South Korea Places Ban on English Classes for Primary School Students

Category : Education/Family

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. adverse / ædˈvɜrs / (adj) – bad or negative

    Some parents worry about the adverse effects of learning a foreign language on children.

  2. come into effect / kʌm ˈɪn tu ɪˈfɛkt / (idiom) – for a law or a policy to become official

    The new policy came into effect just last week.

  3. in line with / ɪn laɪn wɪθ / (idiom) – in agreement with something

    The ban on English education is in line with the government’s plan to celebrate the country’s own language and culture.

  4. privileged / ˈprɪv ə lɪdʒd / (adj) – having advantages that other people do not have

    Only privileged children can afford to go to international schools to study English.

  5. miss out (on something) / mɪs aʊt / (idiom) – to not be able to get or experience something

    If you don’t learn English, you might miss out on some good American shows and books.


Read the text below.

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.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think the adverse effects of learning English cited in the article are reasonable? Why or why not?
• What is the government’s vision for English education in your country? Discuss.

Discussion B

• In your opinion, when is the best time to be exposed to another language and culture? Explain.
• What language and culture would you want to learn aside from your own? Give details.
Category : Education/Family