Academic Standards Easing for Foreign English Teachers
By Kang Shin-who
The government is considering loosening academic requirements for native-English speaking teachers as a means to meet growing demand in rural areas that are shunned by foreign teachers.
Currently, the jobs are only open to those with bachelor degrees at four-year universities. As education authorities in rural areas have had difficulty hiring native-English speaking teachers, they are now calling on the central government to ease the qualifications for English-teaching or E-2 visas to those who have completed 2-year courses at universities or colleges.
In response, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and other government agencies said they are positively considering accepting the demand for the relaxation of the academic requirements. The ministry has already asked the Korean Immigration Service to ease the English-teaching or E-2 visa.
Top educators in 15 cities and provinces recently asked the ministry to accept two demands regarding foreign English teachers ― lowering academic criteria and allowing the hiring of those from countries where English is spoken as one of the official languages.
Kim Young-guen, spokesperson of the immigration authority reacted positively to the proposals but expressed concern over easing academic requirements. ``I see some hurdles to lowering academic standards for foreigners. I doubt whether Korean teachers will be okay with foreign English teachers who don't have bachelor's as Koreans need to complete a 4-year program at a university to be a teacher,'' he said.
Nevertheless he said it would be in order to issue E-2 visas to foreigners from all English-speaking countries.
Korean teachers' groups also questioned the education ministry's move to ease academic requirements. ``We understand that schools in rural areas have difficulty finding English native teachers. Still, the ministry's move to create programs to attract quality foreign teachers to the alienated schools should not be sacrificed,'' said Kim Dong-seok, spokesperson of the Korean Federation of Teachers' Association.
Even, some foreign teachers are negative about lowering academic standards for English teachers, a move they say will degrade the quality of teaching in the end. Some say Korean graduates could prove to be better teachers than those foreigners who will be picked under easier standards.
``Honestly, why not just hire more Korean English teachers? There are thousands of young university graduates with excellent English skills who are looking for work. Is the government recruiting people from overseas because they don't want to pay language instructors as much as what Korean teachers earn?'' said Jason Thomas, teacher educator in Gyeonggido Insitute for Foreign Language Education.
Commenting on these concerns, Oh Seok-hwan, the official in charge of English education at the ministry, told The Korea Times that they will prepare measures to counter possible side effects.