Who knew employers could “Import teaching without the teacher?” With remotely controlled robots, South Korean students are learning English from teachers in the Philippines.

Among the experimental school management models being tried around the world, virtual schools may represent the most concerted effort to eliminate or reduce the reliance on quality teachers. These experiments take a range of forms, some of which involve teachers in countries far removed from the schools’ base of operation. One example was flagged recently by Bartlett. Futuristic as it may sound, small penguin-shaped robots are being used to teach English to kindergarten students in South Korea. Initially, developers attempted to operate the Engkey (English jockey) robots with scripted programming, but the automated system was deemed too rigid.  Developers decided instead to employ overseas teachers to control the robots remotely from the Philippines. According to Bartlett, this allows “South Korean classrooms to import the teaching without the teacher, to pay the teacher at the much lower local wage, and to downplay the fact that the English teacher is Asian.” Such experiments are likely to continue in new and challenging ways, further blurring the national boundaries of the world’s teaching force.

More information

Bartlett, Lora. “Robots in the Classroom the Wrong Innovation.” San Francisco Chronicle, May 31, 2013.