2014-12-17 18:37
Native speakers may be barred from English-only kindergartens
 By Kim Se-jeong 

The Ministry of Education is considering banning 292 English-only kindergartens from hiring native speakers as teachers in an effort to curb household spending on private English education.

At these kindergartens, children, mostly five or younger, must speak English only, which makes these institutes popular among parents. The institutes charge 793,000 won ($724) a month on average, almost double the cost of other kindergartens, but waiting lists are still long.

The measure is part of the government’s broader efforts to help households reduce spending on private education and to get public education back on track, ministry officials said.

In addition, the ministry said it was planning to make the English and Math sections of the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) easier.

“Spending on private education has been a measurement for one’s social status,” a ministry official said. “That is hot helping social integration. We hope this plan will be helpful in narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor.”

He said the ministry would consult parents and educators to see if the ban was feasible. The ban would require the Immigration Law to be revised.

Very few are in favor of the ban, saying this alone cannot solve the problem of rising spending on private education. Korea’s obsession with private education is not new. It is more so when it comes to English education.

According to the education ministry’s statistics, English learning accounted for 65 percent of private education spending last year, estimated at 6.3 trillion won ($5.76 billion). Math came second, with 5.8 trillion won. The total amount of private education spending was 18.6 trillion won, or 347,000 won ($317) a month for each student. Spending on education keeps growing every year.

Excessive English education in Korea has also raised questions of teachers’ qualifications. Very few arrive with a license or teaching experience, and private English institutes have a thin screening process. Stories of an ex-convict or a drug dealer found teaching at these private institutes shows the dubious screening methods.

For native speakers, teaching at private institutes is not always a pleasant experience. Some are not paid properly or on time.

Those who are dark skinned often suffer racial discrimination.  One Indian teacher told The Korea Times he missed out on a teaching position to a white American man who had previously worked at a gas station.

The Indian applicant was well qualified, with a teaching license and teaching experience. He was told he was not chosen because of his skin color.