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South Korea

Nonformal Education

Almost all Koreans believe that they need supplemental education to excel in their educationally competitive society. Those who can afford to take private lessons in music, fine arts, information technology, and sports do. But more students take supplemental academic courses, such as math and foreign languages, in cram courses offered at commercial outfits called hagwôn ("academies"). Because of the concern that extra instruction could give unfair advantage to those who can afford more and high quality private lessons, the government has tried to control private tutoring in an effort to democratize education. For example, the 1980 Education Reform banned private tutoring in anything other than artistic subjects. This was criticized, however, as usurping parents' rights to educate their own children and also as depriving some poor college students of their opportunities for extra income by becoming private tutors—the most popular part time work (called by a German word, arbeit) for students. Hagwôn and private tutoring have been allowed, as people expressed their dissatisfaction with the quality of formal education, which has suffered from the high student to teacher ratio, poor instructional quality and facilities, and low morale of the teachers.

According to the 1998-2000 MOE-KEDI report, hagwô totaled 57,935 with 3,412,430 students enrolled in performing arts (45.2 percent), technology (11.6 percent), liberal arts (24.2 percent), and administrative business (19.0 percent). The share of the students taking liberal arts courses was 40.7 percent; technology, 13.8 percent; performing arts, 28.9 percent; and administrative business, 16.6 percent.

During the year 2000, each student spent 889,000 won (approximately $800) compared to 1999 in which they spent 865,000 won; 34.5 percent of the total households surveyed reported they spent more than 20 percent of their income on private tutoring in 2000, compared to 31.8 percent in 1999.

Adult Education: The Social Education Promotion Act was enacted to meet the demand for alternative educational opportunities, particularly of employed youths and adults who have not been able to attend regular schools. By law the government is to provide support for the promotion of lifelong education. Industry also actively responded to this program, establishing schools and special classes to meet the educational needs of their employees.

The so-called para-schools, which give equivalence certificates to regular school programs, include civic schools (elementary school equivalency), civic high schools (middle school equivalency), industry-attached schools (middle and high), school-attached evening classes (middle and high), air and correspondence high schools, and industrial universities.

Even in higher learning, there are various degree alternatives that may not be available in other countries. One option is the Bachelors' Examination System by which students may earn a degree simply by passing a set of examinations administered by the government. Another option, called the Academic Credit Bank System, allows students to bank the credits earned in any accredited institution of higher learning. The government grants a pertinent degree, after KEDI certifies that a particular student has earned the required number of credits at qualified institutions (Wiedman and Park).

Distance learning institutions—Air and Correspondence high schools and the Air and Correspondence University—and industrial universities have been founded, followed by numerous private institutes established by social and religious organizations. An examination system has been institutionalized to qualify those who have not gone through a regular school system for progress to formal schools. In 1999, some 13,724 enrolled in 40 Air and Correspondence high schools, offering 308 classes taught by 1,188 teachers.

The Korea Air and Correspondence University (KACU) was instituted in 1972, first as a branch school of Seoul National University with a two-year junior college program in five departments. In 1981, it had grown to a five year program, offering coursework leading to B.A. and B.Sc. degrees. In 1982, it became an independent national university with nine departments. In 1992 the entire university became a 4-year degree program with 17 major fields. In 1999 the university had 203,246 students in 18 departments with 168 faculty members. As of September 2001, a legal foundation is being laid such that the university may offer a graduate program. The university has conducted its lectures via distance education systems, using such media as satellite TV, CDROMs, video conferencing, the Internet, printed materials, radio, and audiocassettes. Therefore, regardless of their location, students can have access to an open, flexible education environment and one to one educational opportunities with their lecturers. The university also has 13 regional centers. The majority of students enrolled are workers in industries, government officials, soldiers, and teachers (MOE).

The number of industrial universities, which offer mid-career education, grew to 19 with 158,444 students in 1998—only 6 years after the first of its kind, Kyônggi Open University of Technology in Seoul, was founded by a private foundation in 1992. Classes are held in the evening, which allows students to be employed full time while attending classes.

Vocational Schools: Vocational high schools provide advanced general education as well as vocational training in agriculture, technology, industry, commerce, home economics, fishing, and oceanography, among other subjects. Since the 1980s, vocational high schools have offered diverse field training to provide a skilled labor force that can respond to the rapid changes in industry and society.

In the 1970s, technical education was driven by manpower needs in heavy and chemical industries. In the 1980s, in step with rapid change in technology and development, technical education aimed at producing multiskilled technology workers. As of 2000, all vocational schools emphasize cyber-communication, information processing skills, new managerial skills, and foreign languages in order to prepare students for practical work in an industrialized and globalizing society. While financially supported by the government, vocational high schools enjoy greater autonomy than other high schools.

To address rural labor shortages caused by migration into industrialized urban areas, agricultural education in high school focuses on scientific farming and mechanization and training future cadre and experts in agriculture. Candidates for agricultural schools are given incentives such as tuition waivers, free housing, settlement funds, and preferential treatment in military service and scholarships. Fishery and oceanography high schools, located in the harbor cities along the coasts of the Korean peninsula, use maritime resources to teach navigation technology. Practical experience at sea with six months of on-site training is required for graduation.

The curriculum at vocational high schools consists of both general courses, which make up 40 to 60 percent, and vocational courses.

In rural areas or small and medium-sized cities, there are schools which combine academic and vocational courses, called "comprehensive high schools" (MOE 2000, 66).

Educational Broadcasting System: The Educational Broadcasting System (EBS) was established in December 1990 by KEDI to support and complement school education, with a mission of cultivating and strengthening national identity. EBS thus incorporates the air and correspondence education programs, which offer the opportunity for lifelong education and general education programs for children, youth, teachers, parents, and the general public. While MOE sets up general policies and offers administrative and financial support (50 percent of the total budget), EBS plans, organizes, and produces the actual broadcasts.

As of 2001, EBS has 1 TV and 1 FM radio channel, which were operated by a staff of 630. The Korean Broadcasting System transmits the program on television 8 and a half hours daily (18 hours on Sundays) and on FM radio 20 hours a day. In step with the national agenda for the new knowledge-based global century, EBS gives special attention to information technology and foreign language education in its programming (MOE).

Edunet: Edunet, a free educational information system that gives teachers, students, and parents easy access to high quality educational information through PC communication, began on 11 September 1996. It had a membership of 860,000 in March, 1999, and has provided both text and Web service so that users will not be limited by their computer equipment. Sixty-four percent of subscribers are students and 18 percent teachers; the rest are parents, guardians, and others.

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