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Children start learning English by age 4: report

Children in and around Seoul start learning to speak English at an average age of 3.7 years, the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education said.

Its latest survey of 1,200 elementary school first- and second-graders in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, found that 92.7 percent received their first-ever English education around 3-5 years old. Only 7.3 percent in the same age bracket said they had not studied English at all by that age.

About 65.7 percent started learning English when they were around 3-4 years old, while 19.2 percent doing so when they were over five years old.

The survey found that 6.6 percent began learning the foreign language even before they reached 2 and that 1.3 percent of mothers chose English for antenatal education.

The institute concluded that children’s first encounter with English lessons was an average of 3.7 years old.

The more educated the mothers were, the earlier their children started the foreign language training. According to the study, 8.5 percent of mothers with university or higher degrees had their children start the education before two, while 69.9 percent let their children learn English around 3-4.

On the contrary, 13.4 percent of children of parents who were high school graduates did not study the language in infancy, and 59.3 percent began the English education around 3-4.

Residents of Ilsan, north of Seoul, were the most enthusiastic about their children’s English education with an average of 3.2 years olds starting to take English lessons. Three southern districts in Seoul ― Gangnam, Seocho or Songpa ― regarded as well-off and high in education zeal, were slightly behind, with their children starting to learn English at four on average.

Asked about the motives behind early English education, 44.5 percent said they wanted their children to become familiar with the language in childhood, while 20.3 percent said nurseries or other childcare facilities hold English classes, which drove them to start private education early. Only 9.5 percent cited their children’s exceptional curiosity.

“It seems that children start to learn English at their parents’ will, not on their own,” said Lee Yun-jin, researcher of the institute in the report.

“Some parents argue they start to educate children in English because kindergartens and daycare centers conduct classes in English, but on the contrary, many childcare facilities start English programs because the parents demand them,” she added.

By Bae Ji-sook (
Korea Herald daum