The EFA 2000 Assessment: Country Reports Homepage of the World Education Forum
   Republic of Korea 
Contents of country report Homepage of country reports Country reports listed alphabetically Country reports by region



Previous Page Next Page



Since the drop-out rates do not differ with gender, only the rates for the total are presented in the table. As shown above, the rates seldom reach 1 percent. They consistently remain between 0.0 and 0.5 percent.

Given the extremely low rates of repetition and drop-out, the survival rates are predictably high. The survival rates are summarized in the Table 10-2:

Table 10-2 Survival rates in primary schools by gender and grade

Year   Grade
1 2 3 4 5 6
1990-91 Total 100 98.9 98.6 98.5 98.3 97.9
Female 100 99.0 98.7 98.6 98.4 97.9
Male 100 98.8 98.5 98.4 98.2 97.8
1991-92 Total 100 99.0 98.8 98.7 98.5 97.6
Female 100 99.2 99.0 98.8 98.6 98.1
Male 100 98.9 98.5 98.5 98.4 97.7
1992-93 Total 100 98.9 98.8 98.6 98.5 98.0
Female 100 99.1 99.0 98.9 98.7 98.2
Male 100 98.7 98.7 98.3 98.2 97.8
1993-94 Total 100 99.1 99.0 98.7 98.7 98.0
Female 100 99.3 99.2 98.7 98.6 98.4
Male 100 98.9 98.9 98.7 98.7 97.7
1994-95 Total 100 99.4 99.3 99.1 99.0 98.2
Female 100 99.6 99.5 99.3 99.1 98.4
Male 100 99.3 99.1 98.9 98.8 98.0
1995-96 Total 100 99.3 99.3 99.4 99.4 98.5
Female 100 99.5 99.4 99.6 99.6 98.6
Male 100 99.2 99. 99.2 99.3 98.5
1996-97 Total 100 99.6 99.5 99.4 99.3 97.7
Female 100 99.7 99.6 99.5 99.5 98.1
Male 100 99.4 99.3 99.2 99.1 97.4
1997-98 Total 100 99.6 99.3 99.0 98.5 96.6
Female 100 99.8 99.7 99.3 98.8 98.7
Male 100 99.4 99.1 98.8 98.2 94.7

The "holding power" of Korean primary schools is very strong according to the statistics in the Table 10-2. The survival rates are mostly above 98 percent. If we look at the fifth grade, none of the rates fall below the 98 percent line.

We cannot necessarily attribute the overall high survival rates, however, to certain attributes of Korean schools. Korean schools are usually regarded as being of low quality in comparison to the schools in advanced countries. It is common, therefore, in Korea to explain the high survival rates as being maintained primarily by concerned parents. Korean parents are well-known for their eager support for their children’s education. It is a common way of life in Korea for them to urge their children not to falter or prematurely and school career.

It is not possible to identify the regional differences in the holding power because of the lack of data. However, even if we can compare the provinces, we may not find significant differences among them. A culture that puts a high priority on education and retains children in schools dominates the educational behavior in every corner of Korea.

When we look at the difference between gender, on the other hand, we can find a consistent pattern: The rates for girls are always higher than those for boys. Among the possible 40 comparisons, there is only one exception that the rate for boys exceeds the girls’ (the fifth grade for the year between 1993 and 1994). The gender difference in magnitude, however, is not big enough to require further explanation. We may simply speculate that girls are slightly more likely to remain in schools than their counterparts in Korea.

(10) Indicator 14: Coefficient of efficiency

In terms of the number of years needed to produce graduates, Korean primary schools are very efficient. Most children who enter primary schools graduate in six years. As has already been presented, the rates of repetition and drop-out have been negligible for the last decade. The loss of students has been minimal in this sense. The Table 11-1 below shows the efficiency of Korean primary schools. The percentages are close to 100.

