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Themes

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Comprehensive one-stop references on key development issues of Korea

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Themes
Vocational Education and Training Initial Vocational Education and Training Policy

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Advisory Committee

Paik, Sung-joon
(Professor, KDI School)
Lee, Kye-woo
(Professor, KDI School)
Lim, Lisa
(Professor, KDI School)
Choi, Young-sup
(Senior Research Fellow, KRIVET)

Vocational Education and Training

Sub-Theme 1 | Initial Vocational Education and Training Policy


Introduction of the Initial VET System

In the 1960s and the 1970s, the Korean government established the framework of vocational education and training (VET) system in order to actively respond to rapidly increasing demand for skilled workers and technicians.

Since the mid-1960s when the government began to implement a series of comprehensive economic development plans, the Korean economy began to grow rapidly. The government scaled up the economy by promoting labor-intensive light industries in the second economic development period (1967–1971) and undertook fundamental structural change toward heavy and chemical industries in the third and fourth economic development plans period (1972–1981).

Vocational Education System

In order to meet the rapidly increasing demand for skilled workers, the government strengthened vocational education programs at high school level in the early 1960s and tried to expand them. Korea put its policy emphasis on vocational education at the secondary level [1] after achieving universal primary education because VET market was not well developed at that time. 

In addition to vocational high schools, the Korean government extended 3-year vocational high schools into nine 5-year professional institutes (3-year vocational high school courses and 2-year technical junior college courses) in nine different regions based on industrial characteristics in 1963, in order to meet the increasing demand for technicians in the 1960s. 

Thanks to the success of the 5-year economic development plans and consequent increase in financial support, the number of the institutes increased from 9 in 1963 to 23 in 1969. Vocational schools were transformed into 2-year junior colleges since 1970, which continued to play as main supplier of technicians. Due to government budget constraints, the government encouraged private sector to establish and run private vocational high schools and junior colleges.

[Graph Showing Changing Trend of Students in Private Vocational Education (VE) Schools]
 
Vocational Training System
 
Despite the expansion of vocational high schools and post-secondary institutes, Korea experienced shortage of skilled workers. This raised the need for establishing a national vocational training system outside of formal education, which led to the enactment of the Vocational Training Act in 1967. The Ministry of Labor took charge of managing vocational training system, including the establishment of public vocational training institutes [2], skills testing system, and the employment service for those who completed vocational training.

As the problem of labor shortage was persistent in the 1970s, the government made it mandatory for employers to provide in-plant training by legislating the Basic Law for Vocational Training in 1976. Employers who could not provide in-plant training should pay training levy. Vocational training in the 1970s and 1980s was mainly focused on initial training for unemployed youth. Due to high standards for mandatory training specified in the related legislation, in-company training made a significant contribution to supplying skilled labor.

To induce competent young students into the vocational education track, the Korean government tried to recognize skilled workers and technicians as core members of society. For example, the winners of both national and world skills competitions were highly praised and rewarded.