THE WORK AND LIVES OF SOUTH KOREAN TEACHERS Lower-Secondary School Teachers’ Perceptions of the Teacher Profession

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för pedagogik och specialpedagogik

Abstract: Aim: Historically, the teaching profession in eastern Asian countries is often considered as a prestigious and desirable occupation with great respect in social and cultural contexts. Even though South Korean secondary school teachers have been part of and influenced by a devaluation of their authority compared to the past, there is not enough research about Korean teachers’ work and lives in international research. The aim of this study is to describe and analyze how teachers in contemporary south Korea understand, reflect on their situation as teachers, conditions, tensions, and new challenges based on discourses on teacher professionalism but also the pandemic. Theory: The study is based on the combination of policy theory (Ball, 1994) and theory based on symbolic interactionism. Policy frames the work of teachers and needs to be understood in order to analyse the context of teachers’ practices. Symbolic interactionism believes an individual does not passively receive input from society and is actively creating its meaning through interaction, interpretation, and re-interpretation; hence, society is continuously created and recreated as humans inevitably meet new challenges over time. As teacher professionalism is largely affected by the constant interaction between, on the one hand, their beliefs, attitudes, and emotions and, on the other hand, the social, cultural, and institutional environment where they function, the concept of symbolic interactionism and education policy theory will enhance the understanding of the importance of individuals’ different voices and how teacher’s professionalism and perception toward the profession have been changed over the time. Method: A qualitative discourse analysis was applied in order to determine how the Korean teachers experience their work. The research data is gathered by analyzing previous empirical studies, directives, and policy, but also by four in-service semi-structured individual interviews of Korean teachers. Results: The result of this study indicates that the contemporary Korean secondary school teachers are confronted with changing directives and conceptions toward the teaching profession in Korean society. This in combination of traditional values and expectations create a difficult situation for the teachers today, in their trying to adapt to it and construct meanings of their profession from work. Each teacher perceived the situation similarly or differently depends on his/her personal experiences and the social, cultural, and institutional environment where they work on a daily basis

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