Table 11-1 Coefficients of efficiency for primary schooling (6th grade) by gender

Year

1990-91

1991-92

1992-93

1993-94

1994-95

1995-96

1996-97

1997-98

Total 99.6 99.6 99.5 99.6 99.6 99.9 99.9 98.5
Female 99.6 99.6 99.6 99.6 99.5 99.8 100 97.6

Male

99.7 99.5 99.5 99.7 99.7 99.9 99.9 99.2

Cautions should be made in interpreting the statistics in the table, however. Above all, the coefficients are overestimated because of a lack of data regarding in-transfer children (especially from abroad). They are deficient in taking into account the number of in-transfer children from abroad, simply because the data is not readily available. The in-transfer children from abroad tend to be close to sixth grade, exaggerating the number of graduates in a cohort.

It should also be reminded that the coefficients do not guarantee the quality of schooling. The efficiency in producing graduates can be accompanied either with quality or without it. Under the system of ‘social promotion,’ quality control, admittedly, is not an easy task.

C. Learning Achievement and Outcomes

(1) Indicator 15: Percentage of pupils who master basic learning competencies

Korea does not have a set of nationally defined standards by which the achievement of children is assessed. However, Korea has a national curriculum. At the general level, the objectives and the evaluation criteria are explicitly defined for each subject. Still, these are too general to function as standards for discriminating success from failure.

Since 1993, a government-supported institute has conducted national assessment projects. Student achievement was evaluated on the basis of the national curriculum with nationally representative samples. The reports do not contain sufficient information, but they are the most reliable sources currently available.

The latest results are reported in 1998. The Table 12-1 gives a summary:

Table 12-1 Percentage of fourth graders who scored above 40 points in 100-points scale by subject and living area (1998)

Area Gender Korean

SUBJECTS

  1. Math
Social studies
National Total 94.5 90.0 90.4
  Male 93.8 90.3 90.1
  Female 97.9 92.1 93.6

Metropolitan

Total 96.3 92.9 92.2
  Male 94.3 92.8 90.3
  Female 98.1 92.8 93.9
Rural Total 95.6 89.6 91.5
  Male 93.4 87.7 89.8
  Female 97.7 91.5 93.1

Note: ‘Rural’ areas include all the cities except the metropolitan cities. And the percentages for the areas

other than ‘national’ are estimated with the mean scores and standard deviations reported.

The criterion of 40 points is arbitrary, of course, but the line has traditionally been adopted in Korea as the watershed point dividing success and failure. According to this criterion, less than ten percents of the children fall behind the minimum standard. The proportion of failing children is highest in math and lowest in Korean.

In international comparisons, Korean children usually excel when compared to other countries. Given this trend, the percentages in the table are not surprising. On the basis of these kinds of results, however, we cannot necessarily conclude that school learning in Korea is of high quality. A well-accepted hypothesis is that the relatively high achievement of Korean children is largely due to family support. It is now well known that Korean parents spend considerable sum for private tutoring. Korean children are often said to learn more from private tutors than from classroom teachers.

The difference between metropolitan and rural areas is consistent. This divergence has consistently been found even in previous assessments. Children in rural areas fall behind their counterparts in metropolitan areas in all subjects. Two factors might be responsible for the discrepancy, among others. First, educational resources at the family or community level are lacking in rural areas. Second, there might be a phenomenon of "brain drain". It is commonly observed in Korea that motivated parents with means send their children to cities for a better education.

The gender difference is also consistent and is more prominent. Girls outperform boys in all the subjects regardless of geographical considerations. Only in math within metropolitan areas does the difference disappear. The gap has been growing. In previous assessments, the difference was not significant or was irregular in direction.

D. Adult literacy

In Korea, the reduction of adult illiteracy rate has not drawn social concern in recent years. The illiteracy problem is hidden beneath the surface, and is treated as a individual problem rather than a social one. It is mainly because the rate of illiteracy is very low, and most of the individuals are considered too old to gain literacy. However there are some young illiterates who hide their illiteracy, or are trying to overcome it.

It is postulated that some portion of illiterates are unable to gain literacy due to personal reasons such as low IQ or a learning disability. In Korea, virtually all young people who have the capacity to be literate are considered to have achieved literacy.

Korea has shown dramatic literacy rate change over the past 60-70 years. In the late 1930s the adult illiteracy rate was over 70%. Now it is less than 2 %. How it is possible to eradicate illiteracy in such a relatively short time?

