“Lesson, I want to take it, I want to do it."
It is a slogan used in the protest over the mass layoffs of part-time instructors and the reduction of lectures by the implementation of the Revision of Higher Education Act. It will go into effect in August, but there are sharp conflicts among universities, part-time lecturers, full professors, and students over the enforcement.
Main contents of the act include ensuring employment for more than one year, protection from unfair punishments, and guaranteeing wages during vacation. However, the act came up against a lot of opposition because of the concerns that part-time lecturers could be laid off. For this reason, it was suspended four times from 2011 to 2018, while the treatment of part-time lecturers has worsened. According to the Korean Educational Development Institute, a monthly lecture fee is only about 1.4 million won in case they work for 6 hours in maximum a week. However, only 17.5 percent of them work for more than 6 hours, which means that the wage they actually get is less than 1.4 million won. Also, job security, clear appointment process, and health insurance are not guaranteed. Part-time instructors are discriminated against compared to full-time teachers in terms of holiday bonuses, vacation fees and the use of libraries.
Even after the Act was passed, there has been constant controversy. Especially, concerns over the massive layoffs were high. In fact, Korea University and Hanyang University directed reduction of lectures and dismissal of part-time lecturers. In response, Korea University students staged signature campaigns and relay rallies, demanding the settlement of the invasion of the right to study. Also, 53 professors at Hanyang University stressed that full-time professors get difficulties spending time in research, which can decline the quality of education.
However, universities argued that the enforcement would incur a financial burden of up to 300 billion won. They stressed the difficulty of dealing with cost in the current situation where tuition has been frozen for more than a decade. In response, the Korean Graduate Employee Union refuted the university's claim, estimating that the ratio of the additional cost would be only 0.7 to 1.5 percent of the school's total income.
Meanwhile, controversy is also growing over the government's support for the enforcement. The Ministry of Education said that it added 28.8 billion won in the 2019 budget related to the act to alleviate the financial burden of the universities. However, Lee Seong-eun, the team leader of Korean Council for University Education, said that the support is not enough, pointing to the fact that the amount is only one-eighth of wages during the vacation at all universities in the country which is 230 billion won.
As conflicts are not settled, the Ministry of Education will take follow-up measures to minimize the confrontation. It will monitor the employment status of the instructors and reflect the result on financial support project. Furthermore, to reduce the confusion caused by the Act, it pre-announced the enforcement ordinance and organized a task force team with representatives from universities and instructors to produce the operational manuals. Yoo Eun-hye, the Minister said “We expect the Act to maximize the education competency of the academic future generations,” calling for the suspension of confrontation and urging the members' continued interest in the enforcement.
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