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   Republic of Korea 
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Part I Descriptive Sections

1. EFA Goals and Targets

Korea is internationally renowned for its remarkable level of educational aspiration and expansion based upon well-harmonized cooperation between the public and private sectors. Since 1990, the year the World Declaration of EFA was announced, the Korean Government and organizations related EFA have made steady and persistent efforts to implement and promote EFA activities. In 1991, the mid/long term five-year educational plan (from 1992 to 1996) entitled "the Seventh Five-year Plan for Economic and Social Development: the Area of Education" was established. The plan clearly presented the directions and fundamental principles of national educational policies and projects. In 1994, the Commission on Education Reform(PCER) proposed the "New Education System" which sought to create an open society for lifelong education that would provide everyone with access to education, anywhere, anytime. Some guidelines for educational reforms were added in 1995.

The PCER also announced a second reform proposal on February 9, 1996, which focused on the reform of vocational and technical education. It proposed the following: (a) establishment of a new vocational and technical education system, (b) curriculum reform of primary and secondary school, (c) introduction of new professional graduate schools in law, medicine, and religion, and (d) reorganization of education laws and regulations.

The third education reform proposal was announced on August 20, 1996, which focused mainly on the efficient operation of the educational system. It proposed the following measures: (a) greater effectiveness of the local educational system, (b) policy renovation relating to teachers, (c) autonomy of private schools and universities, and (d) reform of continuing education. These proposals are being vigorously driven forward by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Nonetheless, the educational reform plans were criticized as a governmental top-down initiative. The new government, led by President KIM Dae-jung, revised the perspective and stressed grassroots participation in the educational reform process. The MOE was required to provide basic guidelines for educational reform as well as financial support. Schools are expected to develop programs to meet the individual needs of learners. Every learner has the rights to lifelong learning. It constituted the beginning of the EFA policy by the new government.

The EFA goals and targets in each EFA area are as follows.

A. Early Childhood Care and Development (ECD)

Early childhood education is largely given by private institutes or those affiliated to public primary schools. Parents are expected to pay the entire costs of ECD. At present, opportunities are not yet universal. Children are admitted to the kindergartens in their residential areas on the basis of parents' applications.

Although early childhood education in Korea has grown noticeably since the 1980s, the kindergarten enrollment rate remains low. The enrollment rate among five year-old children was only 44.4 per cent in 1995. Many kindergarten-aged children currently attend other private tutoring institutions.

The MOE has concentrated on building public kindergartens in rural areas while encouraging the private sector to establish kindergartens in major cities where a large number of kindergarten-aged children are concentrated. Consequently, kindergarten education largely depends on private resources. The ratio between private and public kindergartens is 7:3.

The Infant and Child Care Act was revised in 1991 in response to a rapid increase in the number of Korean women entering the labor market and participating in volunteer work. The female labor force participation rate increased from 43.1% in 1985 to 47% in 1990 and reached 47.9% in 1994. The revised act initiated the establishment of comprehensive childcare service arrangements, giving priority to children of working mothers with low incomes. The arrangements include requiring all industrial firms with 500 or more female employees to establish at least a one day-care center on its own premises or to subsidize eligible women for external child care expenses.

The PCER has suggested that child care facilities, such as day-care centers and in-family day-care services, should be expanded to facilitate use by of the female workforce. The government will develop diverse educational materials and tools and supply them to kindergartens and day-care centers.

B. Primary Education

Primary education in Korea is free, compulsory and provides the general basic education necessary in daily life. In contrast to the low primary enrollment at the time of national foundation, the current rate has soared to 99.9%, which means practically all children are provided with primary education. Such a quantitative growth is due essentially to educational zeal among the public and the appropriate educational policies of the government.

The heavy concentration of school population in urban areas, however, has brought about overcrowded classes and oversized schools in cities which may hinder efforts to improve the quality of education. Accordingly, the government enacted an education tax in 1982 to secure financial resources to enhance the educational environment and improve teachers' socioeconomic status. As a result, the number of students per class has dropped to 34.9 in 1998. Oversized schools were divided into smaller ones and the double-shift system of classes has all but disappeared. The government will continue to strive to normalize primary education

Primary school teachers are educated at teachers' colleges, the Korean National University of Education, the Korean National Open University, graduate schools of education, and departments of primary education within colleges of education. Most primary school teachers are educated at the 11 national teachers' colleges. Two-year teachers' colleges have been upgraded to four-year colleges granting bachelor's degrees. Since1986, teachers’ colleges have offered night and seasonal courses geared for a bachelor’s degree to meet the needs of in-service teachers who, for one reason or another, do not hold them.

