On 4th October 2018, the Ministry of Education (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Yoo Eun-Hae) announced that it will lift the restriction imposed on English education in early childhood as long as the English education is "play-based".
Play-based kindergarten after-school English classes : English learning activities reflecting the interest and development of children, consisting of songs, games, music and dance
At the beginning of this year, the MoE announced that it would decide upon this matter after consulting with parents to seek social consensus.
Since then, the MoE has conducted a survey and organized several workshops in order to collect opinions. The results have shown a considerable demand for English education in early childhood and most parents agreed with the educational purpose of play-based early childhood English lessons.
Concerns have been raised that the prohibition of English learning in early childhood will induce a demand for private education.
It also has been taken into account that kindergartens have to finish establishing their curriculum for the next year in October or November, so that those decisions had to be made as quickly as possible.
As a result, the MoE has decided to allow early childhood English education in an environment that allows a healthy growth and development of children.
The local education offices will afterward decide on the details of the operation standard of after-schools English classes.
Kindergartens will decide if they will provide English education (limited to one-hour class per day) after consulting with parents. For children who don't want to participate in English classes, a separate care will be provided.
Together with the local education offices, the MoE will instruct and supervise kindergartens to abide by play-based English lessons standards.
The MoE will increase the number of kindergartens that allow children to play and have downtime. Furthermore, the MoE will implement policies to educate parents on learning that matches with different development stages of children, and will oversee whether an appropriate kindergarten curricula have been put in place.
Meanwhile, after-school English classes at grade 1 and 2 elementary school levels have been prohibited since March 2018.
Schools are asked to focus on providing after-school classes like arts, sports, robotic classes and foster creative talents.
But it was suggestd that continuity in English education should be assured between early childhood education and elementary education. And given the quite extensive demand in English education, it is necessary that the restriction on after-school English classes is reviewed.
Therefore, the MoE will collect various opinions and conduct a comprehensive review by examining the curricula of after-school classes at 1st and 2nd grade elementary school levels.
The MoE will also continuously implement the system of policy deliberation period to encourage the public's participation in the policy-making process, and instead of conducting pros-and-cons surveys to collect opinions, it will introduce more efficient methods.
Deputy Prime Minister Yoo indicated that, "We have considered it a priority that early childhood education is focused on children and play-based learning. Besides, most parents agree with the necessity of early childhood English education. We hope that through this policy decision, various pending issues in education will be solved and that the education field will be stabilized as soon as possible,"
She also noted that, "Based on the view that education isn't about speed, but is about its direction, we will contemplate about the future of education and find new ways with parents and schools."
* unofficial translation