Do Credentials Matter When Teaching English?
Before President Lee Myun-Bak took office he had proposed not only to have all English classes taught in English, but to have other subject matter, such as science and math, taught in English as well. Given the shortage of people qualified to speak fluently in English and teach those subjects the concept was quickly abandoned.i) The desire to have English taught in English has remained but it brings up the question of whether credentials matter for teaching English.
The current E-2 visa, commonly called the teacher visa, just had the added requirements of health and criminal background checks added at the end of 2007. There seems to have been plenty of worry about diseased and degenerate foreigners, but not about disqualified ones. The E-2 visa does not have any requirements about teaching experience or degree. Is being from a country that speaks English more important than qualifications?
* "TESOL licenses have nothing to do with fluent English speaking skills," Professor Ahn Young-sop, recently stated in this very paper. He stated that such "instructors are making English learners `well-trained machines' to solve tests. Students taught by these teachers cannot efficiently communicate in the real world." ii)
* There is a reason parents pay for academies that provide native speakers. Those native speakers know how to talk in the real world. It is the area of speaking English where Koreans are most deficient on English exams so bringing in more native speakers should be the focus.
* Korea has a hard enough time recruiting teachers given the new E-2 visa restrictions. If teachers also had to be certified there would not be enough teachers available and English instruction prices would skyrocket.
* Former TESOL president David Nunan, put it best when he said, "Just because you can speak doesn't mean you can teach. I wouldn't cross a bridge made by someone who is not an engineer. Teaching is a profession."iii) People with degrees in science and math teach those subjects. Why should national origin be enough to teach a language?
* We could look to a country such as Finland, which has a much more successful English program. The first secretary of the Finnish embassy was recently quoted as saying, ``Every English teacher [in Finland] must have [a M]asters degree in English. In addition, they must have [a] degree in teaching." iv)
* TESOL is a good step in the right direction. Our final goal should be to have teachers of English that have teaching degrees and Masters in English.
Roger Hatridge, Korea's coach of the year for 2007, would like to encourage students to register for the IDEA-NFL qualifier this April by registering online at http://www.idebate.org/event/index.php?event_id=105. For questions about this column of NFL events contact Mr. Hatridge at email@example.com.