January 31, 2008
|Lee Myung-bak’s drive to get Koreans to speak better English drew further opposition yesterday as his transition team unveiled a plan to hire 23,000 new English teachers between 2010 and 2013, all of them able to teach English classes completely in English.
Eligible candidates will include those who have a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, an advanced degree from a university in an English-speaking country or a certificate as an English teacher, the transition team said in a public hearing in central Seoul.
The invitation-only hearing was picketed by some teachers’ and parents’ groups who were not on the guest list.
“The team organized discussion panels at the hearing only with supporters of its plan,” claimed the Korea Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union in a press release.
Fourteen civic groups, including a Korean language teachers’ group and a parents’ group, held a press conference condemning the transition body for “worshipping” English.
The team seems undeterred by the criticism. It wants better English in South Korea as part of Lee’s drive for advanced-country status.
The new teachers will be assigned to elementary, middle and high schools, starting with rural areas, the team said yesterday. By 2012, all English classes at middle and high schools are to be taught completely in English.
The influx of teachers will also reduce the number of students per class from the current 35 to 23. At elementary schools, the number of English class hours will be increased to three hours per week.
The committee also plans to hire assistant English teachers who will tutor students after hours.
To strengthen current teachers’ English skills, the team plans to train 3,000 teachers annually here and abroad.
According to the transition team, the new administration will spend 1.7 trillion won ($1.79 billion) on new teachers, 480 billion won on training current teachers and 340 billion won to hire assistant teachers.
While most professors and teachers at the hearing seemed to welcome the plan, some worried about the English drive.
“Elementary school students are completely different from middle or high school students,” said Kim In-jeong, a teacher at Oma Elementary School in Goyang, Gyeonggi. at the hearing. “I doubt whether it would be a good idea to teach English to students who cannot even speak Korean well.”By Kim Soe-jung Staff Reporter/ Kang Hong-joon JoongAng Ilbo
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