August 2, 2022

SEOUL – The opposition of the education community and parents against the Ministry of Education’s plan to reorganize the primary school entry age is intensifying.

During the meeting with President Yoon Suk-yeol on Friday, Education Minister Park Soon-ae announced plans to gradually lower the enrollment age in elementary schools to 5 years old starting in 2025. The plan was never mentioned in Yoon’s campaign promises. or in matters of state announced at the Presidential Transitional Committee stage.

Educators and parents slammed the abrupt announcement, calling it “an amateurish way to handle administration.”

About 40 civic groups representing kindergartens, teachers and parents launched a united association, held a rally outside the presidential office in Yongsan-gu, central Seoul, to demand the plan’s withdrawal on Monday. Rally organizers expected 450 people to attend the event, but more people than expected showed up despite the intense heat, police said. “Early entry to school at age 5 is inappropriate given the stage of cognitive and emotional development of children,” an association official said.

The group also said economic needs were prioritized over the well-being of children. “It is not an educational decision to have a 5 year old child sit and study just to provide more labor 20 years later. It is a policy that does not care about the happiness of the child. child, the right to play, the right to learn and the right to grow,” the official said at the rally.

Rally organizers said the protest will continue until the education ministry withdraws the reform plan.

The group began collecting signatures online on Saturday and had attracted 105,290 attendees by Monday morning. Various online mother-only communities are also encouraging members to sign the petition.

Two major teachers’ unions – the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations and the Korea Union of Teachers and Education Workers – also voiced their objections over the weekend. The Gyeonggi branch of the KTU released a statement in opposition on Monday, saying it is state-directed child abuse to make a 5-year-old child sit at a school desk for 40 minutes straight. .

Minister Park appeared on a radio show Monday morning to address some of the concerns raised by educators and parents.

She strongly denied that lowering the entrance age was a policy to address low birth rates and allow people to enter the labor market earlier. “It’s only to ensure fair opportunities for children from the start,” she said.

She pointed out that kindergarten and primary school systems vary by country and that 5-7 years old is a transition period with children at different skill levels.

“We are considering alternatives such as flexible lesson times for a smooth introduction to lessons for 5-year-olds. There are plans to guarantee childcare up to 8 p.m. for first and second year primary school students,” she added.

Park Da-som, president of the National and Public Union of Kindergarten Teachers, who also appeared on the radio on Monday morning, hit back at the minister’s explanation. “How can early school entry be a bridge to bridge the education gap?”

“If that is really the point of this absurd plan, it would be better to make the early childhood education system mandatory,” Park added.