Examining National Character and Development in Selected Southeast Asian Countries and South Korea

ABSTRACT

This essay investigated the relationship between the development of a nation and the characteristics of its people. In this investigation, the construct used to embody the characteristics of the people living in a particular country is national character and the development of a nation is viewed here using the socio-economic and political lenses. The countries chosen upon which this investigation was anchored were South Korea and three Southeast Asian (SEA) nations, namely, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

In examining the national character of the aforementioned countries, Hofstede’s measures of cultural values (Hofstede’s 6-D model) were used. In measuring the development level these countries have reached, their scores and corresponding ranks in the Human Development Index (HDI) were compared. The descriptive-comparative structure was used in the discussion.

The investigation sought answers to the following questions: 1) How may the national character of the selected SEA countries and South Korea be described in terms of Hofstede’s measures of cultural values?; 2)What is the current status of development in these countries as indicated in their latest HDI rank?; 3) What inferences could be made as to how national development in these countries is associated with their national character as described using Hofstede’s measures of cultural values?; and 4) What can SEA countries learn from South Korean models in terms of national character and socio-economic and political development?

Hofstede’s 6-D model show that the South Koreans are the least hierarchical, most collectivist, the most feminine, the most uncomfortable with uncertainty, the most long-termed oriented, and the most restrained among the group of people whose national culture and human development were analyzed. The Malaysians are the most hierarchical and indulgent while the Filipinos are the most individualistic. Only the Philippines has a masculine society, and its citizens are the most short-term oriented. Of the three Southeast Asian nations, Vietnam is the most long-term oriented.

The cultural dimensions that are considered significantly correlated with wealth are power distance, individualism-collectivism, and long-term orientation. The less hierarchical, more collectivist, and more long-term oriented a country is, the wealthier and developed it could become. The South Koreans are the least hierarchical, the most collectivistic, and the most long-termed oriented. Of the four countries chosen for this analysis, South Korea is ranked the highest in the Human Development Index. Among the three Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia has the best score in the Human Development Index.

This investigation concluded that the development of a nation could be affected by the characteristics of its people. The South Koreans have certain characteristics, as shown in their scores in Hofstede’s 6-D model, that helped them consistently ranked high in the Human Development Index. People in Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian nations may perhaps consider embracing, not only the music, movies, TV dramas, food, and fashion of the South Koreans but also their cultural and behavioral orientations that are considered positive and applicable to them. In particular, the leaders of the said countries should consider looking at South Korean models when formulating their policies in the fields of education, research and development but at the same time also study how they could avoid the social problems besetting South Korea.

Keywords: National Character, National Development, Culture, Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension Theory, Human Development Index

Read the whole article here…

On Filipinos Teaching English In South Korea

Filipino teachers attending a meeting of the Association of
Filipino Educators in Korea (AFEK)

Most universities here in South Korea (and other Asian countries) prefer to recruit English teachers from countries where English is the native language. That is a matter of policy but it does not follow that the best English teachers are the ones coming from those countries… they could be somewhere else just waiting to be given an opportunity to prove their mettle in ESL teaching. And whether that policy reaped dividends and made the students in those countries better at English or ripped those countries of their precious dollars is an interesting topic for discourse.

There are a few tertiary institutions in this country employing teachers from the Philippines to teach English. These are the universities that believe that teaching English is not a monopoly of the teachers labeled as “native speakers” coming from the following countries: USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland. I have also written an article about the Filipinos and their romance with the English language. I also discussed in the same article a little bit about the thesis that ACCENT  is getting in the way of INTELLIGIBILITY and COMPREHENSIBILITY. I am planning to explore the topic further in future articles.

If the statistics gathered in 2013 by the Association of Filipino Professors in Korea (AFEK) is accurate then there are more or less 100  teachers from the Philippines in this  part of the Korean peninsula. That could still be the same number as of 2022. Reportedly, there are more in elementary and  secondary schools and academies (hagwon). This AFEK came to know when they launched in May, 2017 the program “Skills Enhancement for Filipino Teachers Teaching English in Korea.” Several of the attendees were Filipino women married to South Koreans and are employed as English teachers.  The Philippine Embassy in Seoul, however, doesn’t have any official record that could give the exact number of Filipinos teaching in the basic education schools and academies here.

Filipino professors are not limited to teaching English subjects only. They are E-1 visa holders and are allowed to teach content subjects depending on their fields of specialization.

students
The writer – with his TOEIC students

E-2 visa holders are allowed by the Ministry of Education here to teach strictly English subjects only. One advantage of hiring Filipino professors, because theirs is E-1 visa, is they can be asked to teach content subjects related to their fields especially if the curriculum requires that the content subjects should be taught in English. Currently, in the university where this writer is teaching,  three teachers from the Philippines, aside from teaching English subjects, would once in a while be invited to teach content subjects in the university’s Graduate School or serve as advisers to foreign students writing their dissertation.

