Unresolved issues and new challenges in teaching English to young learners: the case of South Korea

Sue Garton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issuepeer-review


The introduction of languages, especially English, into the primary curriculum around the world has been one of the major language-in-education policy developments in recent years. In countries where English has been compulsory for a number of years, the question arises as to what extent the numerous and well-documented challenges faced by the initial implementation of early language learning policies have been overcome and whether new challenges have arisen as policies have become consolidated. This article therefore focuses on South Korea, where English has been compulsory in primary school since 1997. The issues raised by the introduction of English into the primary curriculum are reviewed and the current situation in South Korea is investigated. The results of a mixed methods study using survey data from 125 Korean primary school teachers, together with data from a small-scale case study of one teacher are presented. The study shows that, while some of the initial problems caused by the introduction of early language learning appear to have been addressed, other challenges persist. Moreover, the data reveal the emergence of a number of new challenges faced by primary school teachers of English as they seek to implement government policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-219
Number of pages19
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Issue number2
Early online date19 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Current Issues in Language Planning on 19/11/13, available online: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/10.1080/14664208.2014.858657

ELT Research Award scheme funded by the British Council to promote innovation in English language teaching research.


  • early language learning
  • language-in-education
  • teacher education
  • teaching English to young learners


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