The Speech contest : I can certainly understand the point of view of the writer, it seems all so absurd and out of whack. Why in hell are there these Speech contests and why are they becoming more and more important. Yes, they are.
“Essays spoken out loud”, there is a certain eloquence required to do that successfully. I have said it before, the value of the mother is reflected by the value the child, which in Korea means the Academic success of their offspring. How to show off their success but by providing a forum (tests, contests, …) so mothers can show off their kids ability.
Let me give you some of my experiences. My own school focuses on the communication part of language rather than the technical part of learning a language, therefore my students tend to always end up in the top three (never number one, except one and I’ll get to that later). I have had students walk into my school because my students won speech contests. Mothers need assurances that their kids are doing better than everybody else’s kid, if you think about it just a little, you understand that this is impossible, but that doesn’t matter now does it.
What is the procedure? First mother tells us that their kid will take part in a speech contest, and can we give her kid a hand. Of course it is impossible for us to say no, so I ask the child in question to write out a text. Even though for their age, and given that it is a second language, they will inadvertently write a text fraught with mistakes and translation mistakes, cause it is almost impossible to convince people in Korea to “Think in English”. Your position as a teacher is that this is what the kid can do and should bring that to the stage. You must forget that everybody in Korea cheats, and the only way to win a contest where everyone cheats, is to cheat better. That is how it is. So as a hagwon owner, I clean the text up and give it a more natural elan. We put some 1-on-1 time on it to make sure kid gains the confidence and eloquence it needs to perform at their peak during the contest. Up until now, that is what I do to make sure the kids end up on top.
Is this fair? There are no rules in this contest. It is very simple, come on stage, do your bit and a panel of judges will score you on your presentation. Given that a lot of other competitors also have access to paid help, a parent can do nothing but equalize the competition by acquiring paid help. The only unfairness is those that can’t pay for it. Now, I don’t ask extra money for it. For me it is a point of honor, but let me divulge a few more details.
Judges have the power to decide who will win. I always wondered why my kids never scored better than 3rd place, and yes, it was always third place, until one of my kids (not one of my best!!) got first place. I started wondering and asked some questions to the mom. What did she do different than all my other mothers. She “hired” one of the judges to improve her son’s speech…. even though I already spent up to 5 hours prepping the kid, she spent another 600.000 won so that the “judge” could “increase” this kids speech ability. I can honestly tell you I did not see an ounce of difference, but the judge did, and isn’t that ultimately what is important.
So here you have it, the contests are rigged. ALL contests in Korea are RIGGED. They hide it,and they hide it well, but all the stories I have heard about contests all came down to the same thing. The best kids ends up in third place and the kids who’s mothers were successful in bribing the judges without anyone else noticing, end up first and second place. There are exceptions, but I have experienced it to be the norm.
Now you also understand why the English teacher is the last person who should be presiding over judging the kids. It is difficult to explain to them how Korea works.