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Busan to Cut Native Speaking Teachers

According to an article in Monday’s Busan Ilbo, 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 (College Scholastic Ability Test) 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, this year the Office of Education will see 5.1 billion won transferred from the city, as well as the Office of Education budget of 8.6 billion won, which totals a 13.77 billion won budget for employing a total of 528 native-speaking English teachers.

Last year, 522 teachers were hired  (293 in elementary, 171 in middle, and 58 in high schools), but the budget allotment during that period 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 own 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 to compensate in 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 let go at least 55 teachers and perhaps as many as 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 Not Happy

Parents have expressed concerns over the loss of native speakers in their children’s classroom. One parent of children in grades two and five said that it was beneficial to have NSETs at her kids’ school, because it allowed her to reduce the costs of private education. Now, under current government restraints, those savings will disappear, and for the sake of normalizing public education, she feels the NSET system should be kept.

Another parent of children in high school grade one and middle school grade two said that if the NEAT replaces the CSAT (??), speaking and writing would be newly included, and that native speaking education would be even more important.

Families on tight budgets are not the only ones concerned with the expected cuts.

Busan University of Education professor, Woo Gil-ju, said having NSETs in the classroom is a must for lower income families. “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,” said Woo.

“With no alternative or road map for replacing NSETs, it is not desirable to suddenly cut native speaking teachers,” he added.

The city’s largest daily newspaper, Busan Ilbo, agrees. Later in the day, they published an editorial saying that low-income children are bound to be marginalized by the cuts and, as a result, parents will be frustrated by the additional expense of exposing their children to native speaking teachers. The Ilbo called for the city to withdraw its sudden policy and provide opportunities to poor and lower income households.

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 NSET’s unexpectedly and deeply. How the stated goals of the NSET programs will be maintained remains to be seen.

Matt VanVolkenburg is the author of the long running and highly informative blog, Gusts of Popular Feeling

Photo courtesy of G-Mikee, via Flickr.



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