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Government to lower number of teachers amid population decline

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Teachers help students solve math problems in a classroom in Seoul, April 2021. Korea Times photo by Hong In-ki
Teachers help students solve math problems in a classroom in Seoul, April 2021. Korea Times photo by Hong In-ki

By Lee Yeon-woo

The government plans to downsize the public school workforce as a decreasing population has been forcing more and more schools to close down across the country.

The Ministry of Education has yet to announce such a plan. But the measure to scale back the number of teachers was spotted in the government's budget proposal that was submitted to the National Assembly.

According to Hankook Ilbo, the sister newspaper of The Korea Times, the education, finance and interior ministries set the budget for 342,388 public school teachers for fiscal year 2023. The number of public school teachers is down 2,982 from the budget for fiscal year 2022.

This will be the first time for the government to reduce the number of public school teachers.

As public school teachers are government employees, their numbers are confirmed at the end of every February after the deliberation of the National Assembly. Public school teachers include kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers, special education teachers, and extracurricular teachers such as librarians, nutritionists, and school nurses.

The downsizing plan comes as a decline in the population of school-age children has been evident. According to the Korean Education Statistic Service (KESS), the number of elementary, middle, and high school students has decreased from 7,384,788 in 2012 to 5,879,768 in 2022.

Vacancies in teaching jobs resulting from teachers retiring will not be filled. New employment for elementary schools will decrease 5.2 percent in 2023, according to the data the Ministry of Education compiled from education offices across the country.

News reports about the plan to cut down the number of public school teachers faced opposition from teachers' groups.

Chungcheong Federation of Teachers' Association called for the hiring of more teachers, claiming that an increase in the number of educators is crucial to deal with overcrowded classes and offer customized education for each student.

"According to the new employment plans in 2023 released by the Ministry of Education last Wednesday, North Chungcheong Province will have six fewer elementary school teachers and 77 fewer special education teachers. This goes against the public's will to reduce the number of students per class below 20," the statement said.

"We strongly believe the number of public school teachers should increase drastically to offer personalized education to each student and to guarantee the right to learn of students who need special education," it added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education highlighted Monday that the number will be decided after deliberation by the National Assembly and the current number in the draft is not finalized.

"We will keep cooperating with relevant government departments to reflect a new education system, such as cultivating digital talents, narrowing the educational gap, and establishing a high school credit system," the statement said.


Lee Yeon-woo yanu@koreatimes.co.kr


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