Indian teaches English at Korean school
By Kang Shin-who
WANJU, North Jeolla ― For many Koreans, English is a language that only those from Western countries can teach. However, a small private school in North Jeolla Province has challenged this prejudice by inviting the first-ever Indian English teacher here last September.
Wanju High School became the destination of the teacher, Abby Thomas, who made English education history in Korea. Although some cautiously raised concerns that it may be difficult to understand an Indian English accent, the school students, parents and other fellow teachers responded positively to the Indian teacher.
“I cannot tell much difference between Thomas and other Westerners from whom I learned English when I was in middle school,” said Yang Gang-yeal, a second grader at the school.
In case of Na Eun-ha, another student, the Indian teacher’s English is easier to understand, compared to other foreign teachers she has experienced. “Thomas is very friendly and I really enjoy the class,” she said. “I can also learn Indian culture and traditions from him.”
The North Jeolla Province Office of Education has so far recruited two Indian teachers including Thomas. Another teacher Robins Mathew is working at an English experience center in the province. Lee Chae-chong, a supervisor dealing with English teacher recruitment at the education office, said, “Their English is understandable like that of South Africa. We plan to recruit more teachers from India, depending on responses from students and parents.”
“Indian teachers are quite friendly and respect our culture,” Lee added.
The salary for Indian teachers has been set much lower than that of those from the seven countries that are named as providing native English speakers. Normally, Korean schools pay 2.1 million won per month for native English speakers with a bachelor’s degree, while the Indian teachers will receive 1.8 million won each month. According to the Education Ministry, the North Gyeongsang Province plans to join in the move to invite Indian teachers.
Currently, the office has hired 268 foreign English teachers and 514 schools out of the total 757 elementary and secondary schools have native English speakers for their conversation classes.
Parents and colleagues also expressed their satisfaction with Thomas. Kwon Hye-soon, a mother who participated in a demonstration class said, “I doubted whether an Indian teacher could teach English well, but now I am confident the teacher will play an important role in the education of my child.”
“It’s true that some native English teachers are not so serious about their classes and look down on Korean teachers. But our English teacher is very devoted to his classes,” said Yang In-sun, one of Wanju High School’s English teachers. “He also understands Asian values very well.”