January 31, 2023 08:34
Schools in Korea are facing a serious shortage of male teachers as the job loses prestige and allure.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, a mere 11 out of 114 people who passed the exam for elementary teachers this year were men. It was the first time that the proportion fell below one out of 10.
Part of the reason may be that the teaching profession is popular among women because it provides more stability and flexibility in balancing work and life than other jobs. But men are also increasingly repelled by the job.
The trend is the same across the country. According to the Korean Educational Development Institute, just 22.8 percent of teachers at elementary schools nationwide are men, 28.4 percent in middle schools and 42.9 percent in high schools. There are 107 schools in the country with no male teachers at all, up from 77 in 2018.
Many children are therefore never taught by a man until they reach middle school, which is raising concerns among parents.
Kim Soo-jung (41), whose daughter is in the sixth grade, said, "My daughter was taught by women until fourth grade, and only her fifth-grade teacher was a man. She was too shy to even look at him in the eyes for the first two months."
"Other parents also wish their kids could be taught by a male teacher for at least one year during elementary school," she added.
Male teachers are wooed aggressively by some schools. One education officer in the Seoul metropolitan area said, "Only about two male teachers are allocated to our district every year, and we're inundated with phone calls from schools asking us to send them male teachers."
The remaining men often feel put upon. At one elementary school with 45 teachers, only three are men, and they are always picked to carry out any physical tasks.
"Because I'm a man, I'm often asked to set up chairs before performances, pass out coronavirus test kits to all students and shovel snow," a teacher said. "Recently, the male teachers have been assigned to deal with school violence and manage children with ADHD or autism. This practice of assigning tough jobs to male teachers needs to change."
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