More English classes in Korea sought

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January 25, 2008
English classes in high schools should be taught completely in English in 2010, a member of President-elect Lee Myung-bak’s transition team said yesterday.
If the education reform policies are changed as proposed, English-immersion education will also be launched starting next year.
Critics said, however, the new policies will only add to the shortage of English teachers in Korea.
The English-immersion program calls for introducing regular classes in English at 150 boarding high schools in the farming and fishing villages. Some subjects, such as mathematics, science and world history, would be taught in English.
“We plan to continuously expand the number of regular classes in English,” said Lee Ju-ho, head of the social, education and cultural affairs department of the transition committee. “Our ultimate goal is to conduct every regular class in English [in all high schools.]”
Skeptics say it won’t be possible.
According to data released by the Ministry of Education, there are 14,000 high schools in the country, with only 15,000 English teachers. That means that each English teacher has an average class size of 33 students.
“The number of English teachers is insufficient,” said Ju Suk-hun, a teacher at Hanyeong High School. “Operating classes in English in high school is impossible.”
Lee Byeong-min, a professor at Seoul National University, agreed.
“The transition team first has to set a plan to educate more teachers in English and reorganize the curriculum,” Lee said.
The transition committee wants to reinforce public English education while lowering parental spending on private tutoring.
The committee plans to hold a public hearing on Jan. 30 about whether to pass the English education reform policies.

By Kang Hong-jun JoongAng Ilbo [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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