Foreign English teachers facing massive job cutsAll foreign English teachers at public high schools in Seoul will lose their jobs beginning in September after the Seoul Metropolitan Council decided Wednesday to cut the budget for the teachers’ employment.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, the 4.4 billion won ($3.9 million) usually allocated to hiring foreign English teachers at city high schools was removed from next year’s budget proposal.
As a result, the 255 foreign English teachers currently employed at high schools in Seoul will not be able to renew their contracts starting next September, and all English classes at the schools will be taught by Korean teachers.
The Seoul Metropolitan Council is also hoping to cut 4.9 billion won from the budget for foreign English teachers at elementary and middle schools in the city, however the council is currently going through a week-long deliberation period on the matter. The final decision will be made on Dec. 15 during the council’s general meeting.
If the budget cut for elementary and middle schools is also approved next week, the 252 and 200 foreign English teachers currently employed at elementary and middle schools, respectively, will also lose their jobs in September.
The foreign teachers were employed at public schools in Seoul under a project spearheaded by the Lee Myung-bak administration in order to improve students’ practical English-language skills.
Choi Chun-ok, a supervisor at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, said the decision to cut the budget for foreign teacher salaries was made to increase the efficacy of English-language education, as the project costs a large amount of money to maintain.
“In that sense, we’ve decided to continue the project by having foreign English teachers in the schools that will really benefit from it,” Choi said.
She argued that “contrary to what some newspapers have reported, this is not a major layoff of foreign teachers because they were incapable.”
She continued by saying, “We’ve told foreign teachers currently employed at city high schools that they can apply to work at elementary or middle schools if they wish to stay in Korea.”
Kim Jong-wook, a council member and representative of the main opposition Democratic Party, said there is a high possibility that the budget cut for foreign teachers at elementary and middle schools in Seoul will be passed next week.
“Schools should try to hire Korean teachers who are both fluent in English and Korean, as they are preferred by parents and students these days,” Kim said.
Choi from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said that Korean teachers who are currently teaching English classes in conjunction with foreign teachers in high schools will teach the classes alone beginning next year as foreign teachers vacate their posts when their contracts expire.
“We have continued to train Korean teachers so they are fully capable of teaching practical English skills, and this is our ultimate goal,” Choi said.
By Yim Seung-hye [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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