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Education

Education reform

The high school equalization policy and the increase in the number of schools eased the competition for high-school entrance, but at the same time it intensified the competition for university entrance. During the late 1970s, private tutoring and spending additional years after high-school graduation preparing for the university entrance examination became very common and began to be recognized as a serious social problem.


Figure 6-10. Number of high school graduates and university entrance quota


In response, extreme measures were taken in 1980 to curb private tutoring. The government outlawed private tutoring and abolished admission examinations for individual universities and instead forced them to select students based on the national examination administered by the government. It increased the quota for freshman while leaving unchanged the quota for graduating students, in order to make it easier for high school graduates to enter universities but more difficult for university students to graduate. 1)

Despite the government’s efforts, educational reform remained an important social issue. In the mid-1980s, the Education Reform Council was set up for the first time as a government body. In the early 1990s, the Commission on Education Reform was established. The Commission issued policy proposals on May 31, 1995, which were then referred as the 5.31 Education Reforms.

The basic premise of the 5.31 Reforms was that Korea needed to restructure the entire education system in preparation for a knowledge-based society. The goal was to create an open learning society, or Edutopia . There were 48 different objectives outlined in the reform plan, including administrative deregulation, decentralization of the school system, curriculum reform, an increase in government education spending to 5 percent of GDP, and the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in schools. One of the important changes was giving communities more say in operating local schools by setting up an advisory council in each school with the participation of parents, teachers and the local government. The creation of autonomous schools was also proposed, to which greater autonomy was allowed in terms of student selection and curriculum choice than in other schools. The curriculum reforms focused on fostering the talents, aptitudes and creativity of students to prepare them for aglobalized and knowledge-based economy.

In the mid-1990s, requirements for the establishment of universities or colleges were eased. As a result, many low-quality private colleges were newly established in the areas outside the capital region where land prices were lower and development regulations were weaker. Although it has expanded accessibility to higher education, concerns were raised about the quality of some of these higher education institutions.

Source : SaKong, Il and Koh, Youngsun, 2010. The Korean Economy Six Decades of Growth and Development. Seoul: Korea Development Institute.

NOTE


1) But this quota policy increased not only university enrollment but also university graduation because, in fact, most students eventually graduated once they had been admitted to the university.