Originally published: http://koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2008/02/117_18370.html
Transition Team Yet to Decide Whether Foreigners Entitled to Regular Teaching JobsBy Kang Shin-who
President-elect Lee Myung-bak’s transition team has announced a bold plan to bolster the pool of new teachers specialized for English-speaking classes. But a big question is left unanswered ― whether foreign nationals are entitled to the jobs or not?
The transition team announced Wednesday it will introduce the Teaching English in English (TEE) certificate and recruit 23,000 teachers with the TEE licenses by 2013.Eligible applicants for the program are those who have completed English education courses including the Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificates, obtained master’s or higher degrees in English-speaking countries, or have teaching licenses. Fluent English-speaking professionals will also be considered. The transition team also said that the TEE teachers will be entitled as public (education) servants under the 3-5 year renewable contract.
However, the team has failed to mention whether the foreigners are welcome or not for the program. Asked of the possibility of employment of foreigners, Lee Ju-ho in charge of education policy in the team was uncertain.
“We have not decided yet whether to recruit foreigners for TEE programs or not. It is the role of the incoming government to decide on the matter,’’ Lee told The Korea Times over the telephone.
Under the current education law, foreigners are not allowed a regular teacher position at Korean elementary and secondary schools. They are only allowed regular teaching positions at higher education institutes. For example, a foreign professor at a state-run university is entitled to be classed as a civil servant.
However, President-elect Lee hinted that he will open more civil servants positions to foreigners in a meeting with senior officials of the Democratic Party, last month.
Recruiting Qualified Teachers
According to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, nearly 4,000 native English-speaking teachers are working at elementary and secondary schools as assistant teachers. If foreigners are allowed to be TEE teachers, they can receive benefits set for civil servants.
The ministry official in charge of teacher recruitment said “If the incoming government decides to open the teaching position to foreigners, we have to revise the education law. I doubt public opinion will be positive on it.’’
“Even though the job scope for TEE teachers is not yet decided, the position might require more than what foreign assistant teachers are doing,’’ she added.
Regarding the matter, foreign teachers groups in Korea expect the incoming government will be more flexible with the intensive English program.
“It would be good for Korea to open regular positions to foreign teachers as well. Different schools have different needs. Some schools need only native speaking teachers, some schools need English-speaking Korean teachers and some schools need co-teaching of the foreign and Korean teachers,’’ said Phil Owen, President of the Korea Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages(KOTESOL).
Mark Howard, Director English Language Service, British Council Korea, also supported employment of foreigners in the program. “I guess one challenge is how they are going to get the number of qualified teachers,’’ he said.
Although, the status of teachers varies according to each country, many English speaking countries hire qualified foreigners as regular teachers.
Meanwhile, Korean teachers’ groups oppose giving civil servant status to TEE teachers. “All English teachers go through regular 4-year courses and pass employment examination. We cannot accept TEE teachers in regular positions just because they can speak English well,’’ said Kim Dong-seok, spokesperson of The Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association.
“I doubt how we can cooperate with TEE teachers who are not from regular teacher courses. If the government will push the programs, it would be less worse to work with native-speaking teachers,’’ said Yoo Gye-hyoung, an English teacher in Gyeonggi Province.