work.
The application for public and private schools is very different, so if you’re going for public you need to start preparing for that well in advance and have a back-up plan as the public hiring sphere has become more competitive. That being said, that does not necessarily mean that public is any better than private. They both have their own respective pros and cons.
If you want the freedom to create your own lessons and curriculum and have more influence on the style in which you teach and what you teach, then I would highly recommend going for private.
Be warned- people who work at a private institution work hard. The hours are long and the work load is heavier than that of public teachers. However, if being a better educator is your goal, the private path is in my opinion, preferable. Depending on the caliber of the school, private gives you more teaching opportunities and freedoms.
That being said, if you go private you need to be very well informed on the school that you intend to teach at. Hogwans are businesses and directors treat them as such. You need to make sure that you are going to a stable school where you are guaranteed to be paid on time and that you aren’t running the risk of getting let go because of budget cuts. Make sure you are working for honest people.
When you do find the school that fits best, you will get to enjoy other perks of teaching in the private sphere. For example, you will most likely have a strong connection with the kids you teach. It is not like teaching in the west. You are expected to be more affectionate with the students, it is completely normally to pick kids up and hug them. Some places consider you cold if you don’t. Your kids will also get to know you better and start to pick up on your mannerisms.
On the other hand, public has many perks. If you are coming to Korea to learn more about the culture and have experiences abroad, public will give you the free time to do so. Public also gives you more prep time to get your lesson plans down solid and to make your curriculum more engaging.
However, generally public teachers get paid a little bit less. They have more vacation time, less working hours and generally have more freedom for personal business. You might have more support from the Korean staff when you work in public schools. It is more likely that you will have a Korean co-teacher. You will not be expected to manage behavior as much as you are in private schools. In private schools, often the needs of the kids and the parents dictate what you do. In public school, the complaints of the parents will not change what you do at the school and often you won’t even hear about it.
In private, you will most likely be teaching kids at a higher learning level than the kids in public because you will see them every day and in public you might only see them once or twice a week.
I myself am a private teacher and have friends in the public sphere. The thing I like most about private is my connection with the kids and my freedom to educate in my own unique style. I do get stressed out by the workload sometimes but I think it’s a small price to pay for what I get back. In either case, you need to consult teachers from both public and private to make a rounded and educated decision. It’s important that you value your job and that you are valued at your job.