The Constitutional Court ruled Thursday that the government's prohibition against intensive English education for children in the first few grades of elementary schools is constitutional.
In 2013, students and their parents at Young Hoon Elementary School in northern Seoul challenged the education ministry's decision to ban English classes for private elementary school students in the first and second grades, saying it infringes upon their rights to an education.
The plaintiffs said the government's decision violated the rule of equality as students attending international schools in South Korea can take English courses, as well as other classes taught in the foreign language, regardless of their grades.
The Constitutional Court, however, said the ministry's decision was reasonable considering the overheated private education over English and student's holistic education.
"In the South Korean public education system, the first and second grades in elementary school are where students first learn Korean," the court said. "Experts said teaching both languages at the same time could hinder developing students' Korean proficiency while causing other problems to English education as well."
The court also said international schools cannot be classified as elementary schools, as they are different in many aspects, including the reason they were established and their curricula.
The Ministry of Education restricted English language courses for elementary school students in their third and forth years to two hours a week. For fifth and sixth graders, three hours are allowed per week. It is forbidden to teach other subjects in English in all grades. (Yonhap)