C. Learning Achievement and Outcomes

Once children enter primary schools, they generally advance to the next grade each year. With the revision of the regulation that prohibited children under six from entering primary school(1997), even five year olds believed to have the ability to study became eligible to enter school, when capacity allowed. 5,661 young children in 1996 and 5,798 in 1997 entered school under this regulation.

D. Adult Literacy

The enrollment rate of primary schools was over 98% in the 1960s; EFA in its true sense was actualized in the late 1970s. Therefore, the Korean government has not paid serious attention to the issues of literacy education. As EFA became a worldwide issue in 1990- International Literacy Year, however, speculation grew that there were a number of illiteracy cases even in Korea, especially in poor inner-city slums, rural/isolated areas, and among the elderly. It was during this period that a transition with regard to the focus of literacy education occurred shifting from 'basic literacy' to 'life skill literacy/functional literacy.

Currently, the establishment of lifelong learning is the impetus behind the Open Learning Society concept proposed in the 5.31 Education Reform in 1995. This reform proposes that lifelong opportunities for learning should be assured to every Korean citizen. Moreover, the accreditation and acceptance of diverse learning experiences acquired outside formal schooling will, when necessary, be counted in obtaining various licenses required in our new technological society. Lifelong learning will thus promote an individuals ability to contribute to society as well offering a means of personal self-fulfillment. The Education Reform Plan also represents promise that budget will be secured for this endeavor, and lifelong learning will be guaranteed for generations to come.

E. Training in Essential Skills

The 5.31 Educational Reform in 1995 offered a set of goals and tasks related to vocational and technical education and training of skilled workforce. They are to structure and systematize vocational and technical education, to strengthen the national standards of certificates for skilled labor, to establish open vocational and technical education system, to solidify the liaison between training programs and certification procedures, to provide the national assessment system of training programs, and to intensify financial and administrative support for highly assessed training institutions. In terms of open vocational and technical education, distance education based on the application of high-tech communication techniques is strongly recommended; its biggest merit is to overcome restrictions of conventional education with regard to time and space.

Highlights of the proposed reform of vocational and technical education areas follows:

(a) the integration of education and training,

(b) linkage of learning to work experience,

(c) renewal of qualification and licensing,

(d) recognition of working abilities as a credence to academic achievement,

(e) increased participation of the private sector in vocational and technical education

(f) autonomy in curriculum and management affairs.

F. Education for Better Living

The followings are policies of the 1990s regarding educational welfare and information systems:

(a) expansion and restructuring of the Educational Broadcasting Service,

(b) installation of diverse educational CATV channels,

(c) emphasis on computer education,

(d) enhancement of computer literacy,

(e) establishment of educational information engineering centers,

(f) organization of national committee for an educational information system,

(g) construction of high-speed Internet systems both in schools and institutions of adult and continuing education.

In line with the above, the Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) was launched in December, 1990, affiliated with the Korean Education Development Institute and embracing the vision to support school education, expand the opportunity for lifelong education, and contribute to national educational development. EBS currently has one TV channel, one FM radio channel and two satellite channels. Broadcasting nationwide, EBS programming includes many realms: cultural and social education, school education, as well as air & correspondence education programs.

In operating the broadcasting system, the MOE has established a basic policy for the operation of EBS and gives administrative and financial support. EBS takes responsibility for the planning, organization, production and delivery of the broadcasting; and the Korean Broadcasting System is in charge of the transmission of broadcasts. About 40% of the budget for the educational broadcast operation is provided by the government and the rest is derived from other sources, e.g. project income and endowments.

EBS school education programs are divided into four blocks: kindergarten, primary school, middle school and high school. These curriculum-based programs are categorized by graded levels and subjects, and aim at helping students study both at school and at home. It also features programs for Air & Correspondence High School students and Korean National Open University students.

EBS broadcasts various cultural programs for all Koreans: children, adolescents and adults. They include foreign language programs, environmental programs, programs for teachers and parents, etc.

As of August 25, 1997, EBS launched its satellite broadcasting services with two satellite television channels. By introducing the satellite broadcasting service, EBS has designed programming addressed to more clearly defined target audiences and thus has heightened its capacity to meet the ever-diversifying educational needs and interests of various audience groups.

On September 11, 1996, EDUNET was set up as a total-service system for educational information. The system can be easily accessed by students, teachers and parents, free of charge via PC communication. EDUNET provides quality, updated educational information. As of June, 1998 the number of EDUNET users reached 440,000. These users, regardless of the computer operating system they employ, receive caption services and worldwide web service.

