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Korean Model of Secondary Education Development: Approaches, outcomes and emerging tasks Chong Jae Lee Professor Seoul National University A paper presented to “Seminar on Growth Strategies for Secondary Education in Asia” by World Bank Institute, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 19-21, 2005.

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korean model of secondary education development approaches outcomes and emerging tasks

Korean Model of Secondary Education Development: Approaches, outcomes and emerging tasks

Chong Jae Lee


Seoul National University

A paper presented to “Seminar on Growth Strategies for Secondary Education in Asia” by World Bank Institute, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, September 19-21, 2005.

conceptual frameworks for the development of secondary education
Ⅱ. Conceptual Frameworks for the Development of Secondary Education

1. The Transition path of School System

2. Core Functions of School in the System

3. Two dimensions of Access: Quality and Equality

1 the transition path of school system
1. The Transition path of School System
  • Korean School System: Single Track (6-3-3-4)

P 4

General High School



P 2





P 7

P 6

P 1

P 3


High School


P 5

  • Transition Paths Model
2 core functions of schools
2. Core Functions of Schools
  • Primary Education: Basic Learning
  • Secondary Education
    • Usually no “Clear Concept of educational functions” formulated: Identity questions
    • Middle School: “orientation” to Knowledge, Society, Myself
    • High School: Exploration of interest, learning capabilities, vision, career plan.
3 two dimensions of access
3. Two Dimensions of Access
  • Quality:
    • Quality attributes to be reflected in functions and in the definition of core competences
    • Quality conditions: class size, unit cost,etc.
  • Equality: elimination and reduction of
    • Unjustified barriers and constraints exist in access to educational opportunities
    • Unjustifiable distribution of educational opportunity among social class, regions, and schools
development approaches of korean education
Ⅲ. Development Approaches of Korean Education
  • Major Policies
    • Six-year Compulsory Education plan (1954-1959)
    • Abolition of Entrance Exam to Middle School (1968)
    • High School Equalization Policy (1974)
    • July 30 Educational Reform (1980)
    • Restructuring High School System
1 six year compulsory education plan 1954 1959
1. Six-year compulsory education plan(1954-1959)
  • Context
    • In 1945, the enrollment rate of elementary education was below 50%
    • Three factors of difficulty in Access to educational opportunity
      • The explosive demand for education after Independence (1945)
      • The Inflow of immigration from North Korea
      • Destruction of school facilities during the Korean War (1950~1953)(90% destroyed)
Policy Measure
    • Six-year compulsory education plan(1954-1959): gradual provision of free compulsory education
    • Increase the place to accommodate students
    • Low cost approach
      • Lowering educational standards(Large class, Double shift classroom)
      • Relying on private schools to accommodate more students
    • Universalization of primary education
  • Emerging Problem
    • Successive strong educational demand for middle school resulting in the ‘exam hell’ in elementary school to prepare entrance examination to selective middle schools
2 abolition of entrance exam to middle school in 1969
2. Abolition of Entrance Exam to Middle School in 1969
  • Context
    • Problems of “exam hell” in elementary school
    • Rapid expansion of educational demand for middle school
  • Policy Measure
    • The abolition of entrance examination to middle school in 1969
      • Abolish ‘entrance exam to middle schools’
      • The door to middle schools was open to everyone by “assignment system”. Every elementary school graduates are assigned to middle schools
Egalitarian approach: Achieving uniform equality
    • Lowering educational standards to students class size from 60 to 70
    • Gradual extension of free compulsory education to middle school from rural areas in 1984 to all area in 2004
    • Relying on private schools to accommodate more students.
    • the generalization of middle school education
    • Elementary education free from the burden of private tutoring.
  • Emerging Problem
    • Another successive strong demand to high school and excessive competition in the entrance examination to high school.
    • Government had to subsidize private middle schools
    • The rapid growth of middle school students resulted in over-crowded classrooms, oversized schools, a shortage of qualified teachers and educational facilities.
3 high school equalization policy in 1974
3. High School Equalization Policy in 1974
  • Context
    • Severe competition to academic high schools resulted in private tutoring
  • Policy Measure
    • To ease the competition and private tutoring to prepare entrance exams to selective academic high schools, high school equalization policy(HEP) formulated in 1974.
      • Abolished entrance examination to high schools and replaced it with state-wide qualification exam (more than 90% could pass)
      • Assign those passed the Qualification exam randomly to one of any high school from cluster of high schools.
      • Private high schools are included in high school cluster.
      • As the case of middle schools, government had to subsidize private high school
Emerging Problem
    • Expansion at the cost of quality (1970s~1990s)
    • Uniform equality at the cost of diversity and excellence (1970s~1990s)
4 july 30 educational reform 1980
4. July 30 Educational Reform (1980)
  • Context
    • Excessive competition for the entrance exam
    • Overheated private tutoring
  • Policy Measure: Reformation Acts of 7.30
    • In order to normalize the high school education as well as to reduce the excessive competition for the entrance exam,
    • Prohibition of private tutoring
    • Expand the admission quota to college and university.
    • The abolition of entrance examination administered by universities and introduce national level state-administered examination.
    • “Open door policy” implemented
    • Expansion of higher education
  • Emerging Problem
    • Quality problem of higher education
    • State control of “National testing” for admission system to college & university begun.
5 restructuring high school system
5. Restructuring High School System
  • Context
    • “Upper Secondary Education” became a “ battlefield”
  • Policy Measures
    • Structural adjustment of high school enrollment ratio between General and Vocational high schools
    • Reduce the enrollment size of general high school from 65% to 50%
    • Failed to attain the policy goals
major outcomes of korean secondary education development
Ⅳ. Major Outcomes of Korean Secondary Education Development

