Academic Integrity in Korean Universities: It’s Not Like Back Home
If you’ve never taught at a Korean university, you probably have no idea of what it’s like and would perhaps rightly assume that it’s the same as was when you went to uni back in the Western world. It’s not! Academic integrity in Korean universities is non-existent and the sooner that you realize this and adapt to it, the far happier your working life in Korea will be. Those that can’t handle it well usually leave this most prime of ESL teaching jobs after a year or two.
Standards at Korean universities are extremely lax and getting into uni is basically a guarantee of getting your degree, as long as you pay your tuition, which is actually the most important thing. And of course, there are way too many unis for the number of college age students in Korea so it seems like just about anybody can get it. Homework, attending class, studying, reports: they all seem mostly optional.
Anyway…some of my coworkers stress continually about this lack of academic integrity and keep comparing it to how it is back home. In fact, it’s often these same people that compare daily life kind of stuff to how it is back home and they find that Korea can never measure up. This is not really a good way to live, because it just causes too much stress and your life becomes this weird warped kind of alter reality where you’re living neither here nor there. Mental health fail for sure.
A Better Plan: Serenity Now!
So what should you do about this somewhat troubling aspect of our working lives in Korea? Just chill out. Take a few deep breaths. Go with the flow. Constantly tell yourself, “Serenity now!”
Yes, we all know that academic standards are non-existent in Korea, and that cheating/plagiarism is rampant but you can’t change the system, you know? You’re just a lowly foreigner and even the Koreans that are disgusted with it (there are many) are powerless to make a change. What you can change is how you run your classes.
Make your Classes Easy!
I make my classes really easy–far easier than any uni-level (or even high school!) language class back home would be. I have such low expectations that it would be almost impossible for students not to meet them, which ends up being a win-win for everyone. I freely give out A/B’s for moderate efforts and C/D’s for minimal effort. Only the truly terrible students get “F.” Seniors will always get at least a “D” for showing up/doing a little homework, no matter how bad their test scores.
This reduces my stress considerably and I don’t have to but heads with the admin, which I hate doing because it means appearing on the radar screen instead of flying under it.
Make your Tests Impossible to Cheat on!
Of course students will cheat, which is why I do speaking tests in conversation or speaking classes, where it’s impossible to cheat.
Written kind of tests? I spell it out to them before. If I see a cellphone-fail! Writing on desk/arm-fail! Talking to their friend-fail! And of course I make multiple tests with slightly different questions and in a random order.
Assignments? If you copy off the internet-fail! Copy off your friend-you both fail! I essentially have no late policy for assignments. If you spell it to the students beforehand, who can really complain to you when you give them an “F?” Nobody!
It really is a pretty prime job, if you can get it so don’t let what I just said dissuade you: How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams. Who doesn’t like 5 months paid vacation and teaching 9 hours/week?