Thursday, August 9, 2007

A scam on PSS and the taxpayer

I'm happy to be a liberal in the sense that I distrust and despise all the scams and influence of corporate America. I'm certainly no fan of the religious right, either. I find that title of liberal a lot more appealing than that of conservative, despite the demonization of that word over the years. I do, however, loath the politically correct, watch what you say, be hypersensitive to all, branch of liberalism. By definition, conservative means against change, and the world I live in is way too messed up not to want change.

Well, here is one thing I suppose I'm not so liberal about, and it probably will cost me money for saying so. There is a scam going on in this island right now. Yeah, yeah, one of the many. This one is kind of new.

South Korea has long been under the spell of English mania. There are English tutor schools, called hagwons, about every ten feet in Seoul -- along with coffee shops, karaoke rooms and computer rooms. I mean this pretty literally. Rick Vaughn is there right now and can attest to that fact. I worked at two well known hagwons before moving to Saipan and enjoyed my fun, yet going nowhere, jobs there. These hagwons are English conversation schools that all age groups attend, usually early in the morning or in the evening after work, and they are more businesses than school. Some of the teachers at these schools are good, but most have no qualifications at all, are clueless about teaching and are there for cheap beer, Asian girls, to pay down college debt or simply just to travel. In order to practice real world conversation with, in their usual preference, "white Americans," preferably young and female, but definitely young, Koreans flock to these schools, and pay $100 to $200 per month for this talking privilege. I had a British friend/co-worker who was once instructed to teach English with an American accent.

Right now, the CNMI public schools are being flooded with Korean students. I don't believe they have family or businesses here. They are here to graduate an American high school, which gives them a better chance to get into an American college. Two years ago, given my Korean experience, I attempted to start a Korean Club at SSHS. The mere 20 Korean kids in the entire school had some kind of rift in their community, so it never happened. That community has grown enormously since then, and it seems to have exploded this year. Right now I have 20 Korean students in my class alone. You will hear more Korean spoken than Chamorro or Carolinian on our campus. Koreans are obsessed with getting an American education. Many pregnant Korean women fly to the states, or here or Guam to get American citizenship and get their male child out of required Korean military service, which is a cruel joke. The South Korean government pulls these young men out of college after their sophomore year in college to mostly stand around some military base and do little as soldiers. They give them free cigarettes, which leads to an unhealthy addiction that is hard to break. These young men don't get to start their real adult lives with their chosen career until age 26 or later, and women shy away from men in their early 20s because they'll hardly get to see them for years. I always felt bad for these men about this scenario.

I found out today that the school system here is not allowed to ask the registering student about their immigration status. The student could be here illegally, or on a tourist visa, and PSS can't ask or find out. This is according to a counselor I talked with about this issue today. I think it is likely young school aged Koreans are coming in on tourist visas and just enrolling in the schools since these students usually make a trip to Seoul after a few months and start the CNMI Visa process again. The parents are seldom, if ever, actually living here. They are paying for a home stay program. Many of these students have little to no English ability. The high school language arts classes are wildly packed, and frankly, Korean families on this island are running a home stay program for a great profit, and they are shifting the education burden on the already overburdened and underfunded Public School System. I consider it a scam.

This English education as I see it is hardly in the interest of the Korean student. The English classes aren't ESL classes. I don't teach the class like I'm teaching a bunch of Koreans who hardly know the language, and to do so is unfair to the other 25 local kids who need me to bring them up to speed on skills they are already lacking. I have more than one student who doesn't know word one of English, has no idea what I'm saying and just looks at the sky for 80 minutes. He was ushered in like cattle by some Korean guy who announced that he's a junior, but he's really bad at English, so he's in freshmen English, as if I'm teaching at a hagwon. There really isn't much I could do for this person even if he was the only student I had, which he decidedly is not. In Korea, this type of student would work with a Korean bilingual teacher to bring them up to a level to be ready for a foreign teacher and more advanced English. PSS isn't about to do this.
What's happening is a scam that rips off the CNMI taxpayers. It's not good for the Korean students. It's not good for the local students. It's not good for the teachers. It's only good for Korean families getting paid a lot of money to look out for some Korean kid shipped off to a strange place for "free" English lessons on the backs of the CNMI taxpayer.

I know and like a lot of Korean people. I've probably interacted with more Korean people than most Koreans. More Koreans on island is good for me because, toot toot, I consider myself about the best suited person on this whole island for Korean ESL, and this post probably precludes me getting any more students for that purpose, but this is a scam going on right now, so I'm going to say something about it.


Angie said...

Jeff, I agree! There is a large group of students living at the Rivera. I wonder where they are going to school?

Booniedog said...

Dandan...they're calling it 'exchange program' but I know it's scam...wonder if central knows anything about it...I heard it'a a huge burden to all the teachers

Rick said...

Yeah, Jeff, I will attest to it... hagwons are like weeds in Korea; come to think of it, in the Philippines too! So why drain the CNMI system? At least the Koreans should contribute to the upkeep of the schools, etc.