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Part lll Prospects

1. Policy Directions for the Future

The Korean government has been preparing education reform proposals for the 21st century through the PCER founded in February, 1994. The Commission presented a series of reports entitled ‘Educational Policy Tasks for Establishing the New Education System,’ which were submitted to the President on 31 May 1995, 9 February 1996 and 20 August 1996. The education reform proposals of the PCER constituted a comprehensive and future-oriented government policy for the 21st century. The Commission’s report suggested that information, globalization, and localization would be the defining characteristics of the 21st century. With this perspective, the directions of education reform have been delineated. The ultimate goal of education reform was to enable everyone to learn what they wish, when they desire to learn it at the location of their choice. ‘Lifelong Learning and Open Education’ was the ideal set forth by the PCER reports at the top of the reform agenda.

The 21st century is expected to advance education by review the present condition in the field of education. Particular concerns are a) the pursuit of qualitative, rather than quantitative, growth of education, b) the fulfillment of enhanced public demands for education through extending compulsory education, c) popularizing secondary education, and d) increasing opportunities for higher education. The ultimate goal of education in this period is to contribute to individual self-realization and national development. Furthermore, the 21st century will undoubtedly bring forth a society of information and globalization, and the challenge of education will help students develop abilities of creative and critical thinking. Korean education in recent decades has focused on a quick adoption of advanced knowledge and skills from developed countries. However, the period when Korea blindly mimics the developed countries is over and Korea should now adopt a creative and independent problem-solving approach to meet her particular and unique needs.

For the 21st century, the PCER has highlighted the development of creativity as the first priority of primary and secondary education. To lay the groundwork for this goal the Commission has proposed the reduction of the number of required subjects and to increase the number of electives. In preparation for the advent of the information society and globalization, the Commission has suggested to give a greater focus on computer education, foreign languages, Chinese characters, and world culture and history. It also proposes to organize materials so as to provide a systematic streamed educational process that caters to the diverse needs and ability levels of individual learners.

Early childhood education will soon be part of public education. The kindergarten stage will be the first run of the school ladder system. Free education for children at the age of five, currently available in rural areas and low-income ban areas, will gradually be expanded to the entire nation. In addition, childcare centers will assume an the role of educators. Educational programs and materials for kindergarten and childcare centers will also be developed and made available. Thus, efforts will be made to provide early childhood education in public schools for all children of five years of age. Moreover, a kindergarten curriculum will be organized as preparation for the primary school curriculum. Childcare center will be re-fitted to provide an early educational curriculum, rather than act as mere baby-sitting services. Various educational programs and learning materials for young children need to be developed and made available to kindergartens and childcare centers. The early learning curriculum will focus on activity-oriented programs and cultivate basic manners and habits e.g. respecting the elderly, orderly conduct, table etiquette, cleaning-up after play, etc. In addition, parenting education will be introduced or reinforced to guide parents in raising and educating their children properly at home.

In primary and secondary schools, required courses will be reduced and the number of electives will be increased. This change is intended to allow individual students to choose from various courses according to their aptitude and ability. The number of required courses in high schools will be reduced and the level of difficulties of these courses will also be adjusted. While courses for the tenth grade will consist of mostly required courses, more elective courses will be available for eleventh and twelfth grades. To meet the increasing demand for teachers, with double-majors teachers and part-time lecturers will no doubt be hired in addition to the regular teaching staff.

The Education Reform Proposal (ERP) has endorsed communication and information technologies as the spinal cord for a new Korean education system. Its vision of Edutopia is of "a society of open and lifelong education to allow each and every individual equal and easy access to education at any time and place." It is the educational potential of information technology that allows the ERP to envisage the future in these terms.

Among the proposals for the "comprehensive support system for education" are information services to enable students to select relevant courses, access information about their aptitudes and competencies, obtain information about the relative performance of schools, as well as information about distance learning programs, and determine the availability of electronic distance learning materials.

The formation of an information-oriented educational infrastructure at the primary and secondary school levels began in I997 and will continue until 2002. This infrastructure wi1l be the basis upon which an open education system is eventually established and an environment resulting in creative human beings. As part of this plan, the goal is to provide a personal computer for every students and a LAN system for every school by 2002 which will provide students with access to the Internet and maximize potential benefits from the latest and most advanced information technology. This will result in an increase in students' creativity and desire to learn with access to such information.

Concerning the policy of educational investment, the public education budget will increase to a minimum of 5 per cent of the GNP by 2000. In order to achieve this goal, education and local taxes must necessarily increase. At the same time, local governments will be given more financial responsibility for primary and secondary education in line with the decentralization of the government. The central government will continue to increase its financial support for colleges and universities in a more revolutionary manner.

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