South Korea’s “rock-star teacher” earns $4 million a year, writes Amanda Ripley in the Wall Street Journal. Kim Ki-Hoon teaches in a private, after-school tutoring academy or hagwon.
Mr. Kim works about 60 hours a week teaching English, although he spends only three of those hours giving lectures. His classes are recorded on video, and the Internet has turned them into commodities, available for purchase online at the rate of $4 an hour. He spends most of his week responding to students’ online requests for help, developing lesson plans and writing accompanying textbooks and workbooks (some 200 to date).
“The harder I work, the more I make,” he says matter of factly. “I like that.”
Some 150,000 students watch Mr. Kim’s lectures online each year, hoping to raise their college admissions scores. He employs 30 people and runs a publishing company to produce his books.
Hagwons compete to hire top teachers and pay them based on the number of students they attract, students’ progress and student evaluations.
In a survey, teenagers gave their hagwon teachers better scores than their regular teachers.
Hagwon teachers were better prepared, more devoted to teaching and more respectful of students’ opinions, the teenagers said. Interestingly, the hagwon teachers rated best of all when it came to treating all students fairly, regardless of the students’ academic performance.
Private tutors are also more likely to experiment with new technology and nontraditional forms of teaching.
Nearly three of every four South Korean kids use hagwons, writes Ripley. In 2012, their parents spent more than $17 billion on tutoring.
South Korean students rank at the top on international tests.
Ripley’s new book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, follows Americans going to school in South Korea, Finland and Poland, The book will come out Aug. 13.