There can be many answers to that question. First, it owes to the value system of Korean people. During its long history, education has been first the priority of many Koreans. People seek to educate their children even if they face a shortage of food. People believe the return rate of education is higher than that of any other investment in children. Owing to the strong relationship between parent and children, parents have been willing to sacrifice themselves for the education of their offspring. Second, the Korean alphabet is easy to learn. Since Korean is a scientific phonetic language composed of 10 vowels and 14 consonant, it is relatively easy to learn. Third, after the liberation from Japan in 1945, the rapid expansion of primary schools made it possible for virtually all of the young children to become literate. Fourth, the social atmosphere in which everybody is expected to read and write helps people to learn. The adult who has had no chance to learn when he/she was young, is usually ashamed of himself/herself and typically tries hard to learn when the opportunity presents itself. Finally, small non-profit institutes operating on a voluntary basis help adults to learn. There have been many small institutes teaching Korean to the socially deprived illiterates, especially women. Through these institute many illiterates have gained literacy.

The disparity of literacy between male and female is no longer a social problem. In the past, usually girls had to sacrifice themselves for their brothers or family. They were the first targets to abandon their education. Now as far as primary or secondary education is concerned, there is almost no disparity.

The Korean literacy rate will be explained by 3 indicators (indicator 16 – 18) one by one.

(1) Indicator 16: literacy rate of 15-24 year olds.

Since there is no data available on the literacy rate of this age group, indirect, estimated data by Korean researchers has been necessary. It was assumed that if this group were to have attended school when they were primary school age, they could be considered as literate. Although there was no data on the literacy rate of this age group, it was possible to get the attendance rate of primary school of this age group. From 1972 (24 year olds in 1990 went to school at 1972) onwards, the attendance rates of 6 year old children reached more than 97%, and the dropout rate of primary school children has been so low as to be ignored. Therefore it can be estimated that the literacy rate of this age group is over 97%.

To be more accurate, the attendance rate of primary school of this age group was summed each year and divided by 10. For example, to obtain the literacy rate of 15-24 year-olds in 1990, the attendance rates of primary school from 1972 through 1980 were summed and divided by 10 making 97.78 % of literacy rate. In the year 1991, the attendance rates of primary school from 1973 through 1981 were summed and divided by 10 making a 97.88 % literacy rate. The literacy rate of other years was made in the same way. The literacy rate of this group from 1990 to 1998 is between 97.78% and 98.62%,

Table13 : Change of literacy rates of 15-24 age group(1990-1998)

Note: The attendance rate used here is based on "summarized educational statistics (ganchurin Kyoyuk

TongKye) made by MOE & Korean Educational Development Institute, 1998

This revised data using attendance rates has some limitations. These are 1) it is possible to read and write even though a child has not attended school, and these literate people are considered illiterate in this revised data, 2) individuals who attend school out of Korea are counted as illiterate in this revised data. Considering these limitations, this estimated data in Indicator 16 may undervalue the literacy rate of this age group.

(2) Indicator 17: adult literacy

Since there has been no national survey on the literacy rate of adults, it is impossible to get accurate adult literate numbers or literacy rates. No one in Korea is confident of possessing the correct data. It is not because there are so many illiterate people, but because it is not a major concern of mainstream society. People usually assume that everyone in Korea can read and write and generalize a 100%literacy rate. This social atmosphere causes the illiterate to hide their illiteracy.

However it is true that there are some illiterates in Korea. According to the Korean Literacy Education Organization there are scores of small private organizations working for the education of illiterate citizens in Korea.

Now we face the problem of estimating the literacy rate of adult in Korea. As I mentioned earlier, there have been no national surveys in Korea, thereby no official data except the UNESCO data. UNESCO in its "World Educational Report, 1991" announced the Korean illiteracy rate 1990, to be 3.7%., and in "Statistical Yearbook, 1996" the illiterate rate of 1995 is listed as 2%.

The literacy rate of Korea has surely increased as the years have gone by. It is mainly because the elderly group with a high percentage of illiteracy has gradually passed away, and partly because there has been a continuous movement to eradicate illiteracy. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that the literacy rate of recent years is higher than that of bygone years. However it is not easy to ascertain the rate of increase. The Indicator 17 assumes that the increase rate of literacy is the same during the 1990 to 1995 of which UNESCO data is available. It also assumes that the increase rate is same regardless of province.

