Widening the gapThe Education Ministry has been unreasonable in its push to ban extracurricular English programs at preschool day care centers. The ministry, which has banned after-school English teaching during the first two years of elementary school starting this March, asked the Health and Welfare Ministry to impose the same ban on preschool institutions.
The sudden guideline drew protests from day care educators and parents. Its top-down order without gauging public opinion creates controversy. The measure also has bigger repercussions as the move can benefit private tutoring institutions and worsen education inequalities.
After-school English classes for early elementary school students are being banned under the 2014 act prohibiting advanced learning at public schools. But day care centers don’t fall under the law. There are no legal grounds to restrict extracurricular English classes at day care institutions, which fall under the Infant Care Act. Also, the Infant Care Act allows day care centers to provide extracurricular activities in a foreign language. To ban English classes at child care centers, the act must be fixed first. Yet the Education Ministry has bypassed procedures and wants to impose the ban during the first semester, which starts in March.
The ministry is ignoring reality. Regardless of the controversy over early-age English fever, parents still want to start teaching their kids English from an early age. If the government discredits it, parents inevitably would have to seek out separate English teaching centers to send their kids to and pay extra for private schooling. There are many who cannot afford the extra burden.
The ministry kept a three-year grace period after announcing the act on banning after-school English classes for early elementary school students in fear of side effects. It must set the same grace period for preschool centers. Extracurricular programs are decided by the parents at each school. It is best that the decision be left to parents.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 6, Page 26
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