SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Korea Bizwire) — Private English tutoring academies, referred to as “hakwons” locally, are raising their voices in protest after the Ministry of Education, in a move to appease an outpouring of public unrest, followed up its postponement of a ban on after school English classes at preschools and kindergartens with a statement that it will first look to regulate English hakwons.
On January 24 at the Diplomatic Center located in Seoul’s Seocho District, members of the Korean Association of Foreign Language Academies (KAFLA) held a rally criticizing the education ministry’s olive branch to upset parents as an “out-dated way of thinking”.
The KAFLA accused the ministry of misunderstanding the nature of the educational programs currently offered by English hakwons for young children, and pointed out that foreign education attainment schemes carried out domestically were consistent age-wise with those abroad.
“Rather than focusing purely on knowledge acquisition, today’s English education programs for young children center on learning about foreign cultures through songs, stories and games that are commensurate with the cognitive development curve of children,” said the KAFLA. “To confuse these methods as prerequisite learning measures and subsequently restrict them is an incomprehensible decision.”
The rally asserted that early foreign language learning was a trend increasingly adopted worldwide, and as evidence, cited data which stated that the number of European Union nations that had adopted early foreign language learning had increased from 44 percent to 53 percent from 2012 to 2017.
The KAFLA added that Asian neighbors Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong were adopters of early foreign language learning as well.
“Despite facing a variety of regulations and restrictions, South Korea’s education hakwons for young children grew into the world’s premier foreign language institutes, pouring cold water on the past boom in study abroad programs for young children and presenting a solution to the problems of draining national wealth and ‘gireogi appa’, all the while bringing in foreign monies via the export of our educational models and know-how,” the KAFLA said.
Meaning “goose father”, a gireogi appa is a father who remains behind in South Korea while his children and wife live in an English-speaking nation in the hopes of providing a better education and learning environment.
The KAFLA demanded that the private English education sector’s opinions be consulted and included in the Ministry of Education’s final decision on whether to ban English hakwons or not, and also called for the government to grant subsidies to the industry.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)