The difference between 1990 and 1995 is 1.7%. Therefore, it was assumed that the increase literacy rate was 0.34% every year. In the case of 1998 the literacy rate of 15-24 age group is 98.62 %. If we assume that the increase rate of literacy was same between 1990 and 1995, the adult literacy rate would be higher than that of 15-24 age group, which cannot occur. Here we have to introduce imaginative methods. We assume the literacy rate of 1998 to 98.5%, which is lower that that of 15-24 age group. Once again we assume that the increase rate of literacy between 1995 and 1998 was the same, with a slight 0.16% increase every year. Table 2 shows the change of literacy rates of adult since 1990.

Table 14 : Change of literacy rates of adults(15+)

(3) Indicator 18: Literacy gender Parity Index: ratio of female to male literacy rates

As I mentioned earlier, there is no official data on the ratio of female and male literacy rates. Figures that I present in Indicator 18 were obtained from the same data, and same methods we use in indicator 17. According to the UNESCO data, the literacy rate of male was 99.1 % whereas that of female was 93.5% in 1990. In the year of 1995 the literacy rate of male was 99.3% and that of female was 96.7%. During 1990-1995 the male literacy rate increased by 0.2%, whereas the female literacy rate increased by 3.2% obviously making the gap between male and female narrower.

Table 15 : Male and female literacy rates(1990-1998)

In the older generation, the female literacy rate was much lower than the male literacy rate. Equality of education was not realized and the social atmosphere forced females to sacrifice for males. Women with poor family backgrounds were the first targets to sacrifice their educational lives. As education became the norm, and the advancement rate to high school climbed to 90 97%, no disparity emerges as far as general education (primary, middle and high school) is concerned. In the younger generation there exists no difference between boys and girls opportunity for education; if any, it is so slight that it can be ignored.

The following were the problems we encountered while gathering statistics and information for indicators 16 to 18

  1. No official statistics about the illiteracy rates in Korea are available because it is generally assumed that illiteracy issues are not crucial in Korean education any longer. In fact, during the 1950s and 1960s, the government launched a nationwide literacy campaign, which turned out to be very successful, Since that period, the Korean government has not paid attention to the literacy and failed to produce the official literacy rates. The government is rather more interested in computer literacy than in traditional literacy.
  2. The reliability of statistics is in doubt. The statistics we use here as one of the sources is UNESCO statistics. However, it is very curious how these figures are made where no official statistics on literacy are available.
  3. The estimated figures presented in indicator 16-18 are not reliable since they are based on the assumption and unreliable data. For example, the literacy rate of 15-24 age group is derived from the attendance rate of primary school, not from the literacy rate.

E. Training in Essential Skills

Every date in detail is shown at <appendix 1>

F. Education for Better Living

Every date in detail is shown at <appendix 2>

2. Effectiveness of the EFA Strategy, Plan and Programmes

Since 1990, diverse EFA events and actions have taken place in Korea. The National Coordinating Committee for APPEAL was inaugurated in 1987 and new attempts were made to organize seminars, conferences and to publish literacy data and materials. In 1989, there were two national seminars/ workshops, one in May sponsored by the Korean Association of Adult Education and Korean Educational Development Institute and the other in August sponsored by the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and the Korean Association of Adult Education. During the latter, the Korean Association for Adult Literacy and Basic Education was founded at the final session of the 1989 workshop. Since then, most of the activities related to literacy education have been carried out through joint efforts among UNESCO, Korean National Commission for UNESCO and Korean Association for Adult Literacy and Basic Education. Through the activities, the importance and necessity of the literacy and adult basic education have been disseminated to policy-makers as well as ordinary citizens.

The following is a list of literacy education activities carried out as joint projects among UNESCO, Korean National Commission for UNESCO and the Korean Association for Adult Literacy and Basic Education since 1990.

February 1990

Literacy Conference / Workshop Celebrating International Literacy Year(ILY) and Ceremony for the Book Voyage.

May 1990

National Symposium in Commemoration of ILY : Main Theme: " Historical Review of Literacy Education in Korea"(J. Hwang)

8 September 1990

Celebration and Presentation of the National Literacy Awards on International Literacy Day.

