The South Korean government has proposed lowering the primary school age to five to address the labor shortage, but the move has caused concern among teachers and civic groups.
Education Minister Park Soon-ae said on Friday that the education ministry aims to start implementation as early as 2025 based on social consensus, lowering the school age by one year. Yonhap News Agency report.
Park said the plan will help increase South Korea’s workforce, which is facing a declining birth rate, by allowing students to graduate and start their careers earlier.
However, teachers and parents oppose the move over concerns that it will send intellectually unprepared children to school.
A total of 36 civil society groups protested in front of the president’s office on Monday, demanding that the proposal be scrapped.
One civic group argued that it was “inappropriate” to require five-year-olds to attend primary school given the degree of “cognitive and emotional development” of young children.
“It can also have negative side effects, such as accelerating the starting age for college admissions and competition for private education,” the group said.
A representative of the Korean Teachers’ Union said the plan appeared to ignore the growth of young children and that they should be allowed to grow “through play and networking with friends.”
The Ministry of Education plans to conduct a survey of 20,000 students and parents in September 2022 to solicit feedback on the proposal, and President Yoon Seok-yeol has called for expediting the process.
Fusion of nursery school and kindergarten
In addition to lowering the primary school age, the ministry also aims to promote the integration of kindergartens and nursery schools, something the previous administration was seeking.
Under the current school system, children under the age of 5 can attend nursery schools managed by the Ministry of Health, and children between the ages of 3 and 5 can attend kindergartens managed by the Ministry of Education.
The previous administration tried to combine nurseries and kindergartens to provide a more systematic education and care for children, but those attempts were unsuccessful. Korea Herald report.
Park said her ministry had reached a “mutual basis for understanding” with officials on integration.
In June, Australia’s states of Victoria and New South Wales implemented another year of ‘play-based learning’ for young children as part of what the prime minister called “the biggest transformation of early education for a generation.” .
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews and New South Wales Prime Minister Dominic Perrotet announced their “commitment to long-term policies” in a joint statement, saying the move would benefit many working families. .
“Over the next 10 years, every child in Victoria and [New South Wales] Experience the benefits of a year of play-centered learning before the first grade. ” statement read.