Go to contents

Contracted Teachers Increase, Troubling Signs Begin to Appear

Contracted Teachers Increase, Troubling Signs Begin to Appear

Posted December. 24, 2002 22:56,   


Park, a 25-year-old English teacher at K high school in Seoul, is busy taking interviews to get a new job for the next semester. ˝We will not be able to hire contract teachers for more than a year,˝ the school recently notified her of a new policy. Students ask her whether they will see her next year, but she just choose not to say anything.

Kim, a 24-year-old ethics teacher at K middle school in Seoul, works at a private institute as an English teacher during vacation. It’s because she can’t get paid during the vacation season because she is not an employed teacher.

As school hire an increasing number of contracted teachers to fill vacancy temporarily, education experts point out, it has not only caused unstable conditions for the growing population of contracted teachers, but also deteriorated quality of education.

As private middle and high schools renew contracts on a year base, most teachers who are not fully employed become anxious about whether they will keep their jobs at this time of the year. They also have to find a part time job during vacation when they are not paid.

▽Teachers in Short Supply

The incumbent Kim government lowered the retirement age for teachers from 65 to 62 years old in 1998 without considering the supply and demand conditions. As a result, supply fell short and the problem is so severe at elementary schools especially that they even bring back retired teachers again.

The number of contracted teachers is increasing fast at private middle and high schools. While the number of formally employed teachers fell 21% from 54,311 in 1998 to 42,626 in 2002, that of contracted teachers increased 3.5 times from 2,452 to 8,701 during the same period.

The main reason for the sharp rise is that private schools are free to let them go after one year based on one year contracts. By doing so, they intend to prevent unionization of teachers.

The 7th high school course, which was first introduced early this year, has also contributed to the trend. Students are allowed to choose additional subject they want and this has led to surplus teachers for some unpopular subjects.


Conflicts between fully-employed and contracted teachers began to appear and students often times do not respect contracted teachers.

˝They tend to feel less responsible so they go home as soon as class is over,˝ point out Park, a teacher at S high school in Seoul. ˝Sometimes I feel uncomfortable working with them because they say `that’s not my responsibility` when I give them something to do.˝

˝Students have a different attitude toward me even though I haven’t tell them that I am a contracted teacher,˝ said Lee, 31-year-old teacher at S high school.

Since they are not guaranteed to keep the job, they often leave one school for another. Han, a contracted music teacher who used to work at an elementary school in Goyang, Gyenggi-do had to leave the school when a fully-employed teacher came back on December 11, although there are two more months to stay under the contract.

They hurriedly leave school without saying goodbye to students as they agree at the time of contracting to quit when employed teachers come back.

˝Contracted teachers, feeling insure about their jobs, find it hard to teach students in their own ways,˝ said Byun Sung-ho, an official at the Teachers Labor Union of Korea. ˝The authorities should supervise and instruct private schools to hire full-time teachers as long as budget allows.˝

˝We are assessing the extent of the problems related to contracted teachers, but there are not much we can do for now,˝ said an official at the Ministry of Education and Human Resources.

Jin-Young Hwang buddy@donga.com