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‘English kindergartens’ to be banned

Private educational facilities for 3- to 5-year-olds that teach English as part of their main curricula could be shut down by the government as early as this year.

Any name implying English education at preschools will also be banned, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Saturday, announcing its submission of a pertinent bill to the National Assembly.

If passed, the law is expected to affect hundred of facilities and tens of thousands of parents who have enrolled children in them.

“According to the law, English is excluded from regular kindergarten curriculum. Some hagwon operators have been providing English programs in the form of regular nursery education, misleading the parents and their children,” a ministry official said.

English kindergartens are regarded as prestigious facilities in Korea. Rep. Cho Jeon-hyeok of the ruling Grand National Party last year revealed that one month’s enrollment can cost up to 1.7 million won ($1,400) per child ― more than seven times the monthly payment for an ordinary kindergarten place.

Kindergarten fees have risen by 119 percent over the past decade, the fastest price-hike among educational institutions, according to figures compiled by the lawmaker.

The bill aims to crack down on hagwon that pretend that they are also licensed kindergartens.

“Since (some kindergartens) are registered as private institutes rather than regular kindergartens, they are not subjected to government regulations on fees,” he said.

The qualification of the facilities was also brought into question. Recently, a mass food poisoning took place in an “English pre-school” in affluent southern Seoul. Investigators said the operators had served outdated foods and admitted that tight hygiene regulations were not applied to hagwon.

Earlier news of a habitual marijuana smoker having taught English at an institute in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, also alarmed parents.

“It’s time parents sent their children to legitimate facilities,” a ministry official said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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