In South Korea it is banned to teach English for the first two years of primary school. The South Korean government believes that early English learning, particularly intensive learning, would erode Korean roots.
But this ruling doesn’t prevent kids from learning the language outside school hours.
Three times a week, Rachel Kim, a Primary 2 pupil, goes to a private English institute and spends two hours learning to read, write and converse in the language.
“I also speak English at home to my parents, but they cannot speak well. Sometimes, I tell them they say the wrong thing,” she said in fluent, unaccented English.
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She’s not the only one; many young pupils learn the language after regular school hours, this despite the teaching ban on the language.
“Public primary schools first started teaching English in 1997, but only from Primary 3,” said reports.
“From the late 1990s, private elementary schools and kindergartens started offering intensive English learning classes. This refers to the use of English as the medium of instruction for all subjects except for the Korean language.”
In 2013, however, the Education Ministry imposed a blanket ban on English lessons for Primary 1 and 2 students of private elementary schools.
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Unsurprisingly, many parents protested against the ruling; they felt it unfair as it did not apply to international schools. One of the people against the ruling is Peter Ahn, director of TTR Academy.
“Those acquiring two languages at the same time may seem more confused, but that’s because their brain is working extra hard at double the capacity compared to other people,” he said.
“But once your brain adjusts to it, it’s not something that you forget or lose.”
Echoing Peter’s sentiments is businessman Kim Jae Jong, who spends roughly 1.2 million won yearly to send his six-year-old to an English kindergarten.
“We live in such a globalized environment; how can we communicate with the outside world and foreigners if we don’t know English?” he said.
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