ESL South Korea

Public Schools

EPIK Working Environment

What kind of working environment can you expect when working for EPIK at a public school?

When working at a public school through the government initiated EPIK program (English Program in Korea), you act as a Guest English Teacher (GET, these guys have got abbreviations for everything).  Your primary role will be teaching basic English vocabulary, grammar and the likes to either elementary, middle or high school students, depending on what school you end up working for.  Possible other duties include preparing lesson plans and doing various admin tasks related to students such as filling in progress reports and daily teaching reports.

At a public school you always work alongside a Korean English teacher who speaks fluent English (well, fluent is relative in Korea.  Let’s call it fluent enough).  You are usually assigned a Native English teacher at the beginning of your contract, who works alongside you for the whole year.  This person is responsible for ensuring you know what to do at the school and that you are informed about how things are done.  He/She will accompany you during all of your classes and usually teach about 50% of the class.  Your co-teacher is also responsible for helping you as foreigner with any non-school related stuff you might need help with, such as doing your medical check up or helping with public transport.  From my experience and what I’ve heard from others, the Korean co-teachers in the EPIK system are generally nice, friendly and helping people who want to help you make the best of your stay in Korea.

Foreigners who work at the EPIK work eight hours a day, but teach only 22 hours a week.

Pro’s of working at a public school:

Stable working environment.  Since EPIK is a government run initiative there is more stability within the system than when working for an individual business owner, like you do at a hagwon.  You’ll be hard pressed to find stories of EPIK teachers who got cheated out of pay or benefits.  You also won’t have schedules and student numbers changing every other week as they sometimes do at a hagwon.  Generally things are more stable at a public school.

More Holiday.  EPIK teachers get approximately 20 days of paid leave a year, double than the average hagwon contract will allow for.  There is also a more lenient attitude towards sick leave.

– Possibility of after school program.  Since the public schools have started with after school programs, there’s a great opportunity for teachers to do legal overtime work and get a big increase in salary.  A scenario might look something like this:  Regular school finishes at 3pm, but for the following three hours you’ll teach at the school’s after school program, all of which count as overtime work which means you’ll get a nice big paycheck at the end of the month.  This is one of the only ways to do LEGAL overtime work in Korea that I know of, and it pays well!  For more info see the article on illegal extra classes.

Con’s of working at a public school:

Lower salary.  Your normal salary (aside from overtime work) will generally be lower at a public school then that which a hagwon will pay you.  The only exception to this rule is when you have some teaching experience and/or a TEFL certificate.