Monday, February 27, 2012

SMOE to cut 425 high school and middle school native speaking teachers this year

Or so says this Newsis article from February 24:
SMOE to cut 425 high school and middle school native speaking teachers this year.

SMOE will cut the number of high school and middle school native speaking teachers it places in schools by 425 this year. This is almost half of the 890 native speaking instructors it supported placing in schools last year.

On the 24th SMOE announced plans to cut 425 out of the 890 native speaking instructors it currently supports placing in Seoul's elementary, middle and high schools. This does not include 355 teachers supported by local districts which makes for a total of 1245 NSETs in Seoul.

The current number of 340 will remain in public schools, but middle schools and high schools will see a significant reduction from 264 to 64 and 255 to 30, respectively.

SMOE instead will reduce the number of Korean English conversation specialist instructors only by 67, from last year's level of 1330 to 1263.

This measure follows the results of a research service last year which saw more effectiveness in English education over the long term from Korean language teachers who speak English well than native speakers.

The results of a survey looking at the actual level of satisfaction with classes by [Korean] English conversation specialist instructors showed positive response of 50.2% in elementary schools, 80.4% in middle schools, and 77.8% in high schools.

SMOE's plan to gradually reduce native speakers on this basis was announced last year.

An SMOE official said, "Results have found that [Korean] English conversation specialist instructors are in general contributing to students' practical English education." "From now on, due to the reduction in native speakers in middle and high schools, it's possible to utilize human resources which can reinforce English instruction personnel."

At middle and high schools where native speakers have been cut, SMOE plans for the concentrated placement of [Korean] English conversation specialist instructors to play a role in supporting things like divided classes and leveled classes.

This and other measures are meant to alleviate dissatisfaction with the reduction of native speakers in schools: short and long term training for English teachers; student-led speaking, listening, reading and writing classes; expanding the proportion of speaking and writing assessment; by implementing demonstration classes in Middle school grade 1 and High school grade 1 where students are divided into English classes of less than 20 students, and through this reducing the number of students per class; and revitializing after school programs by using native speakers.

Meanwhile, according to results of research last year by SMOE on the level of satisfaction with native speaking teachers, the most helpful type of teacher in English class selected by students was 'a Korean teacher who teaches well and has good English conversation skills', which was chosen by 53.7%. 29.7% of students chose 'native speaking teacher,' and 16.7% chose 'a Korean teacher with poor English skills but who teaches class very well."
So, the interesting thing is that the middle school cuts match up with the original SBS report which announced the cuts in December (the high school cuts are off by 30):

Worth noting is that, since I can only assume the SMOE budget for NSETs is only for the teachers it directly supports (ie. 890 last year), the initial planned cut of 707 teachers would have been far more than 57% (79.4% in fact). This despite the fact that original cuts were to total 9.3 billion won (4.4 SMOE planned to cut + 4.9 wanted by the council), or a 27% cut in funding - a rather large discrepancy. As for this:
The current number of 340 will remain in public schools, but middle schools and high schools will see a significant reduction from 264 to 64 and 255 to 30, respectively.
Math time again. If the number last year was 890, and 425 are being cut, that leaves 465 teachers. However 340 + 64 + 30 = 434. Mind you, since the high school cuts were off by 30 teachers above compared to the original SBS report, that almost accounts for the difference. One hopes SMOE is paying more attention to this than I am.

Some more numbers: Out of the total number of foreign teachers in Seoul (presuming there aren't cuts by district offices) 33.6% are being cut. Out of the portion funded by SMOE, 47.7% are being cut. The number of high school NSETs (funded by SMOE) is being cut by 88.2%, and middle schools by 75.7%. So, with a 47.7% cut in NSETs funded by Seoul, we'd expect a similar cut in budget. As was reported when the budget was passed, it was cut from 34.6 billion won for 2011 to 29.1 billion won this year (though actually there are problems with that figure, which suggests a 5.5 billion won cut, when other sources said that it was to be 4.4 + 2.2 (6.6) billion won cut). If we use the larger figure, that's still only a 19% cut in funding. So how does a 19% budget reduction lead to 47.7% cut in the number of teachers?

A possible answer is that a few teachers will be cut from March, with the bulk being cut in September (ie. they won't be replaced). That could account for these figures. If last year's budget for NSETs was 34.6 billion won, if we divide that by 890 teachers, you get 38.9 million won, or about what SMOE has quoted as as the average NSET salary. If you multiply that figure by the 465 teachers who should be here at year's end, that adds up to 18 billion won, leaving 11 billion (61% of 18 billion won) for the 425 teachers to be cut by the end of the year, which could account for 2 months salary for a certain number quitting in March, and 8 months salary for a majority quitting in September.

When Yonhap announced the final SMOE budget, a follow up report stated that "next year native speaking teachers will disappear from high schools, as per SMOE's original plan, but are expected to remain at current levels in elementary and middle schools until at least the first half of next year," and deleted the following paragraph which appeared in its original article:
An SMOE official said, "Allowances were made for middle school native speaking teachers whose contract periods end next August and the budget was expanded again." "During the second half of the year a supplementary budget for placing native speaking teachers in middle schools should be further reviewed."
It would seem clear now that there will be no supplementary budget in the second half of the year, if the Newsis report is correct.

What I really don't understand is the references to the use of [Korean] English conversation specialist instructors as a solution to the NSET cuts - since (much like in Gyeonggi-do), these instructors are also to be cut this year (if only by 5%).

On this topic, Ben Hancock published an article at the Korea Economic Institute's blog The Peninsula titled "Do English-Teacher Cuts in Korea Signal a Sea Change?", which he interviewed me for. I probably would have been less optimistic had I known so many middle school teachers were to be cut. Not included in the article is the following answer to a question he asked as to whether I thought the cuts had to do with negative sentiment towards foreign teachers:
I don’t think it’s really about anti-foreign English teacher sentiment. The Korean media has been criticizing foreigners working in public school system since the government starting hiring them en masse in 1996. The Hankyoreh reported a few months after the beginning of the KORETTA program (EPIK’s precursor) that one in three of the teachers were ‘unqualified,’ and similar reports questioning both the educational and moral qualifications of foreign teachers have appeared periodically since then, so that’s nothing new. As well, the massive increase between 2006 and 2010 in the number of foreign teachers placed in public schools occurred almost in tandem with an increase in negative press reports about foreign instructors in general. In fact, the number of foreign teachers working in Korean schools almost doubled during 2009 (from 4332 to 7997), a year that saw the largest number of negative media reports about foreigner instructors (around 350).
Those last two sentences are worth noting, I think, and I'm glad he asked me that question. Had anti-foreign teacher sentiment been as strong as one might think based on some media reports, they would never have been invited en masse into the public school system in the first place.

1 comment:

Joe Long said...

Funny thing about that picture in the korean article, the black girl is/ was teaching in Busan, I know her.