There are not many greater influences that can shape the whole English Education industry in Korea, more than Samsung HR. Some may claim that Lee Myung Park’s English policies set the tone and/or the Ministry of Education. Some foreign teachers look to Immigration as being the tail that wags the dog in their aspect of the industry. And many Koreans point to the competitive nature of Korean mothers for being the catalyst that drives the ESL bus in Korea. All of those, however, are largely shaped by the two larger influences:
With respect to the hiring aspect, the workplace in Korea has largely relied on TOEIC and TOEFL scores to be the barometer for English proficiency. But Korean employers are becoming progressively frustrated with the Korean applicant pool who have high TOEIC scores (ie., mass memorization of useless vocab), but piss-poor ability to actually communicate. A few years back, the trend began for employers to slowly move away from TOEIC being the standard. And this past week, Chosun Ilbo had an interview with Samsung HR who signaled that TOEIC and TOEFL requirements are being phased out over the forthcoming years, and instead using the OPlc (Oral Proficiency Interview Computer system), to zero in on speaking skills, moreso than the writing and grammar skills that students glean from TOEIC cramming.
However, based on a January press release from ETS, the developers of the TOEIC and TOEFL tests, they seem to indicate that Samsung HR will beginning to use TOEIC Speaking tests to aid in their hiring efforts, which leads one to believe that they haven’t overly turned their nose up on throwing out the whole former process.
But this certainly influences the ESL industry down to its roots. Big names like Samsung set the tone and other large to mid-size companies dealing in international trade, soon follow. And then speculation lingers on how long it will take for university entrance requirements to operate in synch with corporate hiring requirements, as mothers and media begin to gripe about the two different qualification systems. The hardest hit will eventually be the insanely lucrative TOEFL prep schools in hotbeds like Jongno and Gangnam, where classes are packed wall-to-wall, with as many as 100 students and celebrity teachers who have a great rep for prepping for TOEFL success, are able to bring in excesses of $10-15,000/month.
What does all this mean to foreign teachers? TOEIC and TOEFL falling to the wayside in favor of a speaking-centric testing system will simply bolster any aspect of the industry involving us
white barbarians esteemed educators. And most certainly a more strengthening demand for native teachers and the ensuing speaking-focused enterprises like hagwons, English villages, etc…And of course, privates out the ying yang.
Edit:The impact of Korea tossing out the TOEIC and TOEFL in favor of speaking-centric tests might be a good talking point with students in your classes, as lord knows they’ll have opinions on this.