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