The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education plans to place 90 additional native English teachers in elementary schools in Seoul this year, despite growing questions raised by local teachers over educational effectiveness.
SMOE Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon announced the plan to dispatch native English teachers to elementary schools as part of efforts to improve the quality of English education at public schools and ease the reliance on private language education.
The education office has received applications from elementary schools seeking to hire native English teachers for their classes, and plans to dispatch 70 native English teachers for the first semester and 20 more for the second semester, an official from SOME said.
“At the schools where native English teachers were dispatched, the school assesses student satisfaction as well as parent and teacher satisfaction with the native English teachers. In general, the level of satisfaction is very high,” the official said.
As of late December last year, there were an estimated 327 native English teachers working at 341 schools. Some of them teach classes at two small-sized schools. When the second semester begins this year, there will be 417 native English teachers at 432 schools, the official said.
But the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union, which has some 50,000 members and is not legally recognized as a labor union, has demanded abolishing the system that places native English teachers at schools.
“It costs a lot to hire native English teachers, but how qualified the teachers are and how much they help English education for South Korean students remain questionable,” said Kim Hong-tae, policy chief at the teachers’ union.
“Local elementary school teachers received systematic education to be able to teach the students. Why do we need native English teachers at schools even when the educational effectiveness has not been proven?”
The labor union represents some 5 percent of the country’s approximately 410,000 elementary, middle and high school teachers, according to government data.
Currently, foreign teachers are selected and dispatched to public schools through a program run by the National Institute for International Education. They are paid by regional education authorities.