Keynote Speech on "Problems and Strategies of Literacy Education"(H. Hinzen, DVV, West Germany)

20 December 1990

Evaluation Meeting on the programs and activities of ILY.

22-23 February 1991

Annual Literacy Conference and Workshop on the theme, "Strategies and Problems of Literacy and Adult Basic Education"

22-23 March 1991

International Seminar and Regional Cooperation on Literacy Participants from Vietnam, Laos, Mongolia, Japan and Korea.

7 September 1991

International Literacy Day Celebration and National Literacy Awards.

10-11 February 1992

Annual Literacy Conference and Workshop, "Design for Literacy Training: Utilization of ATLP".

13-16 July 1992

National Workshop for Literacy Workers, "Strategies for Literacy and Basic Education".

10-12 February 1993

Annual Literacy Workshop for Literacy Workers "Development of the Text and Teaching Strategy for Literacy and Basic Education".

26 April-1 May 1993

International Symposium on Literacy Education and UNESCO Sub-Regional Workshop on Research Design on Functional Literacy Level.

17-18 March 1994

Annual Literacy Workshop for Literacy Workers "The Contents and Methods of Literacy Education for Life".

15-16 February 1995

Annual Literacy Workshop for Literacy Workers "The Practices and Methods for Literacy Education on Life".

8-9 February 1996

Annual Literacy Workshop for Literacy Workers "The Organization and Management of Post Literacy and Continuing Education".

24-25 October 1997

Annual Literacy Workshop for Literacy Workers "The Effective Management of Literacy and Basic Education Organization in Korea".

6-8 October 1998

Annual Literacy Workshop for Literacy Workers "Utilization and Application of UNESCO ATLP-CE in Korea".

UNESCO PROAP successfully published an eight-volume manual which comprises the contents of each area under the general title of APPEAL Training Materials for Continuing Education Personnel (ATLP-CE). It also held several workshops in order to meet the needs of continuing education in the countries of the Region. The basic aim in the development of these materials was to assist each country’s understanding of the general ideas within each category of CE. The materials are to be used as guidelines, adapted and finally put into practice by developing an indigenous system for continuing education.

In recognition of the spirit of this purpose, the Korean Commission for UNESCO has planned the translation the of the first five volumes (Vol. I through Vol. V) and has successfully published a comprehensive Korean-version entitled "Organization and Management of Continuing Education" - with a special reference to UNESCO APPEAL Training Materials for Continuing Education" in 1995. The Korean Association for Adult Literacy and Basic Education held a workshop carrying the same title as the book with sponsorship by the Korean Commission for UNESCO in Feb., 1996.

Since the eight volumes are closely linked to each other, it is necessary to translate the entire set. Thus, the translation of the remaining three volumes (Vol. VI through Vol. III) is quite an urgent & work in order to help field workers in the area of adult literacy and basic education to better understand the general ideas of various aspects implied in ATLP-CE. Also, it is also desirable to bind the already translated volumes as well as the remaining three volumes, and publish them as a single set.

Furthermore, the dissemination of these translated materials to the field workers and experts in continuing education should be focused upon. For this purpose, a workshop for the related personnel has to be organized and held. And finally, it would be the most important work to conduct a study on the impact of the ATLP-CE to the development of adult literacy and basic education practice in each country. As found in the basic aim of the development of ATLP-CE, the adaptability or applicability of the materials in different context of the Regional countries can be identify through this kind of study.

3. Main Problems Encountered and Anticipated

With regard to children’s academic survival in primary schools, Korea is not experiencing serious difficulties. Statistics show a high efficiency of Korean schools. Most of students graduate from primary schools. There are a tiny attrition rate in the flow of children during the six years of primary schooling.

Reflecting on this situation, it can be argued that the high efficiency is not obtained by public schools themselves. The efficiency is heavily dependent upon family support. Parents are the ones who make children stay in schools and resist dropping out or repeating Consequently, educating children becomes a heavy burden for parents. The schools in Korea should now make every effort to free parents from this burden. Schools should attempt to be efficient and effective in and of themselves.