1. Quantitative expansion of Secondary Education

2. Quality Dimension of Secondary Education

3. Equality Dimension of Secondary Education

1 quantitative expansion of secondary education
1. Quantitative expansion of Secondary Education
  • At The cost of quality
  • Low cost approach
  • Bottom-up approach
Trend of student per faculty (1970 - 2004)

Source: KEDI, Statistical Yearbook of Education


Academic Achievement: PISA result

    • Ranking of Korean Student Achievement on the PISA 2003
  • Performance in mathematics and the impact of the socio-economic background
    • High achievement
    • Relationship between performance and socio-economic background below OECD average
3 equality dimension of korean secondary education
3. Equality dimension of Korean Secondary education
  • The Constitution states the Principle of Equality of Educational opportunity rather than equal results of outcomes
  • The most significant variables affecting the euqality of educational opportunity!
    • Socio-economic background variable
    • School quality differences among schools
  • PISA indicates Korea as ‘less effected by SES’
  • Egalitarian Policy implementation
emerging issues in korean secondary education
Ⅴ. Emerging Issues in Korean Secondary. Education

1. “School Failure”

2. Private Tutoring

3. High School Equalization Policy

4. Vocational High School

Three Contributing factors to School crisis situation
    • Students’ disengagement to teaching and learning
    • Low-level of teachers’ professionalism & commitment and morale to teaching
    • Low-level of trust among students, teachers and parents in the business of education
academic status of high school students their mind set
Academic Status of High School Students & their Mind Set

Students Perspective

Learning Perspective

Difficult, but trying (34.6%)

Little Participation in Learning (23.7%)

No Interest (16.6%)

Difficulties (18.5%)

No Desire (16.4%)

Giving-up stage (13.6%)

Avoidance (8.8%)

Loss of Group Teaching (11.3%)

crisis (85.0%)

a little dissatisfied (49.4%)

Refusal for guidance (12.8%)

very dissatisfied (20.8%)

Degree of Satisfaction

Teaching Perspective


2. Private Tutoring

  • Over reliance of private institute
  • Inequity in participations of private education according to classes, incomes and region
  • Exaggerated perception on the effectiveness of private education
  • Intensification of reliance on the system of private education
Positive Evaluation
    • The outcomes of HEP was judged affirmative, and it was expanded and applied over 20 districts until 1980.
    • Since the 3rd era, HEP has been supported by civil organizations and KTU(Korean Teachers & Educational Worker’s Union)
    • relieving educational problems like competitive entrance to a few top high schools
    • contribution to equal educational opportunity
    • equalizing educational facilities among regions and schools
Negative Evaluation

- The variance in individual difference increase and the variance among schools decrease

    • Teachers are heavily burdened with heterogeneous student groups

- Mismatches between students needs and educational programs

    • Little incentives to improve educational program by schools
    • Parents are determined to prepare their children to the final competition, which in the entrance examination to universities,
    • Trying to find some other ways which lead to private tutoring

4. Vocational High School

  • Decrease in Applicants: vacancy 12%
  • High Drop-outs: 5%(very high)
  • High Advancement rate of Higher Education:49.8%
  • Mismatch between educational program and social demands
new challenges and emerging tasks
Ⅵ. New Challenges and Emerging Tasks

1. Human Qualities Required in Knowledge Based Society: emerging demands for core competences

  • High Level Cognitive Process
  • Self-Control, Responsibility, Independency
  • Creativity
  • Self-Directed Learning Capability
  • Voluntary Initiatives → Individuality
  • Intrinsic values and Social capital development
2 policy shift
2. Policy Shift
  • Transition Stage in 1990's: Search for New Vision of Educational Ideals, New Priority & New Strategies
  • Policy Shift in the governance of educational system – proposed by the PresidentialCommission for Educational Reform (PCER)
    • Quality vs. quantity
    • Administrative accountability vs. Performance based accountability
    • Bureaucratic regulation and control vs. Autonomy
    • Governance of school systems: professional control, democratic control, or market control
    • Equality vs. Excellence
    • Provider vs. Consumer orientation
New policy framework with choice, accountability, and autonomy



Undefined Performance?


Charter Schools

Korean Model(?)

Top Down Change


- National Curriculum

- Centralized Mgt.


Bottom-Up Change

- Program (Magnet)

- Personnel

- Budget


HEP (Korea)

Busing (US)







New Era for quality

Globalized competition Context


Moral Foundation







Blind Competition

(Moral Hazard)

3. Old Approach to New Task?

concluding remarks 1
Concluding Remarks (1)
  • Korean Model of Expanding Access with
    • Low-cost approach
    • ‘Bottom-up’ approach
    • Egalitarian approach
  • Has recommendable strategic points.
concluding remarks 2
Concluding Remarks (2)
  • Students moving path or ‘upward’ to university has to be re-examined.
    • Concept of authentic achievement to be developed
    • Core competences to be defined
    • Development of specialized Elite vocational education institute
    • Selection system to be developed