To cope with the rapidly changing information era of the coming 21st century, the Multimedia Education Support Center, founded in March, 1997, provides comprehensive support for the achievement of a society with open education and lifelong learning through the development of multimedia software for teachers and students and the establishment of a database. The Support Center's main areas of business are as follows:

  1. The implementation of cyber education: development of a cyber-education system, the construction of a cyber-support system for teachers, the provision of information services for lifelong education and parents, educational counseling for EDUNET,
  2. Operation and management of EDUNET: the expansion of EDUNET services, the consolidation of a national educational information system,
  3. Support for information-oriented education, the training of multimedia experts, the certification of teachers' information related capabilities, the approval of quality educational software, the research and investigation of the support degree for information-oriented education,
  4. Development of CD-ROM titles for vocational high schools, distance learning and support training.

2. EFA Strategy and/or Plan of Action

The educational administration system is based on and regulated in the Constitution and the Education Law. The MOE is the central government organization responsible for the educational administration at the national level. The local boards of education and the Metropolitan/Provincial Office of Education form local level of supervision. The MOE is in charge of formal and lifelong education, setting academic standards and formulating and implementing education policy. Local Offices of Education are responsible for primary and middle school education as well as adult and continuing education.

The MOE consists of two offices and three bureaus: Planning and Management Office, School Policy Office, Lifelong Education Bureau, Higher Education Support Bureau, Local Education Support Bureau.

Since 1990, national policies regarding EFA have been proposed and implemented on the basis of two major schemes; the Seventh Five-year Economic and the Social Development Plan and 5.31 Educational Reform.

A. Seventh Five-Year Economic and Social Development Plan: Education Area

The Seventh Five-year Economic and Social Development Plan was a large-scale and long-term blueprint of overall national development between 1992 and 1996. It is noteworthy that the plan also contained very important guidelines for educational development: specific goals, directions of education, autonomy of education etc.

Some of the policies suggested in the plan can be categorized as follows:

  1. emphasis on education for a democratic citizenship and reunification,
  2. improvement of the quality of primary education; curriculum reform, renovation of educational environment, and fortification of support systems for elementary school education,
  3. (c) consolidating science and vocational and technical education for the future; emphasis on basic science education, enhancement of computer education and construction of Internet systems in both junior and senior high schools, enhancement of vocational and technical education in formal school settings, solidification of the liaison between schools and institutions of adult and continuing education,

    (d) maximization of potential via talent and special education; extension of special education, increase of special education schools and classes, development and distribution of special education programs, establishment of talent education schools, increment of talent education rate from the current 0.8% to 10% by 1996, increase of talent education schools in art and science, development of tools classifying the talented, advancement of talent education programs, and reinforcement of supportive systems for talent education,

    (e) provision of lifelong education for a learning society; strengthening the function of schools and institutions for adult and continuing education, increased support for agencies of adult and continuing education, encouragement of university lifelong education centers, establishment of independent diploma-seeking systems, expansion of open universities and air-correspondence schools, cultivation of professionalism in adult and continuing education institutions, provision of legal foundation for lifelong education, and extension of distance education.

    B. 5.31 Educational Reform of 1995

    The educational reform of 1995 was initiated by a special presidential advisory organization entitled the "Commission on Educational Reform." Policy proposals suggested by the Committee on May 31, 1995 can be said to be 'revolutionary' in many respects. In those proposals, "open and lifelong education" concepts were greatly emphasized, directly hinging upon the idea of EFA. The proposals closely related to EFA are as follows:

    (a) introduction of a "credit bank" system for educational welfare and "Edutopia"

    (b) extension of lifelong education by elementary and junior high schools

  4. registration for part-time adult learners
  5. development of diverse adult and continuing education programs that can meet various needs of adult learners
  6. facility of school transfers
  7. strengthening of education for rural/isolated areas via distance education
  8. increase of educational opportunities for women and the elderly
  9. application of high-tech media (CA TV, PC, CD-ROM, VOD) to distance education, establishment of national multi-media centers for education information system
  10. reinforcement of the liaison among schools, families and other institutions of adult and continuing education, and utilization of mass media as educational resources.
  11. development of discipline programs including vacation camps for personality education of children and adolescents, education for creative thinking, self-initiated learning, improvement of basic learning achievement, functional literacy, individualized instruction, education of high-tech information and communication, emphasis on foreign language education, introduction of comprehensive graduate record system, and the development of all- encompassing evaluation measures and tools.

Schools will develop suitable programs to meet their own learners’ needs and maximize their potential. They will implement the programs to full advantage in order to contribute significantly to the cultivation of students creativity and other desirable characteristics.

3. EFA Decision-Making and Management

In Korea, the term ‘EFA’ is rarely mentioned explicitly in educational policies and agendas at the national level; nonetheless, there exist a great number of educational projects and measures that are directly connected to the ideals of EFA. They can justifiably be considered EFA policies.

Different offices and bureaus with MOE take charge of EFA policies at different levels of educations. EFA issues regarding early childhood education are dealt with by Early Childhood Education and Special Education Division in the School Policy Office. The School Policy Division in the same bureau takes charge of EFA policies at the elementary and secondary education level. EFA in higher education is managed by the Higher Education Support Bureau. The Lifelong Education Bureau is responsible for adult and continuing education as well as literacy education.