In addition, relevant data need to be collected to assess the efficiency in terms. The numbers of transfer students, repeaters, and drop-outs are not figured out correctly yet. To have genuinely efficient schools, we should first be able to check with solid data how they are efficient.

Regarding achievement, Korean primary schools have won a worldwide reputation. In most international assessment programs, Korean children have been ranked near the top. Despite these boasted results, it is safe to rank the quality of Korean schools behind most advanced countries. One of the indices that shows the probable quality is the number of pupils per class. Korean schools and classrooms are much more crowded than those of comparable countries.

Given the poor conditions of Korean schooling, the high achievement is attributable to family factors rather than to quality schools. This line of conjecture is supported by the fact that Korean parents spend considerable sums of money as compared with other countries to complement their children’s education.

The dependence of achievement on family support suggests that there must be significant achievement gap between socioeconomic classes. Children from disadvantaged family would be expected to suffer from inferior educational condition. Korean school administrators should address this problem by beginning to look at the discrepancy in achievement between social classes through empirical data.

Several problems exist in the implementation of adult basic education. First, Koreans regard education itself as ‘formal education’, since the policy decision makers as well as citizens place the top priority of educational investment on formal education. Secondly, the illiterate often have strong feelings of inferiority and shame about their illiteracy, therefore seldom expose their condition to the public. This reality causes difficulties in identifying the number of illiterate citizens and, thereby, the appropriate level of literacy education to be instituted. Thirdly, the socioeconomic level of illiterates is often so low that they can not afford to attend literacy classes, even though they may want to. Thus, they are suffering from a vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy. Lastly, most cultural activities are so elite-centered that the illiterate seldom has opportunity to access them. For examples, textbooks or materials designed for illiterate adults are not widely available at the national level, thus the small, private literacy education institutes develop their own materials through trial and error.

Therefore, the first step to overcome the major problems should be to enlarge the concept and goals of literacy and literacy education as a component of lifelong education. It is time to broadly re-define the scope of literacy education to include functional and professional literacy in the following specific areas: economic, social, cultural, technological, and vocational and technical fields, as well as 3R-based literacy. In other words, literacy education needs to be recognized as a major component of adult and continuing education beyond fundamental 3R literacy.

Secondly, opportunities for literacy education should be enlarged including free education for low-income citizens. Great efforts are required to give sustained additional education programs for the newly-literate groups as a post-literacy program and adult basic education. In order for those educationally-deprived groups to participate in literacy education programs on an active and voluntary basis, cost-free literacy education should be freely available. Diverse literacy education programs, teaching-learning materials, and teaching methods need to be developed as well as to strengthen the incentive system to join the literacy education programs.

Thirdly, concern must be shown for the diversity of program, staff development and professionalization, development of teaching-learning materials, and rational operation of the programs. This suggests that a ‘system approach’ be adopted to ensure overall development in all areas concerned.

Finally, a nationwide cooperative network needs further consolidation, making possible the sharing of a pool of resources, facilities and experiences among concerned institutions. Government should do its share in the development of a literacy program by subsidizing and financing programs. It is also important to enlist the support of the private sector, notably from the industrial firms who will benefit from the general enhancement of literacy.

4. General Assessment of the Progress

A. Early Childhood Care and Development

The gross enrollment ratio in the early childhood development programs in Korea is about 40% when only registered institutes are concerned, and this ratio has continually expanded for the last 9 years. Moreover, it is not an unreasonable conclusion that most of these children enter grade 1 of primary school, based on the fact that the intake rate to primary education in Korea is approaching 100%.

