Nine out of 10 parents say they would send their children to private English crammers if the government insists on banning early English education in kindergartens, a straw poll suggests.
English education company Yoons English School polled 271 parents earlier this month and found that 88.9 percent would send their children to private crammers until formal English classes can start in the third grade of elementary school.
Some 66.4 percent of the parents said they spend between W50,000 to W150,000 a month on extracurricular English lessons for their small children (US$1=W1,066).
Many parents use a combination of home study and private lessons for their kids, with 57.3 percent saying they use home study materials and 41.1. percent crammers. Some 34 percent only tutor their own kids at home, and 12.4 percent pay for a tutor to come and teach small classes.
Most or 71.1 percent said they are "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the quality of private education.
English was the most popular type of after-school lesson, followed by sports or dance, music, art and science.
The Education Ministry on Thursday bowed to a public outcry and reversed plans to ban English language education in kindergartens and childcare centers.
The ministry said Thursday, a day after announcing the measure, that "no decisions have been made" and that it would "listen to the opinions of the public."
Regional governments were in disarray because they had already notified kindergartens and childcare centers that no more English was to be taught after hours.
One official at the Korea Kindergarten Association said, "The government pushed ahead with the measure without listening to our views. It looks like it pursued the plan without considering how many children will be affected."
Websites were inundated with complaints on Thursday. The ministry's plan was to crack down on overburdening small children with extracurricular study, which is endemic in Korea, and make sure they learn their own language. But critics said the plan would inevitably backfire and drive people into the arms of expensive private crammers.
"I've decided to send my child to an English crammer regardless of the cost," wrote one commenter. "I'll probably have to get a moonlighting job."
Some 4,000 people signed a petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website urging the government to scrap the plan.
English-language classes remain banned in regular hours, which usually end at 1 p.m., but most of the country's 50,000 kindergartens and daycare centers teach English after hours instead.