I just completed a contract working at a chain known as DYB Choisun Language Institute. Unlike other hagwons, all the branches of this hagwon operate in unison. Teachers teach for the company, not for the individual school. Branches are not autonomous and are operated centrally.
The main branch is located in Daechi, Seoul. Other branches (as far as I know) are located in Suwon, Anyang, Ilsan and Suji. There might be more and they are always expanding. For this reason (and to protect myself), I will talk about the company as a whole and not my individual branch. If I mention which branch I worked for, they might be able to figure out who I am.
The chain has a very appealing contract on the surface, an HR department and a foreign hiring manager (name edited by email request - Admin Team). The base salary is 2.6mil per month (five day contract) and the apartments are top notch. This is why I and many other sign the contract, however despite all of these things, I still wouldn't recommend working for this "company" for the reasons I'll outline below. I had a horrible experience with them.
- The co-teaching system. Every branch requires the native teacher to teach in unison with the Korean teachers. Your very survival depends on your relationship with them. In my experience, if one doesn't like you then they all don't like you and that will lead to disciplinary action against the foreign teacher regardless of who is objectively in the right. Considering that the foreign teachers rotate yearly and the Korean staff is permanent, the Korean staff holds a lot of political power within the school and it isn't unheard of for someone to be fired just because they rubbed one/some of their co-teachers the wrong way. The company is rolling in money so it's common for them to fire foreign/Korean teachers on a whim without understanding the full situation. For that reason, the two sides are very protective of their own and the Korean staff (comprised of all female staff between the ages of 25 and 30) resemble a union in how they operate. Teaching style/ability has absolutely nothing to do with how well one succeeds. All this being said, there is an extreme amount of tension and discomfort between the foreign and native staff at every branch with both sides constantly trying to undermine one another. It isn't limited to a few teacher on either side but sometimes consumes everyone and it isn't unheard of for students to be dragged into it.
- The curriculum. The Elementary curriculum is standard but the middle school curriculum is centered around essay writing and readings that are several levels above the students level of comprehension. It's common for native teachers to be forced into teaching pages out of The Economist to students who still struggle with the very basics of the English language and have almost ZERO speaking ability. It feels very counter-intuitive and trying to reason with your superiors will get you nowhere. The decisions are all made by Mr. Song (the CEO) and passed down to the native English teachers. While the foreign teachers are given the illusion of being able to provide feedback on the curriculum, what usually happens is that they're just told to "try harder."
- Feedback. Feedback is rarely constructive. Korean teachers complain to the main branch and every teacher is complained about regularly, often on a daily basis. The complaints are filtered down to a team leader who is often under so much pressure and stress that instead of giving specific feedback, they insult you or just tell you to "try harder" or make your classes more fun. Elementary students complained the most about the classes being "boring" and every complaint was passed down to every teacher regularly. Even if you\'re giving it your all and doing your best, the company will put an enormous amount of pressure on you to be better without telling you what you were doing wrong. Additionally, any kind of discipline isn't "fun" and is greatly discouraged.
- Working conditions. The offices for native teachers in every branch are cramped, usually with 8-10 foreign teachers working out of what is essentially a storage closet. The materials and resources provided to each teacher are minimal and what is expected of every teacher often exceeds reason and common sense.Since teachers are usually passed around from branch to branch, sometimes within the same contract, everyone has a good idea of what the working conditions are like at other branches. While most of the people working in my branch got along, I've heard stories about other branches having horrible issues where the amount of stress placed on the foreign teachers made fighting, arguing, screaming and so forth common place incidents with the staff room. I admit, before I worked there I was a calm reasonable person who rarely got angry and after working there I was a nervous wreck that became angry at the flip of a switch. No one seems to be happy.
- Mandatory meetings, "cult culture" and "mandatory" drinking. The company regularly holds mandatory training sessions on the weekends or weekday mornings. They are unpaid and located at the main branch which is often a far journey for branches like the ones in Suwon or Ilsan. Since the curriculum is so rigid, the training is usually too abstract to even be remotely applicable at any of the branches. The company, being very idealistic, focuses too much attention on the future while turning a blind eye to the very real problems at many of the branches. Drinking with co-workers is "required" on a weekly or biweekly basis. While it isn't "required", technically, your relationships with your co-workers and the Korean staff depend on it. Refusing to drink or take part in it, in many branches, is often met with passive-aggressive hostility and teachers that don't take part in it are often pushed to the sidelines. It can affect your performance reviews and reputation far more than your teaching ability. Not participating in "company events" led to a guy within my branch being fired after on his sixth month, we believe. It is common for teachers to be fired at the sixth month with no reason given. The reason is usually related to how popular they were or how well they got on with the Korean staff, not how well they taught. There is also a kind of "cult culture" surrounding the owner (Mr. Song) and his methodology. I thought it was funny at first but having to dress in a suit and crowd into a wedding hall every once in awhile on a Sunday, to listen to Mr. Song speak at length in Korean, then participate in a variety of chants ("DYB! DYB!") and songs about DYB is bit overwhelming. Some Korean staff show their loyalty to the company by pretending to cry. Take that for what it is...
- Discriminatory hiring practices. Through conversations with DYB's main recruiter, we have found out that they have policies against hiring people of colour. Specifically, they refuse to hire black people. They also have a new policy where they refuse to hire anyone over the age of 25/26 and have gone as far as to not renew the contracts of their experienced teachers who had stayed on in order to advance in the future. This is an open secret within the company. When I mentioned this to my superiors, I was told that the main reason for seeking out 22/23 year olds while hiring is that they're "blank slates." What the real reason is, I think, is that "fresh" out of university kids without work experience will put up with a lot more. Many experienced teachers were very unhappy with the direction the company was going in and I think most of those teachers were either released or weren't able to have their contracts renewed. If your hiring salary is less than 2.5, this is the reason.
- No national holidays, no return airfare and no vacation days before six months. This is on the contract however given everything I've said above, would you really want this on top of everything else? On national holidays, teachers rotate to a morning shift. The contract usually specifies working hours as being between 2/3 and 9/10, however most teachers are required to work from 1 to 10 or earlier. The intensive schedule which comprises about four months out of the year has teachers teaching as many as nine classes per day for up to six days per week.
- Five day/six day contract. There are five and six day contracts. Most teachers are bullied onto the six day contract, even after they've already signed a five day contract. All this being said, is 2.5 and a nice apartment really worth it? For the amount stress and pressure put on teachers within this company in relation to the salary and so forth, I'd say that it wasn't worth it. Working for an average hagwon paying 2.2/2.3 is far superior in terms of quality of life and job satisfaction. Don't sign a DYB contract. It's a sad thing as this company has lofty goals and aspires to set itself above all of the other hagwons. From a foreign teacher's perspective, ironically, it is probably one of the worst places you could possibly work.
Everyone who works there is miserable. Please, do NOT sign.