B. Primary Education

  1. All four indicators for primary education: the apparent intake rate, the net intake rate, the gross enrollment ratio, and the net enrollment ratio confirm that Korea has already achieved an almost universal degree of access to primary EFA eligible children, regardless of gender.
  2. The public current expenditure on primary education expressed as a % of total public current expenditure on education has declined 79.3%(1990), 62.3%(1991), 61.9%(1992), 62.0%(1993), 61.4%(1994), 61.5%(1995), 55.1%(1996) to 51.3%(1997), which shows a marked slowdown over these years.
  3. The public current expenditure on primary education per pupil as % of GNP per capita has gradually increased, reflected in the figures of 8.8%(1990), 9.0%(1991), 8.8%(1992), 9.6%(1993), 9.4%(1994), 9.5%(1995), 10.0%(1996), and 12.3%(1997).
  4. The change in total public current expenditure on education has abruptly increased over the years (1990-1997). The gradual increase in the public current expenditure on every level of education is demonstrated shown over years, implying that the Korean government has consistently placed a high priority on the development of education and, thus, invested its resources in education
  5. As for the annual change of public current expenditure on primary education as a % of total public current expenditure on education (Col. 7 in Figure 6-5), general decrease over years appears, except for the abrupt fall from 79.3% in 1990 to 62.3% in 1991.
  6. The Korean government has gradually shifted its priority in its financial investment into education from primary education to higher education. Also, it reflects the governments judgement at a certain level that the level of primary education in Korea has already settled down at a certain extent.
  7. In spite of economic recession from 1996 to 1997, the Korean government consistently invested at least the same amount of money into primary education as in past years.
  8. The total number of primary school teachers has slightly increased over the measured years. Moreover, the number of female primary school teachers has increased at a considerable degree, whereas the number of male primary school teachers has gradually decreased.
  9. The percentage of primary school teachers who are equipped with academic qualification and certified to teach is virtually 100% throughout all the provinces within the years 1990 to 1998.
  10. The ratios have generally decreased both in public and private schools. However, the ratio has increased from 27.2 in 1996 to 27.35 in 1998 due to the increase of the ratio in public schools. .

Indicator 12: Repetition rates

At the level of primary education, children in Korea rarely repeat. As presented in the tables in the Appendix to this report, for the last decade the repetition rates have not exceeded 0.4 percent for any grade. It is quite safe to say that the repetition rates for primary schools in Korea are close to zero.

The repetition rates do not vary with gender. In most of the grades, the rates are virtually identical for male and female children.

Reliable data for regional difference were not available. It seems reasonable to speculate that differences among regions (provinces) might not be significant. The absolute low rates do not allow much room for regional variance.

The low repetition rates in Korea are mainly due to ‘the social promotion policy.’ The Korean schooling system allows all children of a certain grade to go on to the next grade at the end of the year without formal screening. Repetition of a grade is made formal usually only on a voluntary basis. It would not be easy to find a child who repeats because of insufficient achievement.

Indicator 13: Survival rates

Korean children in primary schools mostly survive until graduation at sixth grade. They rarely drop out or repeat. Given the extremely low rates of repetition and drop-out, the survival rates are predictably high. The survival rates have mostly been above 98 percents for primary education for the last decade.

We cannot attribute the overall high survival rates, however, to certain attributes of Korean schools. Korean schools are usually regarded as being of low quality in comparison to the schools in advanced countries. It is common, therefore, in Korea to explain that the high survival rates are maintained mainly by parents. Korean parents are well known for their eager support for their children’s education. It is a common way of life in Korea for them to urge their children not to step back from schools.

It is not possible to identify the regional differences in the holding power because of the lack of data. However, even if we can compare the provinces, we may not find significant differences among them. A culture that puts a high priority on education and retains children in schools dominates the educational landscape in every corner of Korea.

When we look at the difference between gender, on the other hand, we can find a consistent pattern: The rates for girls are always higher than those for boys.

Indicator 14: Coefficient of efficiency

In terms of the number of years needed to produce graduates, Korean primary schools are very efficient. Most of the entering children graduate primary schools in six years. As already been presented, the rates of repetition and drop-out have been negligible for the last decade. The loss of students has been minimal in this sense.

The efficiency in economic terms, however, does not necessary mean quality schooling. The coefficients can go either with quality or without it.

C. Learning Achievement and Outcomes

Indicator 15: Percentages of fourth graders who master basic learning competencies

The criterion of 40 points is arbitrary, of course, but the line has traditionally been adopted in Korea as a watershed point dividing success and failure. According to this criterion, less than ten percent of the children fall behind the minimum standard. The proportion of failing children is highest in math and lowest in Korean.

