Yesterday a Busan Ilbo article reported that Busan will follow Gyeonggi-do, Seoul (and to a lesser degree, Gangwon-do) in cutting the native speaking teacher budget.
"From next year, native speaking english assistant teachers working in Busan elementary, middle and high schools are expected to be significantly reduced. While the government decides whether to replace the CSAT with the national english proficiency test (NEAT) this December, the private education market is in a state of excitement. That children in the lowest income and second lowest income brackets will have no choice but to be deprived of their opportunity for native speaking English education as the number of native speaking English assistant teachers are cut is causing controversy."
According to Busan City and Busan Office of Education on the 5th, this year the Office of Education will see 5.1 billion won transferred from the city plus the Office of Education budget of 8.6 billion won which totals a 13.77 billion won budget invested in employing a total of 528 NSETs (293 in elementary, 171 in middle, and 58 in high schools). Last year a similar number (522) were hired, but the budget last year was 17.6 billion won, or almost 4 billion won more, so the Busan Office of Education is sweating over adjusting its hiring of native speakers.
The existing 7.6 billion won transferred from the city was cut by 2.5 billion won this year, which was not anticipated, because the office of education had also cut its budget. In particular, Busan City will cut 2.5 billion won more next year, and plans to cut its part of the NSET budget entirely by 2015. A Busan City official said, "The basic policy of the city is to cut budget support for personnel costs for all organizations."
Every year the money transferred from Busan City accounts for a good portion of the hiring budget for NSETs for Busan Office of Education, and is urgently needed. In this year's case, although the BOE had already promoted a plan to hire 528 teachers, the city unexpectedly cut the transfer payment.
Busan Office of Education is apparently embarrassed by these cuts and is going to have to adjust its recruitment for the second semester.
Because the city will again cut 2.5 billion won next year, there is no choice but to substantially reduce the number of NSETs. With the cut of 2.5 billion won, the Busan Office of Education will have to cut at least 55 teachers and perhaps even 75. As a result, the policy goal of having 100% placement of NSETs in all middle and elementary schools, which has been in place since 2009, can't help but be undone.
Parents have expressed concerns. One parent of children in grades 2 and 5 said that it was good that there was an NSET at her kids' school, because she could reduce the private education costs, but now those savings will disappear, and that for the sake of normalizing public education the NSET system should be kept. Another parent of children in high school grade 1 and middle school grade 2 said that if the NEAT replaces the CSAT, speaking and writing would be newly included, and that opportunities for native speaking education would be even more important. As well, having native speaking education at school would be a great help to families on a tight budget.
Busan university of education professor Woo Gil-ju said, "In terms of providing children in the lowest income and second lowest income brackets equal access to to native speakers, the role of the NSET is needed." "With no alternative or road map for replacing NSETs, it is not desirable to suddenly cut native speaking teachers."
Later in the day, the Busan Ilbo published an editorial saying that low-income children are bound to be marginalized by the cuts and parents frustrated by them, and called for the city to withdraw its sudden policy and provide opportunities to the poor.
Once again, as with GEPIK and SMOE, we're seeing a power outside of the office of education - in this case city hall rather than city council - cutting NSETs unexpectedly and deeply.