I wouldn’t say that Filipino professors in universities in South Korea are lucky to have been hired. Why? They have to go through the proverbial eye of the needle to have a chance of getting hired. They applied alongside teachers who are native speakers of English who have the upper hand, not because of their qualifications and pedagogical skills, but because of their geographical roots.

Most of the Filipino professors here are PhD degree holders. The minimum requirement FOR THEM  is Masters. Surprisingly, some native speakers of English, are allowed to teach in universities here even if they don’t have Masters.

To the universities that opened the opportunity for Filipino professors and hired them, the applicants needed to prove that they are as equally capable as their counterparts from the native English-speaking regions of the world. When they got hired, it was because they are qualified and have proven that they have what it takes to be English teachers. It wasn’t luck.

Filipino teachers are trained in the Philippines to both know what to teach and know how to teach what they know.

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The writer – with a fellow-Filipino teacher and some of their students

Modesty aside, the Philippines has a very good education curriculum implemented through the Commission on Higher Education which closely monitors  TEIs (Teacher Education Institutions) to ensure strict compliance. Thus,  Education graduates from the Philippines can be relied upon not only in terms of the knowledge, skills, attitude, and values in their field of specialization but also in pedagogy and in research. Filipino teachers are good in both instruction and research.

One of the best features of “teacher training” in the Philippines is teachers are made to understand that the most important stakeholder in a school is the STUDENT, not the TEACHER. When they need to, Filipino teachers know how to adhere to the philosophy that the teaching-learning process  should be student-centered.

One reason, if not the main and only reason,  most universities in Asian countries (like South Korea, Japan and China) prefer to hire teachers from those seven countries is ACCENT.

The Filipinos are good at English with the said language being the official medium of instruction in the Philippines from kindergarten to college – even in graduate school. Filipinos, at an early age, write and speak English. They hear and read it everywhere. It is also the official language of communication in the Philippines.  All business and government transactions are done in English. The country also has the 3rd largest group of English speakers in the world. Their accent is not bad. It’s neutral, to say the least. This is the reason why the Philippines is one of the leading countries for BPO. But notwithstanding all the aforementioned, still the said universities prefer native English speakers and do not include Filipino teachers in their lists of preferences.

But there are two things that would make hiring a Filipino teacher a wise investment – two things far more important than ACCENT… their PASSION for teaching and COMPASSION for the learners.

It is easy to learn to mimic somebody’s way of creating vowel and consonant sounds and diphthongs but it is hard for teachers to be passionate  about the job and compassionate with the students…. especially if they are not really trained to be one and were only forced to accept the teaching job for lack of better options.

Professionalism Among Teachers

The complexities involving the teaching profession and the importance of the role of teachers in the holistic development of learners require strict adherence to the tenets of professionalism. There are expectations that teachers need to meet and there are qualities that they are expected to possess. These expectations and qualities are the ones that should inform the decision to hire somebody applying for a teaching position.

All the qualities teachers ought to have and what are expected of them can be summed up in one concept – “teacher professionalism.”

“Teacher professionalism” is an idea  that can be defined differently based on multiple perspectives and its merits scrutinized according to various arguments. It is considered a broad concept consisting of several dimensions.  However, for delimitation purposes, the discussion on the subject in this article is anchored only on the definitions of the term “professionalism” given in the next two (2) paragraphs.

Evans pointed out that “professionalism means different things to different people.”1 The Oxford dictionary simply defines the term as “the competence or skills expected of a professional.”It is the level of excellence or competence that professionals should manifest in their chosen fields of specialization.

Tichenorexplains that professionalism  are the expected  behaviors of individuals  in a specific occupation.  Professionals need to conduct themselves in accordance to set standards.

Boyt, Lusch and Naylor4 combined  the said views about professionalism when they describe it as a multi-dimensional structure consisting of one’s attitudes  and behaviors towards  his/her job and the achievement of high level of standards. Similarly, Hargreavesdefines professionalism as the conduct, demeanor and standards which guide the work of professionals.

The terms associated to professionalism as seen from the definitions and explanations given are as follows: competence, skills, behaviors, conduct, demeanor, and standards. Competence and skills are synonymous and so are behaviors, conduct, and demeanor. Standards refer to the quality or accepted norms for competence and behaviors.

