Mo’ money, mo’ literacy at English, study shows

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Mo’ money, mo’ literacy at English, study shows

A new report claims that a 1 million won ($846) increase in parents’ income raises their child’s score on the Test for English for International Communication (TOEIC) by an average 21 points.

Furthermore, employees who outscore their colleagues by 100 points on the same test earn 1.7 million won more a year, adds the report released by Korea Development Institute (KDI) yesterday.

It argues that Korean society has created a troubling “English divide” as household spending on English education varies widely among different income classes and regions.

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“As English is a subject that is largely affected by environmental conditions, the societal gap in English education needs to be viewed from an equal-opportunity perspective,” said Kim Hee-sam, a KDI researcher.

Less than 20 percent of students from households earning less than 1 million won a month receive extra-curricular English education, but this grows to 70 percent among students whose families earn over 5 million won a month, Kim said.

Showing how prized English education is, households who pull in over 7 million a month spend 10 times more on it than those who earn 1 million won, the report found.

It added there is a north-south divide in the capital in terms of the haves and the have-nots, with those in the affluent south clearly having the upper hand in the field of learning English.

About 50 percent of children in the southern half of the city start learning English before they enter primary school, while 40 percent of students living in other areas do so from third grade, it said.

Roughly the same percentage of those who live south of the river study a foreign language, including English, for more than three hours a day, whereas 79 percent of students living elsewhere in the city do so for an hour or less.

As a result, the report showed a greater scoring discrepancy in English compared to subjects like math and Korean in the country’s college scholastic ability test, with background playing a bigger role.

The TOEIC scores also serve as an important factor in determining quality of employment.

“Regardless of their level of proficiency at the job, employees with better English scores get higher wages,” Kim said. “The government should offer more financial support for free after-school English classes and English camps during vacations .?.?. especially for students who come from low-income classes and those living in provincial backwaters.”

By Song Su-hyun [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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