The Commission on Education Reform advises the President, while the Advisory Council for Educational Policy assists the Minister of Education. The Commission on Education Reform founded in 1993 counsels the President in regard to fundamental policy directions and drafts supporting measures for the efficient long-term development of the educational system and the improvement of educational conditions. On May 31, 1995, the Commission on Education Reform reported to the President education reform measures for establishing a new educational system that will take the lead in the age of information and internationalization. On February 9, 1996, the Commission published its education reform measures. Some of the measures provide the basis for a new vocational and technical education system: the revision of elementary school and secondary school curricula, the introduction of a professional graduate school system, and the reorganization of education laws and ordinances. Again, the Commission has prepared a firm foundation upon which education in Korea will be highly advanced.

Consequently, the Commission respectively reported its third and fourth education reform measures to the President on August 20, 1996 and June 2, 1997. The report described essential elements to accomplish reforms by the improvement of autonomy of local educational system. For examples, policy reform for the activation of a teachers' community, the upholding of rights and obligations for private schools, master planning and implementation of information-oriented education, and reforms in social education toward an open-education society.

The fifth Central Educational Council formed on November 20, 1996 is composed of sixty members (two-year term). The council has six committees including a Promotion & Compilation Subcommittee. There is also a steering committee consisted of all the subcommittee chairmen.

The following institutions and organizations including NGOs are very interested in EFA activities. They are the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, Korean Educational Development Institute, Korean Association for Adult Literacy and Basic Education, The Adult & Continuing Education of Korea, Korean Association of Adult and Continuing Education, etc.

In particular, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and Korean Association for Adult Literacy and Basic Education have played an important role by supporting and implementing promoting various EFA projects such as provision of educational networks and information to literacy education workers, training of literacy teachers, development of literacy education programs, distribution of literacy education materials, organization of workshops, etc

4. Co-operation in EFA

EFA activities are promoted on the basis of liaison among central/local government bureaus of education, primary/secondary schools and institutions of adult and continuing education in public and private sector. With the decentralization of governmental administrations that started from 1994, EFA activities in Korea have been also localized, diversified and individualized.

Besides central/local government, Korean Association for Adult Literacy and Basic Education, Korean Educational Development Institute, and APPEAL Committee managed by Korean National Commission for UNESCO have greatly contributed to promote and distribute EFA project in this country as a cooperative network. There are also many adult education programs based on the community in urban areas. As of May 1995, 72 organizations of adult and continuing education are registered in the MOE with 15 metropolitan and provincial branches, 260 city/county sub-branches and 310,000 woman members all over the country.

In short, EFA projects and activities in Korea are based on the cooperation of the agencies concerned for EFA in public and private sector through educational networks in various levels.

5. Investment for EFA since 1990

It is very difficult to know exactly how much we have invested to promote EFA activities, because EFA is not an official title of a specific governmental project in Korea. Nevertheless, were able to gain a general grasp of EFA investment in Korea from the government budget for expansion of the following programs: early childhood education, universalization and improvement of primary education, compulsory secondary education, adult and continuing education, etc.

In 1996, the MOE budget occupied 24 percent of the general estimate of government. The education budget has gradually increased in proportion to the growth of GNP, from 3 percent of the GNP in 1991 to 4.01 percent in 1996. The education budget can be divided by education level and by the nature of the expenses. The priority of the MOE spending is as follows: primary, middle, and high school education, higher education, adult and international education, as well as various other organizations under the MOE.

We anticipated five percent of GNP as the educational budgets in 1997, but actual revenue fell short of our expectations due to the economic crisis often referred to as the "IMF situation". In the following years, financial difficulties have persisted which hindered education reform until this year.

Out of the total budget for education, an estimated 70% is designated for the areas of early childhood/primary/secondary education. However, it would be somewhat misleading if we were to conclude that the Korean government spends 70% of its education budget exclusively on EFA activities. As a matter of fact, EFA is in a sense, an all-inclusive concept; it can be connected to almost any domain of educational enterprise.

One problem of Korean education is that funding for public education is insufficient and structurally weak, therefore a large sum of money is spent on private education, such as private tutoring. Due to such structural defects, parents and families have to endure a heavy financial burden.

As of 1994, private education expenses amounted to 17,464 billion won, or 6.0% of the GNP. Tutoring and other out-of-school supplementary education took up 2.7% of the GNP at primary and secondary levels, but it is not counted as a part of the official educational expenses and does not contribute to the overall improvement of education. The total amount of spending on private tutoring and its proportion in the GNP over the past 17 years shows that private spending has increased drastically.

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