Skills are not the only components that make up teacher’s competence. Knowledge is, of course, an integral part of it.

Skills and knowledge are very broad attributions to a teacher’s competence. What specifically are the skills and knowledge that would make a teacher competent?

As Baggini puts it, “To be a professional or a professor  was to profess in some skill or field of knowledge.” It’s a given that teachers should have knowledge of the subject matter or expertise in a particular skill. Teachers are expected to know not a little but much about what they are teaching.

What adds challenge to being a teacher  is the ability to dig (whenever applicable) into the scientific, philosophical, legal, sociological, and psychological foundations of what is being taught. It is important that teachers are able to relate whatever they are discussing to other  fields. Such an ability would enable teachers to enrich the discussion.

But teaching and learning are complex processes that involve a lot more… not just knowing what to teach and being able to connect a topic to other disciplines. What would make teachers truly competent are the corresponding skills that enable them to effectively teach what they know and make the students learn. Such skills are acquired through training in pedagogy.

Pedagogy is commonly defined as “the art, science, or profession of teaching.” Pedagogy informs teaching strategies, teacher actions, and teacher judgments and decisions by taking into consideration theories of learning, understandings of students and their needs, and the backgrounds and interests of individual students.7

Pedagogy, in a nutshell, tells how best to teach and how best the students learn.

Knowledge and expertise in a field would not make one a teacher. Pedagogical skills are needed. Competent teachers SHOULD know, not just the subject matter, but how to  set learning objectives, motivate students, design learning activities, facilitate learning, construct assessment, and assess learning.

In addition, another skill through which the competence of 21st-century teachers is gauged is how extensive and effectively do they apply technology (computer) to teaching and learning.

Aside from competence, the other dimension of teacher’s professionalism this article is exploring is behavior.

Teachers are aware that they should behave in accordance with the ethical standards set for the teaching profession. They are expected to speak, act and dress accordingly. Barberpointed this out when he identifies as one of the main characteristics of professional behavior  a “high degree of self-control of behavior through codes of ethics.”

But the behavior dimension of professionalism among teachers goes beyond proper manner and decorum.

Another characteristic of professional behavior identified by Barber is “orientation primarily to community interest rather than to  individual self-interest.” It is no secret that teachers sacrifice a lot to help their students. Teachers work long hours and practice a lot of patience. As Orlin puts it, “ I see it (teaching) as an act of self-sacrifice, as a hard path undertaken for the greater good.”9

Teachers also know that they need to keep learning. They need to have a continuing professional development plan for them to be better equipped in dealing with the challenges of the profession. They need to keep abreast of the current trends and innovations in the field of education.

There are also general teaching behaviors which, according to a study, are the most important for effective teaching (as perceived by students). Hativa identified five (5) of them, namely, making the lessons clearorganizedengaging/interestingmaintaining interactions, and rapport with students.10

Two (2) of the said general teaching behaviors (making the lessons clear and organized) are related to the first dimension of teacher professionalism (competence and skills). The rest are more indicative of the second dimension (behavior).

Teacher professionalism strongly implies the demands and complexities of teaching making it harder to understand why the profession doesn’t get due recognition. Teaching is not just any profession. Not just anybody can be a teacher. Not just anybody can be entrusted the responsibility of developing the mind and body.

References:   

  1. Evans, Linda (2008) Professionalism, professionality and the development of education professionals. British Journal of Educational Studies, 56 (1). pp. 20-38.
  2. Definition of “professionalism” – Oxford English Dictionary
  3. Tichenor, M. S., Tichenor, J. M. (2005). Understanding teachers’ perspectives on professionalism. ERIC.
  4. Boyt, T., Lusch, R. F. ve Naylor, G. (2001). The role of professionalism in determining job satisfaction in professional services: a study of marketing researchers, Journal of Service Research, 3(4), 321-330
  5. Hargreaves, A. (2000). Four ages of professionalism and professional learning. Teachers and Teaching: History and Practice, 6 (2),151-182. 
  6. Baggini, J. (2005). What professionalism means for teachers today? Education Review, 18 (2), 5-11.
  7. Shulman, Lee (1987). “Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform”(PDF). Harvard Educational Review. 15(2): 4–14. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  8. Barber, B. (1965). Some Problems in the Sociology of the Professions. In K. S. Lynn (Edt.), The Professions in America (pp. 669-688). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  9. Orlin, Ben “Teaching As Self Sacrifice.” Match With Bad Drawing. WordPress, March 10, 2014. Web. 19 July, 2017.
  10. Hativa, N. (2014). A pratical approach to designing, operating, and reporting, 2nd, Tel Aviv: Oron Publications.
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