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Private Sector’s Role in Education The Case of Republic of Korea Gwang-Jo Kim Director of UNESCO Bangkok Public-Private Partnership in Education 17 March 2010, Bangkok, Thailand Outline Education in Korea at a Glance Evolution of Private Education Regulations and Governance

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private sector s role in education the case of republic of korea

Private Sector’s Role in EducationThe Case of Republic of Korea

Gwang-Jo Kim

Director of UNESCO Bangkok

Public-Private Partnership in Education

17 March 2010, Bangkok, Thailand

  • Education in Korea at a Glance
  • Evolution of Private Education
  • Regulations and Governance
  • Finance and Incentives
  • Lessons Learned
i education in korea at a glance
I. Education in Korea at a Glance


North Korea

South Korea



republic of korea in brief
Republic of Korea in Brief
  • Area: 100,140 km2 (Thailand: 513,120 km2)
  • Population: 48.5 million (Thailand: 65.9 million)
  • Social Development
    • High HDI(0.937, 26th), particularly high in Education Index (7th)
  • Economy
    • World 13th economy (2008, IMF), GNI per capita: US$ 27,791 (PPP, 2009, IMF)
    • Global Innovation Index (2009, 1st)
    • OECD member economy in 1996, DAC member in 2009
    • Broadband access per capita(1st)
    • Strong in manufacturing(2009): Car manufacturing (5th), ship-building(2nd), semiconductor production(1st)
history culture
  • Brief History: “Country of Morning Calm”
    • Three Kingdoms (BC 1C-AD 7C) – Shilla (7C-10C) – Koryo (10C-14C) – Chosun (14C-20C)
    • Japanese Colonial Rule (1910-1945) – Korean War (1950-1953)
    • Authoritarian Regime (until 1980s) – Democratization (1990s)
  • Cultural Features
    • Homogeneous people & language: prevalence of egalitarianism
    • Confucian tradition: high regard for learning & zeal for education
    • Traditional hierarchy of professions: scholars – farmers – engineers/scientists – merchants: preferences for “generalists”
education system
Education System
  • Formal Education
    • Primary(6) – Middle(3) – High(3) – Universities/Colleges(4)
    • Basic: 11K schools, 7.6M students, 403K teachers
    • Tertiary: 405 HEIs, 3.5M students, 73K full time teachers
  • Vocational Education & Training
    • VE: Vocational high schools – junior colleges/polytechnic colleges(2-3) and polytechnic universities(4)
    • VT: Public/private job training institutions, in-plant training institutions
  • Non-formal Education & Training
    • Public/private job institutions; private tutoring institutions; adult education centers; in-plant training institutions, etc
educational expansion


Advancement rate

share of private education
Share of Private Education

Students Enrollment Share (No of schools/institutes, 2009)

Source extracted from: MEST (2009), Statistical Yearbook of Education 2009

  • K-12 education: comparable to world standard & OECD average
  • No discernable difference in achievement across different SES group

International Student Assessments

before modernization
Before Modernization
  • Private Education as a Substitute for Public Ed
    • Established by retired scholar-officials or local Confucian scholars since AD 5C in Goguryeo
    • To provide preparatory courses for the State Civil Service Examination or cater the need for basic literacy education
  • At the end of 19C, first modern private schools were established by Korean nationalists and foreign missionaries
colonial period 1910 1945
Colonial Period: 1910 - 1945
  • Restricted educational opportunities
    • Existing private schools were forced to become public and establishment of new private schools was prohibited

<Gross Enrollment Ratio in 1942>

universalization of primary ed
Universalization of Primary Ed
  • After Independence: 1945 – early 1960s
    • Policy focus on primary education to complete 6-year compulsory ed.
    • More than 77% of total MOE budget was spent on primary education between 1948 to 1960

< Gross Enrollment Ratio in Primary School Level>

  • Encourage to Establishment Private Schools
    • Lenient and minimal regulation to open and manage private schools, until the enactment of “Private School Act” in 1963
    • Main incentives were tax break for properties owned and run by school corporations along with the right to raise funds and donations from parents
expansion of secondary ed
Expansion of Secondary Ed
  • Unmet/excess demand for SE after UPE
    • Extreme competition to enter middle schools; severe stress of students and excessive private tutoring became social issues
  • Abolishment of Entrance Exam for Middle Schools in 1969
    • Introduce a lottery system for school selection within school district based on student’s residence
      • Allowing all the primary school graduate to enter middle schools
      • Providing a momentum for private middle schools to expand
    • Middle school education become compulsory since 1980
      • Government began to subsidize private middle schools and provide additional facilities and staff to accommodate a growing number of students
development of middle school education
Development of Middle School Education

