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The South Korean government has imposed a ban on English education for first- and second-graders due to its possible adverse effects.
The ban came into effect last March as part of a government policy in line with a 2016 Constitutional Court ruling, which states that learning English may interfere with the students’ competence in the Korean language.
According to a private English teacher, Korean parents are competitive. For instance, a mother transferred her US-born son from a Korean school to an international school so he could continue learning English.
Parents and critics have raised their concerns that the ban will widen the gap between rich and disadvantaged Korean families. This is because private institutions, which are not covered by the ban, tend to be extremely expensive. As a result, only the privileged students have the luxury of learning English as early as possible, while others miss out on these educational opportunities.
The education ministry aims to change how parents perceive English by implementing programs and seminars to enlighten parents, in hopes of encouraging them to treat English only as a second language. The ministry also plans to financially aid low-income families to enable them to attend these programs.
On a similar note, Iran also banned English education for primary school students last January. The country’s leaders asserted that learning English in primary school makes young students susceptible to Western influence. Nonetheless, Iran’s head of state clarified that the ban does not oppose learning a foreign language in general.
In Iran, learning English usually starts in middle school because primary education is dedicated to teaching and building a child’s foundation of Iranian culture.