Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some Tips on Public Schools in and around Seoul

Here's the question:

After doing a reasonable amount of research, I would be much more comfortable working for a public school rather than a hagwon for my first experience teaching in Korea. This being said, I recall reading on your blog that public schools have big hiring bonanzas in September and in March. As September is rapidly approaching, I wonder, is it at the beginning of September or later in the month? Would I still have time to possibly find a position in Seoul? Also, I've been advised to contact schools directly in order to seek employment in Seoul, as recruiters have tried to steer me away. Will the school assist at all in the moving/ apartment process or will I be doing a great deal more work and have increased my responsibility/stress load considerably making this decision? Any guidance is greatly appreciated

Many people come to that very same conclusion. Even though the pay tends to be slightly lower, public schools offer more oversight, job security and vacation time. I have worked in both public schools and hagwons and usually recommend that first-year teachers consider the public route. There are many reasons and aside from the three that I mentioned above, working in a public school will pretty much protect you from the potential wrath of bad directors, overbearing mothers and long work hours. There are some good aspects of hagwon education, but that is not for today.

Semesters start in March and September here in South Korea, so public school system usually starting their hiring drive as early as December or May, respectively. Right now it's right in the middle of July (yesterday was actually Cho-bok or the official day to eat dog -it's not all that common these days though), so that means that any of you who have get busy and start applying. However, there is a new catch. If you want to teach in Seoul city schools, you've got to be more qualified than in the past. From the EPIK website:

Please note that Seoul positions require at least level 2 qualification (an ESL certification, a Master's in any discipline, a minimum of one year teaching or a Bachelor's degree in Education, English or Linguistics.

On top of the tougher guidelines, you also must submit your information via email ( You'll need to include the official "Seoul Application Form downloaded from the EPIK website, as well as a cover letter, resume, two open references and two-page sample lesson plan." That's a lot of information and if you really want to do it AND meet the minimum qualifications, then you've better get busy because in order to get the visa issuance and participate in the orientation, they recommend that you have everything submitted by mid-July. Get cracking.

That's for Seoul and since the ESL industry is no longer the teachers market it once was, the competition to land a good job in a Seoul public school has become quite stiff for first-year teachers. Additionally, just because you meet the requirements, that doesn't mean you'll be hired and it definitely doesn't mean you'll be placed in a part of the city you want. School placement is based on a lottery that happens much closer to the start of the semester.

I know that many potential teachers don't have all or any of the needed qualifications. I certainly didn't. So what do you do if you really want to teach in Seoul city public school, but can't? Well, if you're set on being in a public school setting and don't qualify for Seoul or missed the deadline, then I'd have to suggest you shoot for a public school in Gyeonggi-do. Gyeonggi province surrounds Seoul and offers many of the same big-city luxuries without the congestion. Gyeonggi English Program in Korea or GEPIK. All you need to teach for GEPIK is your BA and native citizenship. You also have a little more time to submit your info as they give you until the end of July to submit all of your stuff. (For information on applying with GEPIK, click here.)

If anyone is curious about teaching in a public school outside of Seoul/Gyeonggi area (which is equally great), then email me and I'll write something up for you.

Apartment procurement and moving expenses will be paid for by the school district and all you will have to do is show up at the airport with luggage and an open mind. Don't worry about that.

You mentioned applying to schools directly. I talked about this on a podcast in reference to second year teachers as well as on a post about non-Caucasians securing employment. Applying directly is a great way to do it as it cuts recruiters out of the loop. However, when applying directly you must accept that your job-pool is severely limited. Public schools do not hire directly and most non-adult hagwons don't have websites with the option of applying online. So you have to dig. I'm currently working on a list of schools that allow direct or online application submission and will have it posted in the next couple days.


JIW said...

I am confused. I thought EPIK was for all ok Korea outside of GEPIK.

And SMOE was for Seoul Public schools. Have things changed????

The Expat said...

EPIK is for Korea. SMOE is through EPIK which is for public schools in Seoul. The questioner was asking about public schools Seoul, so I focused on that.

GEPIK is for Gyeonggi. Only thing that has changed is that if your applying to teach in Seoul (through EPIK and uwith SMOE), there are a lot more qualifications than there used to be.

Thanks for the comment. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
On the EPIK website it list that you can apply directly to them (via email), through a Korean Consulate or through a recruiter. (I am wanting to apply for a public school job in Seoul and this year SMOE is having all new applicants apply through EPIK).. I am wondering if one of those ways of applying is better than another? or more efficient?

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