Private Academies or Hagwons (학원) do have a slightly bad reputation within the foreign community. This is often justified and we’ve personally worked at a couple of poorly managed and run Hagwons (to put it politely). However they aren’t all bad and there are a number of positive aspects to working at one.
This list focuses on the positives of Hagwons mainly in comparison to Public Schools. With the recent cuts in public school roles some people might be looking at the Hagwon market and there are some positives. The following list is of course looking at the highlights and like with every job there are issues. It’s also in on particular order.
Here are our 10 positives about Hagwons
1 Smaller and Leveled Classes
This is a big advantage over working at a Public School. An average hagwon class has around 7 or 8 students whilst the average Public School Class has 25 or more. The main advantages are that you can build more of a bond and understanding with your students as well as being able to give them more individual attention. Also having classes leveled means that you can tailor your class to the needs to all of the students, not just the average few.
2 Students with a Higher Level of English
This is an overall standard as of course there are always a few beginner or phonics classes, however normally later in the day/evening you’ll have a handful of higher level classes where you can have full conversations and do a few more creative things.
3 More Fellow Expat Co-Workers
For some people this is big reason they last in Korea long term. Having a base of expat co-workers/friends on your first day people who can answer your questions honestly is a big advantage. This isn’t to say that Korean co-workers won’t help it’s just sometimes it a little easier for a fellow expat to understand. Also having a group to socialize with from the get go makes settling a lot easier.
4 English speaking Bosses
This one is a little more hit and miss, having a boss you can speak to directly in English is great however they can also speak to you. This is where Micromanagement can come into play. However the same thing happens within public schools, at least this way you don’t have to play Chinese whispers with your co-teacher. Also if you do have an issue you can tell your boss directly and solve the problem (maybe) quicker.
5 Better Locations
Hagwons are everywhere, however they are normally in central locations and close to solid public transportation links. Also the number of Public Schools hiring in Seoul and central areas of major cities is low, therefore you’re more likely to end up in a semi-rural or isolated position.
6 No Pay Scales
When working within the Public School system in South Korea you’d paid a salary due to your Pay Scale. However Hagwons don’t follow these scales and therefore you can earn more money long term working at a Hagwon. There is more of a focus on practical experience rather than qualifications. The only downside is if you move from Hagwon to Hagwon you might not build up the trust and salary that you would within the Public School System.
7 Easier to find a Job
We’re not sure on the statistics for this one but we’d guess it’s around 4 to 1 Hagwon to Public, and that figure is much higher in Seoul and other major cities. Hagwons hire new teacher all year round whilst Public schools only hire 2 times a year (March & September). Also similar to the Pay Scales point the requirements for newbie Hagwon Teachers is the basic E2 list without the added Public things.
8 No Co-Teachers
This is a love/hate point as for some people the lack of having somebody assisting with the lesson would be a difficult thought, however on the flip side the increased freedom and reduced micromanagement is preferred by others. A common point is that also the students feel more interested and relaxed in speaking English when not being judged by their normal English Teacher.
9 Less Preparation
This changes from school to school but in general there’s less of a need to make lesson plans, PowerPoints and Handouts as normally there are set texts and resources available. This does mean you lose a little freedom in the topic choice but at least have somewhere to start from.
10 Afternoon Starts
This only counts for the after school style Hagwons which generally start at around 1 or 2pm and finish anywhere between 8 and 10pm. The late finish isn’t for everybody but having the morning free to run errands such going to the Bank (as they only open between 9 & 4) has it’s advantages. It also means you don’t have to wake up early.
Might Also Interest You
In the past we’ve written a few other posts on a similar topic:
If you have any questions regarding Hagwons or if you have anything you’d like to add please let us know either here or via our social media channels. Please remember that we know first hand that not all Hagwons are good, but this post is focusing on the positives and the negatives may come another day.