Korea: Is It Never Too Soon to Start Cramming English?
hfsclpp at gmail.com
Thu Jul 17 13:09:14 UTC 2008
Is It Never Too Soon to Start Cramming English?
The already zealous advance of English-language education is now even
sweeping up parents of kindergarten-age children, driven by government
plans to improve what is by all accounts an inefficient system.
English classes in elementary school will increase to two to three
times a week, from one to two. Parents obsessed with giving their
children the advantage at this stage begin teaching their infant
children English, a time widely believed to allow them to absorb the
A staffer with a language school says while there are no accurate
data, parents' worries have certainly boosted overall demand for
English-language kindergartens this year. Since the presidential
Transition Committee announced its English education policy, at least
45 English-language schools have newly opened in the Gangnam and Mapo
areas. A staffer at an English-language kindergarten in Seoul's Songpa
district says they saw an increase of 50 children in admission every
year, but this year 80 more children enrolled. He says the number of
new children at other branches in the upscale Daechi and Bundang areas
increased by 90-100 compared to the 70 they usually had each year, and
that across the board, admissions grew by 30-40 percent. ¡°Many
parents who brought their children are nervous if they don't teach
them English early, especially given the new English policies that
were announced,¡± he said.
A kindergarten in Seocho that accepts infants from the age of 18
months saw student numbers rise 16 percent and added new classes.
Monthly tuition here is a hefty W1.13 million (US$1=W1,009).
It's the children who suffer. Six-year-old Yun-ah (not her real name),
who started English kindergarten this year, finishes class by 1:30
p.m. and then does her homework. Every day for an hour, she practices
vocabulary and intonation listening to a CD. She also has the two-page
daily task of composing full English sentences using words she learned
in kindergarten that day. At the weekend, she reads Korean folk tales
like ¡°The Sun and The Moon¡± and writes a summary and book report in
English. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she practices speaking with a
native speaker via teleconferencing for 10 minutes. Her homework is
graded every month and mid-and final exams come every three months. It
is effectively based on these scores that students are divided into
Some children at these expensive English kindergartens even take
private tutoring for English conversation and study at other different
institutes in order to survive competition there. Six-year-old Eun-bi
(not her real name) who goes to an English kindergarten costing a
monthly W950,000, has recently started private tutoring lessons with a
native speaker four times a week, for a monthly W560,000.
Kim (34) sends her daughter to the same kindergarten Eun-bi attends.
She says difficult kindergarten homework was beyond her capacity to
help, so she arranged for more through tutoring or study at institutes
for her child.
In some cases, the phenomenon reaches the extreme of pre-natal English
teaching. Mothers form ¡°study groups¡± to immerse their fetuses in
the language, with members of at least one pregnant moms' online
community on portal site Daum seeking study partners.
A new batch of customers at Korea¡¯s so-called naming agencies are
parents looking for an English name for their child attending English
kindergarten. The agencies claim certain names are more auspicious.
One, in Changdong, reports that one out of 10 mothers has been coming
for an English name for their child since the beginning of the year.
The ¡°naming fee¡± is much the same as for a Korean name at a minimum
of W100,000. But experts say learning English early doesn't
necessarily make for better skills. Prof. Choi Seok-moo at Korea
University's English Education department says early bilingual
education can in fact hinder the capacity to think logically and
acquire the native tongue.
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