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Provinces need more native English teachers

Despite a steady increase in the number of native English teachers here, their regional distribution is still uneven as most are concentrated in the metropolitan areas.

As of the end of August, the number of students per native English teacher was 778 in Seoul, 799 in Gyeonggi Province and 804 in Busan, according to data released by Reps. Kim Se-yeon and Park Young-ah of the ruling Grand National Party, who sit on the parliamentary education committee.

However, the figure reached 1,552 in Daegu, 1,298 in Gwangju and 1,316 in North Chungcheong Province.

The average figure nationwide was 931 students per teacher, which was an improvement from the 1,147 last year. Individual one-to-one speaking guidance may only be possible when the number of students per teacher remains below 1,000.

Though North Gyeongsang Province had a sufficient number of native speaker teachers (614 students per teacher), only 30 percent of them were professionally qualified to teach the language.

In order to be recognized as a professional, a foreign English teacher is to have acquired a teacher’s license in his or her home country or a license in Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages or Teaching English as a Foreign Language.

Only Seoul and Gwangju had 70 percent or more foreign national teachers who had obtained this qualification, according to the survey.

According to the Education Ministry’s revision plan earlier this month, the English section of the scholastic ability test will be greatly reformed from year 2014 to include a maximum of 50 percent listening comprehension articles.

The general focus of English education in schools will also be shifted to actual speaking and listening, according to ministry officials.

“Despite the government’s decision to reinforce the English speaking and listening in public education sectors, small cities or rural areas are yet largely in lack of teachers and related faculties,” said Park.

“The ministry, in order to cling to its vow to reinforce English education in public sectors, needs to step in and maintain a balance between different regions.”

Also, English education in schools in all regions would often be disturbed by the frequent and unexpected change of teachers.

Some 950 teachers, or 4.7 percent, cancelled their employment contract in mid-semester within the first year and 34 percent among them (as of this July) quit during their first six months, according to the survey.

About 28.3 percent of them resigned upon being admitted to a school or getting their desired job, indicating that English teaching is largely considered among native speakers as an easily accessible part-time job.

“Though our English education is not entirely dependent on native teachers, we will focus on resolving the regional gap,” said a ministry official.

“We will also reinforce the employment processes to filter the unqualified candidates.”

Some 81.1 percent of primary, middle and high schools nationwide had more than one native English teacher in their staff, according to the data submitted by the ministry to the parliamentary education committee.

The percentage was a steep rise from 65.5 percent last year and 49.4 percent in 2008.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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