Two-Year Contracts: Coming to a Hagwon Near You?

Two Korean children in a classroom

I heard a rumor the other day that might have huge consequences for the Korean EFL job market.  A fellow former-employee of Avalon English+ informed me that, per her director, the company is going to start offering two-year contracts to foreign teachers.

I spoke to two recruiting companies who deal with Avalon and neither has negotiated a two-year contract so far, so this may be specific only to the Imae branch, or nothing but a rumor.  However, Reuben Zuidhof, CEO of the recruiting agency Adventure Teaching, did suggest that it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Avalon HR representatives did not return calls.

“Would be a huge task, but one I think you’ll see in the years to come,” he said in an email.

Indeed, two-year contracts may be the hagwon industry’s attempt to bring down a high turnover rate.  My former head teacher at Avalon Sunae branch, Naved Ali, mentioned that corporate HR sought advice from head teachers throughout the company on how to retain foreign staff, although he declined to put his response on the record.

The possibility of two-year contracts leads to a few other questions:

  1. How will it affect Avalon’s success at attracting foreign talent?  Two years is a bit more of a commitment for many EFL teachers here, considering that most are using the experience as a gap year after graduating from university.  Why would anyone sign on for two years in a strange country they’ve never visited, for a job they know they are probably not qualified to do?  Remember how nervous Jen and I were?
  2. What will it signal to other hagwons?  Given Avalon’s big-dog status in the hagwon-osphere, such a big move could be taken as a sign by other English academies to follow suit.  If Avalon has trouble attracting foreign talent, it won’t matter once Topia and Chungdahm  institute similar policies.  These companies set the standards for everyone else.
  3. What other staples of the “standard” Korean TEFL contract would change?   Will teachers still get a one-month severance bonus?  Will they get proper vacation guarantees?  If companies are asking for double the commitment from teachers, are they willing to give teachers double the anything?

Two-year contracts ” would change the industry and the quality of teachers who come,” says Zuidhof.  As of this writing, he hasn’t elaborated on this statement.  Any further clarification will come in an update to this post. “I think the teacher quality would get better simply because you’d be getting teachers who are more committed to teaching, learning the system, and (hopefully) engaging with the culture.”

I’d love to hear what readers think.  Has anyone else heard this rumor?  Would you come here on a two-year contract?    What kind of benefits would sweeten the deal for you?

–Daniel Daugherty

Full disclosure: Daniel used Adventure Teaching’s services to get his first job placement in Korea, at Avalon English+.



Filed under Employment Details, News

4 responses to “Two-Year Contracts: Coming to a Hagwon Near You?

  1. don

    Sounds like S. Korea is in the dark ages.

    How can anyone plan their life around a one year commitment?? We have opened ended contracts in the middle-east and want people to stay for years. With retirement plans and vacation, housing, insurance, tickets home every year, etc.

    Have your colleagues send me their resumes. We have 150 openings for qualified teachers!!

  2. If there were double benefits in other areas, like perhaps double the bonus, a little more than double the vacation…to some how pay is back for the 1 recruiter’s fee they would not have to be paying…I would consider it. It would then be a win win for both companies. I think I would only do it if I was already here and could “interview” the school though.

  3. Bundang Guy

    I can speak first hand on this matter since I worked at this campus. Basically, Avalon Imae was attacking 2 Aussies and a Kiwi- and, was using HR to interview them to check out their personality and pronunciation. They were politely asked: “what do you think about 2 year contracts with Avalon”?

    In recent times, an underlying motive was shown by a person from Avalon management – which of course was on a ‘ drunk work night’. Basically, there was a hidden agenda to this whole situation.

    This question was put on the table by HR to gain insight from people with these nationalities. Why? I think during that time, many complaints had come from people with these nationalities from various campuses in Korea. It was rumored that Avalon was considering not hiring people from Australia or New Zealand – this question was just used to gauge the reaction of these employees.

    I can tell you that Avalon will be starting Saturday classes in March, and Avalon believes that many other hagwons in Korea will also follow. Working in Korea is only going to get harder not easier…..

    • Daniel Daugherty

      Thanks for this extra insight into the situation. It actually makes Avalon sound worse

      I previously worked alongside an Australian at Avalon who caused a lot of trouble at HR after they forced him to relocate at his personal expense and on a weekend. This would have been close to that time. Maybe people from those countries are more assertive in standing up for high working standards and fair treatment?

      I already heard about it and I believe that Hagwon Saturdays are gonna be huge 😦 Poor kids

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