SEOUL (BLOOMBERG) – South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s plan to bring forward school enrolment by a year to age five has sparked protests from teachers and parents.
About three dozen civic groups staged a protest on Monday (Aug 1) outside the presidential office.
Critics say the plan is a hastily conceived move that could be detrimental to the development of young children and would step up competition in an already overheated education sector.
Yoon’s government last week unveiled plans to implement the change starting as early as 2025.
The administration contends the move could help ease the burden on parents for childcare as the country tries to increase one of the developed world’s lowest birth rates.
But the backlash adds to the woes of Yoon’s government as it struggles to find support after nearly three months in power.
In a survey taken last Friday and Saturday by the Korea Society Opinion Institute as news of the school plan came out, Yoon’s support rate slid to 28.9 per cent, down by more then 3 percentage points from a week before.
More than two-thirds of respondents said they disapproved of his government, the survey showed, a jump of more than 32 percentage points from late May.
South Korean politicians typically tread lightly when it comes to education, one of the most sensitive topics in the country.
But the incident is the latest in a series of dust-ups from Yoon, a prosecutor-turned politician, that include plans released in late July to shake up the nation’s police – which prompted protests from senior officers.
Education-sector shares rose on expectations that the change in the school system could cause parents to lay out more money on services to give their children an edge in the classroom and for crucial entrance exams.
NE Neungyule jumped 8.6 per cent while MegaMD rose 8.8 per cent in Seoul trading on Monday. I-Scream Edu gained 5.9 per cent while YBM Net climbed 3.7 per cent.