gloii Korea ESL Job Bridge

Connecting Bridge where ESL Teachers and Schools meet

Teachers: Submit Your Application

Our Services

Ready to get started teaching and living in Korea? APPLY NOW to get your position. Our services are Free!

Our Services

Our Services

gloii serves as a unique focal point for ESL schools in Korea and ESL teachers from Native English speaking countries.

글로이 제안

Our Services

글로이는 한국의 ESL 학교와 영어를 모국어로 사용하는 ESL 선생님들이 만날 수 있는 가장 최적의 환경을 제공합니다.

Schools: 강사 채용공고

Our Services

귀사의 채용 공고를 제출해주시면 자동 매칭되는 선생님의 이력서를 이메일로 받아 보실 수 있도록 보내드리겠습니다.

You are here:

Education in South Korea is viewed as being crucial for success and competition is consequently very heated and fierce. A centralized administration oversees the process for the education of children from kindergarten to the third and final year of high school. Mathematics, science, Korean, social studies, and English are generally considered to be the most important subjects. Normally physical education is not considered important as it is not regarded to be education and therefore many schools lack high-quality gymnasiums and varsity athletics. South Korea was the first country in the world to provide high-speed internet access to every primary, junior, and high school.

The school year is divided into two semesters. The first begins in the beginning of March and ends in mid-July; the second begins in late August and ends in mid-February. They have summer vacation from mid-July to late August, and winter vacation from late-December to early February. After winter break, students return to school for a week, and then take a short vacation from mid-February to early March. The schedules are generally standardized, however it can vary slightly from region to region. In June 2011, mirroring the nation’s adoption of a five-day work week, the government announced that, beginning in 2012, primary and secondary schools would no longer hold Saturday classes.


School grades

Note: Students born before March 1 will be one year older than the ages listed here. All ages are in Western years; to find the age in the Korean age system add the ages shown here to one.

 

Level/GradeTypical age
Preschool
Kindergarten 3-6
Elementary School
1st Grade 6-7
2nd Grade 7-8
3rd Grade 8-9
4th Grade 9-10
5th Grade 10-11
6th Grade 11-12
Middle School
7th grade 12-13
8th Grade 13-14
9th Grade 14-15
High School
10th Grade 15-16
11th Grade 16-17
12th Grade 17-18
Post-secondary education
Tertiary education(CollegeorUniversity) Ages vary (usually four years,
referred to as Freshman,
Sophomore, Junior and
Senior years)

 


Ministry of Education, Science and Technology

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (often abbreviated into "the Ministry of Education") is responsible for South Korean education. The former body, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, was named by the former Minister of Education, who enhanced its function in 2001 because the administration of Kim Dae-jung considered education and human resources development as a matter of the highest priority. As a result of the reform, it began to cover the whole field of human resource development and the minister of education was appointed to the Vice Prime Minister. In 2008, the name was changed into the present one after the Lee Myeong Bak administration annexed the former Ministry of Science and Technology to the Education ministry. Like other ministers, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology is appointed by the president. They are mainly chosen from candidates who have an academic background and often resign in a fairly short term (around one year).


Kindergarten

Kindergarten in Korea is not a publicly administered program. Parents send their children to private schools: most are taught in Korean, many of those have an English class, and some kindergartens are taught almost entirely in English. Kindergarten in South Korea is composed of children from ages three to seven. Most children do not attend "preschool" but are lumped together in a kindergarten class with other children who may be within a four-year age difference. (In English-language kindergartens, the children are grouped according to age and also according to the number of years the children have been studying English.) When the child reaches about six or seven years of age (8 years old in the Korean calendar system) he/she is systematically moved on to the first year of elementary school. From kindergarten to high school, matriculating through the grade levels is not determined on knowledge, grades or passing of any tests, but is based purely upon the student's age. Enrollment in kindergartens or preschools expanded impressively during the 1980s. In 1980 there were 66,433 children attending 901 kindergartens or preschools. By 1987 there were 397,020 children in 7,792 institutions. The number of kindergarten and preschool teachers rose from 3,339 to 11,920 during the same period. The overwhelming majority of these teachers—approximately 92 percent—were women. This growth was attributable to several factors: Ministry of Education encouragement of preschool education, the greater number of women entering the work force, growth in the number of nuclear families where a grandparent was often unavailable to take care of children, and the feeling that kindergarten might give children an "edge" in later educational competition. Kindergartens often paid homage to the expectations of parents with impressive graduation ceremonies, complete with diplomas and gowns.


Elementary school

Elementary school consists of grades one to six(age 8 to age 13 in Korean years—6 to 11 or 7 to 12 in western years). Students learn subjects including, but not limited to, Korean, mathematics, science, social studies, fine arts, English, P.E., moral education, practical arts, and music. Usually, the class teacher covers most of the subjects; however, there are some specialized teachers in professions such as physical education and foreign languages, including English.

Elementary schools are calledchodeung-hakgyo(Hangul:초등학교 Hanja:初等學校,), meaningelementary school. The South Korean government changed its name to the current form fromgukmin hakgyo(Hangul:국민학교 Hanja:國民學校) meaningcitizens' school'also it meant 'elementary school' ' in 1996.

Those who wish to become an elementary school teacher must major in elementary education, which is specially designed to cultivate elementary school teachers. In Korea, most of the elementary teachers are working for public elementary schools.

