This is the 114 on the EPIK (Teaching English) program in Korea… (114 is the information dial in Korea).
During last Friday’s EPIK workshop between NET’s and their co-teachers, EPIKers were informed that their actual vacation time is indeed, not as they thought or were led to believe. To many, this new came as a shock (read a bit of Kimchi and Eish! blog). Due to the fact, Korea holds two national holidays (Children’s Day and Parent’s Day) this week, NET’s (Native English Teachers) were initially given extra school holidays by their school so that they enjoy half to a whole week off for the celebration. As such, some EPIKers made plans and booked tickets to leave the country or to leave town. Now, these people must either surrender their trip or have the days deducted from their 8-day summer vacation.
Eight days of summer vacation?
You heard correct. That was the sound of the second bomb being dropped. English teachers under the EPIK program in Korea are excluded from standard school vacations and holidays. They are allowed 8 days of summer vacation and 10 days of winter vacation in addition to National holidays. What happens when Christmas and summer break roll around and no one is at school? The EPIK teacher will be sitting in their office, either teaching a winter class, surfing the internet or cleaning.
How can they do this, you ask? They did. In Article 14 of the EPIK contract, it does state the topic of “Paid Leave” in roundabout terms. It also states that absences, tardies and early leaves can also be interpreted as a possible deduction to one’s vacation days, as each vacation day substitutes an 8-hr workday. On a hopeful note: there is a stipulation that the Employer may grant an extra 5 days to exemplary teaching, etc… but this was not brought to attention to the co-teachers on Friday; thus, it’s unlikely to be observed.
Your recruiting agency and your school vs. EPIK
The confusion that many EPIKers fall under is that not only did their Korean schools initially give them the school holidays to observe as well, but recruiting agencies themselves, sell “Teaching in Korea” as having one of the best packages due in part, to its vacation/holiday perks. My recruiting agency, for example said that while we’re given 18 days of paid vacation, we will also have national and school holidays. Obviously, from every EPIKer’s shock in that room, this matter was not discussed in clear length at orientation or even before signing.
A Choice for Future EPIKers:
For anyone considering signing up with EPIK in the future, these are two BIG things you must take into consideration and weigh:
1) Vacation Hours:
8 Paid Days of Vacation in the Summer; 10 Paid Days of Vacation in the Winter + National Holidays. (School holidays or school vacation time such as summer/winter break do NOT count as a free vacation day– use any of these days and it will be deducted from your 8 & 10)
2) Your housing, school, location and co-teacher are all either hit-or-miss.
You could get a good situation or you could get a very bad to lousy one, on ANY or ALL of the above mentioned. While you may be a bit more protected than working at a hagwon, there are still shady schools who will attempt to push beyond contracts or not honor them. EPIK can only enforce so much.