Native-speaker English teachers to lose more jobs

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Native-speaker English teachers to lose more jobs

In a budget-cutting move, the Seoul Office of Education said yesterday that native English-speaking teachers will be cut from the city’s middle and high schools within the next half year.

“Native English-speaking co-teachers will only remain in elementary schools,” stated an education official yesterday. “By next February, we will cut down on all middle and high school native teachers.”

Foreign teachers have been recruited by the government to teach English classes in primary and secondary public schools since 1995. These woneomin, or native-speaking, English teachers teach classes alongside a Korean co-teacher.

The education office stated that the cuts will start from next month and out of 180 foreign teachers in the city’s high school, only 20 to 30 will remain at Seoul Global High School and 10 other schools designated for special English education.

All but four native English middle school teacher positions of the 264 will remain in the city’s schools come February.

The government traditionally opened new positions in the months of February and August.

Matthew Kramer, a 33-year-old from Delaware, teaches English at a public middle school in Gangnam District, southern Seoul.

“I was lucky because I was hired directly by the Gangnam District, so I am safe - at least for now.”

Of some 1,200 foreign English teachers in the city’s elementary, middle and high schools as of February, 355 teachers were hired directly by the district office.

But Kramer knows of other teachers who were not so fortunate and had to find alternatives to public school jobs. “Some teachers I know were moved into elementary school positions - mostly within the same district,” he said.

Kramer is no stranger to budget cuts - he lost his first teaching job in Korea in a public school in Goyang, Gyeonggi, because of cuts.

In his class, though he has a Korean co-teacher, he usually leads the class and curriculum while the Korean teacher at the moment plays more of an assistant and disciplinarian role.

“There are skilled younger Korean-English instructors, but their spoken and written English sometimes is not natural,” he said.

The education office said middle and high school curricula put more focus on reading and grammar, and Kramer said that in the textbook, only several pages are dedicated to spoken English.

Last December, foreign English teachers reeled when the Seoul Metropolitan Council announced it planned to cut 4.4 billion won ($3.9 million) allocated to hiring foreign English teachers at city high schools, along with reductions in elementary and middle school budgets.

In a poll by the Seoul Education Office last winter the majority of parents said they preferred English-speaking Korean teachers.

By Sarah Kim []
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