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Education Ministry to re-examine controversial ban on English lessons for preschoolers

SEJONG -- The Education Ministry on Tuesday said it will postpone by one year the decision on a controversial plan to ban extracurricular English courses for preschool children.

“We have found that the country lacks a social consensus on English language education as a whole. And we concluded that we need to first resolve the problems caused by private institutes encouraging advanced learning for young children,” said Shin Ik-hyun, chief of Student Welfare Policy Bureau at the Education Ministry, in a press briefing at the Government Complex in Sejong. “We will take more time and gather public opinions to come up with improved policies early next year.” 


The Ministry did not confirm if it would discuss the withdrawal of the proposed ban next year, saying its basic position is to reduce burdens of an excessive learning culture for young children.

The Education Ministry unveiled a reform plan for education of preschool children on Dec. 27 that included the proposed ban on extracurricular English language education. It had explained the government’s aims as promoting age-appropriate education and alleviating the study load of young students.

As for English education for preschoolers offered by private academies and institutes, Shin said the ministry would come up with stricter measures to regulate them and come up with a revision bill.

“We will check the status quo and look into hagwon and their operating systems -- the safety of the buildings, length of class and tuition. Our goal is to promote education that would reduce the stress and burden on the growing children and their parents,” he said.

While it is illegal for English institutes to label themselves as kindergartens, there are many that offer kindergarten-like curriculums for children aged 3 to 6, before they start elementary school.

The Education Ministry’s shift in its position on the proposed ban appears to be due to harsh criticisms from the public, as there are concerns a ban would only deprive students of access to affordable English education and increase the education gap between children from low- and high-income households.

The ministry in December also announced a ban on elementary schools running after-school English courses for first- and second-graders, which will go into effect in March at the start of the new academic year.

By Jo He-rim (