English in Indonesia and South Korea

Indonesia and South Korea see English subject differently in their schooling systems. In South Korea, students are learning English from the beginning of elementary school. Meanwhile, in Indonesia, not every elementary school is teaching English to their students.

South Korea’s Ministry of Education banned English subject for first and second graders in 2018. One of the reasons was children should be proficient in Korean first before learning another language. Learning English and Korean at the same time was believed to hinder children’s ability to be proficient in their native language.

However, the policy was heavily criticized by parents and scholars, saying that it will deepen the gap between the rich and the poor families. The rich families can afford to send their kids to private schools that teach all subjects in English, while the poor can only depend on the public schools that don’t allow their kids to learn English as early as possible.

The ban was lifted in 2019 after the National Assembly passed the amendment to allow first and second graders to study English in school.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, the Ministry of Education removed English from elementary school compulsory subjects under the curriculum 2013 program that is still going on. Only junior high and senior high school students are given English as compulsory subjects, of which the learning time is decreased to two hours per week only.

None of the lawmakers or politicians in Indonesia seemed to be concerned enough to do something and lift this ban. It has been six years since the English subject ban was released, and parents who send their kids to public school can’t do much. 

In this global era, English is very important. Those who have good English skills will excel in education and win more opportunities than those who do not. Harvard Business Review published research in 2017 that shows better English ability to go hand-in-hand with better income and better quality of life. 

Indonesia must learn from South Korea and listen to the needs of the people. If we want to be a developed country and prepare citizens to compete globally, learning English should start as early as possible.

Learning English should not be a privilege available only to the rich kids. It should be taught to every kid as early as possible, no matter what their economic backgrounds or whether they are enrolled in private or public schools.


  1. South Korea bans English education for first and second graders
  2. Korea lifts English education ban for first, second graders
  3. English as a Second Language Still a Pipe Dream
  4. Education in Indonesia
  5. Countries with better English have better economies

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Written by dearmarintan

A frequent flyer who finds a delight in reading books and visiting beautiful bookshops. Currently reading "5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman.

Website: http://dearmarintan.com/

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