Seoul City’s budget committee passed funding cuts Saturday for all of its high school foreign English teachers next year, while funding for them at elementary and middle schools will fall about 7 percent.
But the city hinted at further cuts in the middle of next year.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will not renew funding for 255 foreign English teachers in high schools due to the cuts passed Saturday. Previous reports had said about 30 teachers would be spared.
The budget, passed by the Seoul Metropolitan Council, cuts 4.4 billion won ($3.7 million) in support for high school foreign teachers.
However the budget for elementary and middle school foreign English teachers was spared drastic cuts before being passed by the council’s budget committee.
The committee reduced the budget cuts for foreign teachers next year from 4.9 billion won to 2.2 billion won for a total 29.1 billion won.
According to the initial reductions by the education committee, elementary and middle schools were expected to cut 252 and 200 foreign teachers, respectively. Added together with the drop in high school, foreign teachers faced a cut of over 57 percent in number.
According to the SMOE, the cuts will not result in a drop of foreign teachers at elementary and middle schools.
“We readjusted the budget considering that the contracts for middle school foreign teachers do not expire till August of next year,” said a SMOE official.
The official added that they will review whether or not foreign teachers will be placed in middle schools during the second half of the year.
The cuts prompted speculation that SMOE plans to cut support for all foreign English teachers.
Last month the SMOE released survey results that found that although families are mostly satisfied with foreign English teachers, they would prefer equally skilled Korean teachers.
However, few Korean teachers have such skills, and some English education experts are worried that the government’s move will mean that underprivileged students will miss the chance to learn from foreign teachers.
Fergal Reid, who teaches at Eunpyong High School in Seoul, thinks the government’s plan will increase the number of students going to private academies, known as hagwon. He added that foreign teachers help build students’ confidence in English which most students are reluctant to develop on their own and help them develop a deeper understanding of English that can’t be found in text books.
The 794 billion won budget passed also stated that SMOE will take the lion’s share of the free school lunch cost for first-year middle school students who start next year. SMOE will provide 27.6 billion won for the middle school students alone.
The rest of the burden, like elementary school lunches, will be shared between the Seoul Metropolitan Government and its 25 districts.
By Robert Lee (email@example.com)