English immersion bans constitutional: court

February 25, 2016

By Chung Ah-young

The Constitutional Court has ruled that the government’s order to ban English immersion programs for first and second graders in private elementary schools is constitutional.

The court ruled unanimously on Thursday that the ban could be seen as the proper means of preventing the negative impact of excessive private tutoring.

Parents of students at Younghoon Elementary School, a high-profile private school, filed a petition in December 2013 asking the court to review the constitutionality of the ban. Under the English immersion curriculum, the school taught most subjects, such as mathematics and science, in English.

“The government’s instruction was designed to prevent parents’ excessive zeal over private education for English so that young children could grow as well-rounded people,” the court said.

The court said that because English was included in the elementary education curriculum in 1995, elementary schools did not teach English to first and second graders.

“Such rules are based on experts’ opinions that early English education can hamper young children from developing Korean language skills,” the court said.

The court also said that the autonomous curricula of private schools were allowed only within the government’s educational policy.

“If private schools violate this, it will bring inequality of education and spur social polarization,” it said.

The case goes back to 2013 when the Ministry of Education clashed with parents of students at private elementary schools after announcing the ban in December 2012.

Under the ban, the schools were required to limit English courses to two hours a week for third and fourth graders and three hours for fifth and sixth graders, and none for first and second graders.

Parents of private school students including those at Younghoon strongly opposed the measure.

“The government’s claim that English education can prevent the lower graders from developing Korean has no objective or scientific grounds,” a group of parents said.

“Given that international schools are not subject to such rules, it is a breach of rights.”

One Comment

  1. Lisa

    February 26, 2016 at 8:07 AM

    It’s surprising no one is going after Maewon even though they’re still doing English emersion