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Establishing education infrastructure

The Basic Education Act was promulgated in 1949, which established an education structure consisting of one or two years of pre-school education, six years of elementary school, three years of middle school and three years of high school, followed by four years of tertiary education and at least one year of graduate school. The system was based on the local autonomy of educational districts similar to the U.S. school system, reflecting ideas that had been brought to Korea by the U.S. military government following liberation.

Primary education was made compulsory, but the Korean War delayed the attainment of this goal. The Ministry of Education launched a six-year program of compulsory enrollment in 1954, and the advancement rate to primary education rose to 96 percent by 1959. Education spending increased and new classrooms were built. The government also created a legal and institutional framework for improving the quality of higher education in the late 1950s.

The eradication of illiteracy made great strides under a five-year plan adopted by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Domestic Affairs, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The illiteracy rate fell dramatically from 78.2 percent in 1948 to 4.1 percent in 1958.

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

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