South Korea has banned English language classes for first- and second-grade students in elementary schools to “minimise negative effects of early English education practices”.

The ban, which came into effect on Thursday, is part of a policy that, the government says, is in line with a Constitutional Court ruling in 2016 that said teaching English may hinder the students’ proficiency in Korean.

In South Korea, kindergartens that conduct English classes are not officially registered as pre-schools but operate as private academies.

Although expensive, the growing demand for early English education has made these outlets very popular among parents who can afford them.

Korea’s annual household income per capita is $15,335. Some of these outlets charge more than $1,500 a month. The ban, which will also see around 7,000 teachers lose their jobs, will create a further divide with children from low-income families set to miss out in a highly competitive society, say experts.

 

Together with the ban, the ministry has issued a warning and reminder to Korean parents, urging them to treat English as a second language.

But critics say English fluency is needed more than ever, especially in a society where long hours and extra effort often does not result in success due to the level of competition.

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