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Published : 2011-03-29 17:38
Updated : 2011-03-29 17:38

The recruiting body for native English public school teachers in Gyeonggi province has sparked anger with a three-month hiring freeze.

The Gyeonggi-do English Program in Korea announced that it would not hire any new teachers, or renew current contracts ending between this May 25 and Aug. 31.

An email sent Tuesday signed as from GEPIK coordinators and Gyeonggi Province Office of Education seen by The Korea Herald said the three-month freeze was to allow the organization to restructure and streamline the program.

“We are aiming to set contract dates for September 1st and March 1st so that the GEPIK structure will be more standardized,” the email to its employees stated.

“We do realize that many of you will be affected by this change, but please understand that we found it crucial to restructure our program to improve GEPIK, not only for the program itself but for our teachers as well,” the email added.

Coordinators said that all teachers would be able to finish the full 365 days of their contracts and native teachers whose jobs were funded directly by the city might be able to renew their contracts. But those whose jobs were partially or fully funded by GPOE with contracts ending during the three-month period would not be able to stay on at their schools.

GEPIK teachers said they were confused and angered by the announcement ― which had reached some teachers in Gyeonggi province but not others on Tuesday afternoon.

“I don’t think it all adds up to be honest,” one GEPIK elementary school teacher told The Korea Herald.

“I’m not sure if it means schools that have a teacher whose contract is up in May will have to go without a native English teacher. This kind of communication is typical of GEPIK, the message is worded relatively cheerfully and is full of words like ‘restructuring’ and ‘streamlining’ but doesn’t really reveal anything and omits pretty important info. It sounds like it’s an excuse to save money for a few months and is probably the latest stage in phasing out GEPIK entirely,” the teacher, who did not wish to be named, added.

The email came as rumors and confusion over GEPIK budget cuts filled Korean online teaching forums.

One Internet teaching forum user said on March 25: “In the same day I was told they can’t keep me, they can keep me, and then that they might be able to keep me. This was in the span of about four hours.”

Another poster to the Waygook.org forum on the same day said: “My school wants me to re-sign from Sept. 1 but as my current contract ends at the end of June, I would be without work during the whole of July and August. Not an entirely bad thing some would say, but after 4 continuous years of employment in GEPIK, this hiatus from June to September also means that I will lose all the bonuses associated with contract renewal ― e.g. holidays, re-signing bonus ― and will be left with two months without a salary.”

A GEPIK coordinator, who did not wish to be named, confirmed that schools with teachers finishing during the recruitment freeze would go without native English staff until September, noting that the period included a one and a half month summer vacation.

“Schools would normally hold English summer camps during this time, and these won’t run at these schools (left with no teacher) but we have to make small sacrifices to improve the quality of our programs,” she said.

Teachers had been given the 60 days notice set in their contracts that their jobs would not be renewed, she said, but declined to comment when asked if budget issues had influenced the recruitment freeze.

By Kirsty Taylor (kirstyt@heraldcorp.com)