Number of Middle Schools by Founders and GER in Middle School Level

Source: KEDI (2005), Analysis on the Growth of Korean Education for 60 Years

high school equalization
High School Equalization
  • Increased demand for high school education
    • Issues of the middle school “3rd Year Syndrome”
    • Soaring private tutoring expenses for the preparation of high school entrance exams
    • Education disparity between regions and socio-economic groups
  • High School Equalization Policyin 1974
    • Replace individual schools’ own entrance exam with the local standardized achievement test
    • School lottery selection in Seoul and Busan in 1974 followed by in other metropolitan cities in 1975
hsep cont d
HSEP (cont’d)
  • Random assignment (lottery) of students to schools based on;
    • Minimum level of achievement (local standardized achievement test)
    • Residence (school district)
  • Subsidies to private schools to ensure that each school gets comparable school inputs
    • Teachers, facilities, equipments, textbooks etc.
exceptions to hsep
Exceptions to HSEP
  • Vocational high schools
    • Students apply for schools regardless of the school district/catchment area
    • Schools administer their own selection process
  • Special purpose HS to meet specific needs
    • Science, arts, foreign language, sports
    • Before HSEP local test, each school administers own selection test
  • Autonomous private high schools (1990s-)
    • No government subsides with limited autonomy in school fees, curriculum, teachers, etc.
universalization of high school education
Universalization of High School Education

Number of High Schools by Foundation and GER in High School Level

Source: KEDI (2005), Analysis on the Growth of Korean Education for 60 Years

  • Sequential expansion of education opportunity
    • Achieve the universal primary and secondary education within 50 years after the colonial occupation and the Korean War
    • Key role of private schools to provide educational opportunities
  • Automatic progression and HSEP provided an important momentum to private schools to expand
    • However, student’s right to choose school or the other way around was compromised
legal framework of pe
Legal Framework of PE
  • Guiding Principles by Private School Act
    • Serve the public, hence are not for profit; and should maintain autonomy
  • Governance
    • Supervised by Provincial Education Office (Primary and Secondary); or by MOE (Tertiary)
  • Governmental norms
    • Establishment, teaching staff, facilities, curriculum, eligibility for entrance and student selection, etc.
establishment of private school
Establishment of Private School
  • Under the regulation of Private School Act
    • ‘School Corporation’ (legal entity) should be set up to establish a private school
    • Should meet the rigorous standard on school facilities, teaching equipment , library, faculty and other inputs
teaching staff
Teaching Staff
  • Qualification
    • Same qualifications as public school teachers are required by law (Article 52 of PSA)
  • Recruitment and Working condition
    • Each private school hires its own teachers among the qualified pool
    • Various laws and regulations exist to secure an appropriate level of working condition for private school teachers
curriculum and textbooks
Curriculum and Textbooks
  • National curriculum
    • National curriculum is imposed on all secondary schools including private schools
    • Both public and private schools can choose some of elective courses set by the National curriculum

(as part of decentralization and a SBM initiative)

    • All secondary schools use text books for core subjects that are either published or accredited by the government
source of funding
Source of Funding

< Composition of Revenue in Private Secondary Schools (%) >

Source extracted from: MEST (2009), Statistical Yearbook of Education 2009

public funding
Public Funding
  • Direct Subsidies for Private Secondary Schools
    • Since 1970s, private schools receive government subsidies determined by the difference between standard budget requirement and their revenue
  • Funding Flows
    • MOE (block grant since 1991)  Provincial education office (formula funding)  District education office/ Schools
other incentives
Other Incentives
  • Tax Incentives
    • Exemption of corporation tax, VAT, property tax and other internal and local tax on schools
    • Reduction of tax rate on the businesses and assets owned by school corporations
  • Students enrolled in private schools are entitled to student loan programmes subsidized by the government
lessons learned
Lessons learned
  • Supply-driven approach with excessive demand for more & better education
    • Sequential approach to expand educational opportunities
    • Egalitarian philosophy to underpin education policies
  • Importance of policy framework
    • Balance between regulation and incentives