February 7, 2024
SEOUL – Some 50.1 percent of the female teachers at elementary schools in 2022 said they intend to quit before reaching retirement age, a report by the Korean Educational Development Institute showed Sunday.
The state-run institute surveyed 2,803 elementary school teachers across the country in 2021 and 2022. The research found that 50.1 percent of the female respondents in 2022 said they will not continue to teach until retirement, up from 40.5 percent the year before.
The percentage of female teachers willing to quit was substantially higher than their male counterparts, which went from 30.3 percent in 2021 to 32.3 percent in 2022.
Researchers noted that emotional fatigue appears to have played a considerable role in the increasing number of female teachers wanting to quit, considering that the wage gap between genders — prevalent in many other fields of work in South Korea — is non-existent for teachers. They found that while emotional fatigue was a relevant factor prompting both male and female teachers to quit, it affects women more, increasing the likelihood of quitting by 1.44 times.
“Our results indicate that female teachers’ intention of quitting appears to be closely related to factors like the stress from student discipline and emotional fatigue,” researchers said, noting the relation between the recent controversy over teachers’ rights and teachers’ increasing tendency to want to quit in 2022.
The death by suicide of a 24-year-old female elementary school teacher in July of 2023 sparked a nationwide dispute over the rights of teachers in South Korea, with allegations that the the deceased had endured extreme stress from complaints by the parents of her students.
Overall, the number of those who said they will quit before retirement age went up 5 percentage points from 37.5 percent in 2021 to 42.5 percent in 2022.
The study showed also that younger teachers were more likely to think about quitting. In 2022, 48.6 percent of the teachers less than five years into their careers said they intend to leave teaching before retirement, up from 39.7 percent in the year before.
In comparison, 39.2 percent of teachers who worked in the field for between 10 and 15 years said they were willing to quit in 2022, up 5 percentage points from 34.2 percent in the year before.
The study showed that relatively young teachers — those born in 1989 and after — were less content with their jobs than those born before 1989. On average, the young teachers gave 3.93 out of 6 points to the statement, “I believe teaching has more downsides than upsides,” compared to 4.28 points given by their older counterparts.
The higher points represent how strongly the respondent agrees with the given statement. “The pay is satisfactory” got only 1.79 from younger teachers and 2.31 from older teachers.
The study implied emotional fatigue from younger teachers, with “I regret becoming a teacher” getting 3.13 from young teachers and 2.87 from older teachers. “I get tired thinking about going to school in the morning” got 4.17 from young teachers and 2.7 from old teachers.