In international comparisons, Korean children usually excel when compared to other countries. Given this trend, the percentages in the table are not surprising. On the basis of these kinds of results, however, we cannot conclude that school instruction in Korea is of high quality. A well-accepted hypothesis is that the relatively high achievement of Korean children is largely due to family support. It is now well known that Korean parents spend a lot of money for private tutoring. Korean children are often said to learn more from private tutors than from classroom teachers.

The difference between metropolitan and rural areas is consistent. This divergence has consistently been found even in previous assessments. Children in rural areas fall behind their counterparts in metropolitan areas in all subjects. Two factors might be responsible for the discrepancy, among others. First, educational resources at the family or community level are lacking in rural areas. Second, there might be a phenomenon of "brain drain". It is commonly observed in Korea that motivated parents with means send their children to cities for a better education.

The gender difference is also consistent and is more prominent. Girls outperform boys in all the subjects regardless of geographical considerations. Only in math within metropolitan areas do difference disappears. The difference has been growing more prominent. In previous assessments, the difference was not significant or was irregular in direction.

D. Adult Literacy

Korea has shown a dramatic literacy rate change over the past the 60-70 years. During the 1930- 1940s, almost 70-80% of Koreans were illiterate. After the liberation from Japan in 1945, people tried very hard to eradicate illiteracy. The Korean zeal for education was the first impetus for literacy.

After 1983, no official statistics on the literacy rates were kept in Korea. It is because the problem of being illiteracy has not garnered significant social or educational concern. In the 1950s and 1960s, the government launched the nationwide literacy campaign, which turned out to be very successful, Since then, the Korean government has paid little attention to literacy and failed to produce the official literacy rates. The government is increasing interested in computer or functional literacy in place of traditional literacy.

The statistics that we present here are based on the imagination and assumption of Korean researchers, UNESCO data which probably based on another assumption, and indirect, estimated data such as attendance rate of primary school. However it is not much different from the real one.

The literacy rate in the 15-24 years-old age group has changed from 97,78% in 1990 to 98.62% in 1998. Since these rates are based on the attendance rates of those people when they were school age, it can be estimated that the real rate is a little higher than these figures. The adult literacy rate is calculated to climb from 96.3% in 1990 to 98.5% in 1998. The disparity between male and female literacy rates has narrowed owing to the generalization of education.

E. Training in Essential Skills & F. Education for Better Living

To cope with the rapidly changing information era of the 21st century, educational reform of Korean is heading in two directions: The first one is to put greater emphasis on Educational Informationalization.’

As many scholars point out, competency in the use of information technology in every aspect of our lives as well as in education will determine the competitive power of a nation, company, and individual, as well.

Operating with that premise, the Korean government, especially, the MOE embodies their specific plans in the establishment of the Multimedia Education Support Center, EDUNET, the Advanced Academic Research Center, and other educational informationalization-related projects. Enormously large amount of financial investment will be devoted to computer education and on-line spaces for housewives, farmers, fishermen, the elderly, as well as students and teachers.

Interestingly enough, the "high tech" trends in every aspect of our lives as well as education, simultaneously allow people concerned with the aspect of high touch as a reactive response to high tech. Education on affective aspects such as emotional intelligence and manner/etiquette, therefore, began to gain more weight from curriculum.

The second direction is to realize the idea of lifelong learning , i.e., open-learning society. Intending to introduce the public to the concept of lifelong learning, the Korean government, mass media, and other civil organizations have begun to establish the framework of adult and continuous education as follows:

(a) university extension education,

(b) school-based adult and continuing education,

(c) supplementary schoolings,

(d) in-service training,

(e) NGO-based adult and continuing education

The second direction of educational reform, of course, is inseparable from the first one, i.e., extended use of information technology in our daily lives as well as educational environments. On-line based lifelong learning programs, particularly, seem to more appropriately satisfy the needs of learners who are rather restricted in time and location due to their daytime jobs.

The two mega-trends of lifelong learning and high technology, therefore, seem to generate a great deal of positive potentials for the improvement of the quality of life of virtually everyone of in every field (education, health, culture, and etc.). The past 10 years in Korea, has surely provided specific and feasible evidence that this premise is true enough, when re-examining the quantitative and qualitative data analyzed according to the given indicators of the two sections: Training in essential skills, and Education for better life.’


Previous Page Next Page