Check teacher backgroundsParents’ concerns grow daily over the qualifications of native-speaking English teachers as the number of crimes committed by some of them escalates. Until just a few days ago, a Canadian pedophile suspect, wanted by Interpol for sexually assaulting children in Southeast Asia, had worked as an English teacher at a school in Korea. He fled overseas as police tried to capture him.
Not long ago, reports were made about native-speaking English teachers’ sexual assaults of their child students; others were accused of smoking marijuana. There must be more crimes that have not been made public. The time is urgent to come up with preventive measures.
The biggest problem is Korea’s lack of a system to verify teacher qualifications. The government cannot avoid blame for doing nothing.
As of now, the only way to find out the qualifications and criminal history of a native English teacher is by referring to a blacklist that was made public by the Korea Foreign Teacher Recruiting Association. The list was merely a compilation of complaints and reports from private institutions.
How can we possibly feel safe about educating our children?
The government says it has no exchange of information with foreign governments, thus it was unable to know about teachers’ criminal history.
That explanation is irresponsible and lame. The government must build a verification system when issuing work visas for teachers. Requiring a police clearance certificate can be part of the system.
How much longer will the government do nothing and leave private teaching institutes to take care of the matter? The regional education offices must strengthen their evaluations of teacher qualifications.
A bill to raise the credentials required of foreign English teachers and tighten government supervision is pending at the National Assembly. It should be enacted as soon as possible. That is the only way for the majority of innocent foreign English teachers to avoid losing trust.
Grand National presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak promised that he would improve the public school system so that all high school graduates will be able to speak English fluently.
To that end, Korea will need a large number of foreign English teachers. Lee should also provide an effective and specific plan to supply a large number of teachers and verify their credentials, unless he wants the promise to end in vain as a rosy, populist pledge.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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