By Jung Min-ho
Tens of thousands of English teachers across the country are in danger of losing their jobs as the government is set to ban English education for children from preschool to second grade.
About 7,000 afterschool English teachers at elementary schools will lose their jobs in March when the new policy comes into force for first and second graders.
When the Ministry of Education applies the policy to 50,000 kindergartens and daycare centers later this year as announced, tens of thousands more teachers will suffer the same fate.
Kim Min-jung, 34, a part-time English teacher at one kindergarten and three daycare centers in northern Gyeonggi Province was recently notified the kindergarten decided to terminate her contract owing to the policy.
"I will probably lose three other jobs as well. Many teachers are concerned and feel insecure about their careers," she told The Korea Times Monday.
Many English teachers at kindergartens and daycare centers ― institutions partly sponsored by the government ― have already started to look for jobs at private academies or in completely different fields, she noted.
Hundreds of English teachers have posted on a petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website urging the government to reconsider the policy, but the ministry remains firm in its decision.
The ministry said the policy is in line with the Constitutional Court's 2016 ruling that found its prohibition of intensive English education for first and second graders constitutional. The court said teaching them Korean and English simultaneously may hinder their development of Korean proficiency.
Then the ministry decided to expand the policy to kindergartens and daycare centers as many policymakers pointed out there was no point implementing the policy if kindergartens and daycare centers continued to teach English to younger children.
But teachers and parents alike have criticized the ministry, saying demand for English education will remain strong. They believe many parents will send their children to more expensive private institutions if they can afford it.
"On the other hand, children from poor families will no longer be able to learn English. This will deepen the English gap between children," said another English teacher, 28, who refused to be named. "What the ministry is trying to do is to simply cut the investment for English education for all. The policy will only make private academy owners smile."