|No Elementary school student is too young to learn English. Not anymore. gettyimagesbank|
By Jung Min-ho
Lawmakers have approved an amendment to revert the policy banning English education for first and second graders at elementary schools.
The National Assembly passed the amendment Wednesday to allow first and second graders to learn English in after-school classes. The move comes only a year after the policy came into force to prohibit all English classes for children "too young to learn a foreign language."
After introducing the policy, the Ministry of Education was criticized by teachers and parents alike. Many said the policy would only deepen the English gap between the rich and the poor, who cannot afford expensive private education.
Given that English is not a regular subject for first and second graders, if they want, they will be allowed to learn English in after-school classes from next semester.
Initially, the ministry defended the policy, saying it was in line with the Constitutional Court's 2016 ruling that found its ban on intensive English education for first and second graders constitutional. The court said teaching them Korean and English simultaneously could hinder their development of Korean proficiency.
But many scholars were skeptical, saying learning a foreign language at an early age outweighs its negatives ― if there are any ― in the long term.