Via a reader, Yonhap News has put out a parade of horribles regarding native-speaking English teachers.
“I heard the teacher sometimes uses words like ’shit’ and ’shut up’. When the teacher is in a bad mood he tosses out the book. I heard one day he had the children write ‘I don’t want to study’ 100 times. It’s just so bizarre.”
40-year old Ilsan housewife Ms. Kim, a mother of two, didn’t know what to do.
With native-speaker English teachers increasing in number doubts about their character remain. There are of course teachers who take a lackadaisical attitude to lessons or end them when they feel like it and others who have forged credentials.
According to the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology on the 11th, there were 2,456 native speaker English teachers in public schools nationwide at the end of September 2006, and that increased to 3,693 in 2007. Last year that increased by over 1,700 to reach 5,417 by the end of September.
The increase of 3,000 people in two years is part of the rapid expansion policy, but there continue to be cases of native-speaker teachers who have poor credentials or characters.
Yonhap News learned from parents and teachers of middle school D in Jangan-gu, Suwon, where a native-speaker teacher from the United Kingdom came to school drunk and caused a disturbance.
The drunken teacher began teaching sex education to the students in words they could not understand, saying “the reason I’m not married is I don’t want to have kids like you,” and “Dokdo is Japanese.”
An English teacher named Choi who works at a high school in Jeollanam-do said, “they don’t know the basic purpose of education. During lesson song times they just sing songs over and over, 10 or 20 times. I totally fail to see how you can learn English through pop songs.”
English teachers who have to conduct lessons with native-speaker teachers say the biggest problem with them is lack of attention to lesson planning.
One teacher who was worked with a native-speaker teacher for 18 months said, “because elementary school students must be made interested in English, lesson preparation is the most important thing. But native-speaker teachers will prepare just two lessons in a year. Even that is for demonstration lessons.”
One elementary school teacher in Seoul said, “last year a native-speaker teacher who was at school for the first time was gone for a month claiming illness. Then for two weeks the teacher worked, then quit saying it was hard. Finally we went a semester with no native-speaker teacher.”
The Ministry says such native-speaker teachers are a minority, but statistics say otherwise.
Ministry statistics show that from January to April of last year 54 native-speaker teachers quit without notice or resigned for reasons including inability to fit in, work, and illness. That was the number for four months, and is equivalent to 160 in a year. Last year there were over 5,000 native-speaker teachers, a number that indicates a serious problem.
There are also not a few native-speaker teachers who have been caught with insufficient or forged credentials.
A teacher at S high school in Yongin said, “when the teacher first came to school I asked what his major was and he said Social Counseling, and during a lesson said he graduated from Technical College. But in another lesson he said his major was Animal Science. I don’t understand.”
A teacher at an elementary school in Mokdong said, “I had doubts about the character of a native-speaker teacher at a nearby school and discovered his credentials were forged. In the end the foreigner did a midnight run.”
Experts say there is no way to postpone reforms to the system of recruiting native-speaker teachers.
They say that the system of hiring, managing, and insuring native-speaker English teachers must be expanded not quantitatively but qualitatively and established in an organized fashion.
Ju Hyeong-mi, researcher with the Korea Institude for Curriculum and Evaluation (한국교육과정평가원), said, “to hire high-quality native-speaker teachers, various reforms should be implemented, including strict credential requirements, continuing education sessions, and access to model lessons.”