Since corporal punishment has been officially prohibited in every classroom, many teachers and even some parents are becoming more concerned about worsening discipline problems.


Secondary education

In 1987 there were approximately 4,895,354 students enrolled in middle schools and high schools, with approximately 150,873 teachers. About 69 percent of these teachers were male. The secondary-school enrollment figure also reflected changing population trends—there were 3,959,975 students in secondary schools in 1979. Given the importance of entry into higher education, the majority of students attended general or academic high schools in 1987: 1,397,359 students, or 60 percent of the total, attended general or academic high schools, as compared with 840,265 students in vocational secondary schools. Vocational schools specialized in a number of fields: primarily agriculture, fishery, commerce, trades, merchant marine, engineering, and the arts.

Competitive entrance examinations at the middle-school level were abolished in 1968. Although as of the late 1980s, students still had to pass noncompetitive qualifying examinations, they were assigned to secondary institutions by lottery, or else by location within the boundary of the school district. Secondary schools, formerly ranked according to the quality of their students, have been equalized, with a portion of good, mediocre, and poor students being assigned to each one. The reform, however, did not equalize secondary schools completely. In Seoul, students who performed well in qualifying examinations were allowed to attend better quality schools in a "common" district, while other students attended schools in one of five geographical districts. The reforms applied equally to public and private schools whose enrollments were strictly controlled by the Ministry of Education.

In South Korea, the grade of a student is reset as the student progresses through elementary, middle and high school. To differentiate the grades between students, one would often state the grade based on the level of education he/she is in. For example, a student in a first year of middle school would be referred to as "First grade in Middle School (중학교 1학년)".

Middle schools are called 중학교 in Korean (中學校,jung hakgyo), which literally meansmiddle school. High schools are called 고등학교 in Korean (高等學校,godeung hakgyo), literally meaning "high school".


Middle school

Middle schoolsin South Korea consist of three grades. Most students enter at age 13-14 and graduate at age 15-16 (western years). These three grades correspond roughly to grades 7-9 in the North American system and Years 8-10 in England and Wales's system.

Middle school in South Korea marks a considerable shift from elementary school, with students expected to take studies and school much more seriously. At most middle schools regulation uniforms and haircuts are enforced fairly strictly, and some aspects of students' lives are highly controlled. Like in elementary school, students spend most of the day in the same homeroom classroom with the same classmates; however, students have different teachers for each subject. Teachers move around from classroom to classroom, and few teachers apart from those who teach special subjects have their own rooms to which students come. Homeroom teachers (담임선생님dam im seonsangnim) play a very important role in students' lives.

Most middle school students take six lessons a day, and in addition to this usually have an early morning block that precedes regular lessons and a seventh lesson specialising in an extra subject to finish the day. Unlike with high school, middle school curricula do not vary much from school to school. Maths, English, Korean, social studies, and science form the core subjects, with students also receiving instruction in musicart, PE, historyethicshome economics, technology, and Hanja. What subjects students study and in what amount may vary from year to year. All regular lessons are 45 minutes long. Before school, students have an extra block, 30-or-more minutes long, that may be used for self-study, watching Educational Broadcast System (EBS) broadcasts, or for personal or class administration. Beginning in 2008, students attended school from Monday to Friday, and had a half-day every 1st, 3rd, and 5th (calendar permitting) Saturday of the month. Saturday lessons usually included Club Activity (CA) lessons, where students could participate in extracurricular activities. However, from 2012 onwards, primary and secondary schools, including middle schools, will no longer hold Saturday classes.

In the late 1960s the government abolished entrance examinations for middle school students, replacing it with a system whereby elementary school students within the same district are selected for middle schools by a lottery system. This has the effect of equalising the quality of students from school to school, though schools in areas where students come from more privileged backgrounds still tend to outperform schools in poorer areas. Until recently most middle schools have been same-sex, though in the past decade most new middle schools have been mixed, and some previously same-sex schools have converted to mixed as well.

As with elementary schools, students pass from grade to grade regardless of knowledge or academic achievement, the result being that classes often have students of vastly differing abilities learning the same subject material together. In the final year of middle school examination scores become very important for the top students hoping to gain entrance into the top high schools, and for those in the middle hoping to get into an academic rather than a technical or vocation high school. Otherwise, examinations and marks only matter insofar as living up to a self-enforced concept of position in the school ranking system. There are some standardised examinations for certain subjects, and teachers of academic subjects are expected to follow approved textbooks, but generally middle school teachers have more flexibility over curricula and methods than teachers at high school.

Many middle school students also attend after-school academies, known ashagwon, and some receive extra instruction from private tutors. The core subjects, especially the cumulative subjects of English and maths, receive the most stress. Somehagwonspecialise in just one subject, and others offer all core subjects, constituting a second round of schooling every day for their pupils. Indeed, some parents place more stress on their children'shagwonstudies than their public school studies. Additionally, many students attend academies for things such as martial arts or music. The result of all this is that many middle school students, like their high school counterparts, return from a day of schooling well after sunset.


High school

High schools in South Korea teach students from first grade (age 17) to third grade (age 19), and students commonly graduate at age 19. High schools in Korea can be divided into specialty tracks that accord with a student's interest and career path. For example, there are science (Science high school), foreign language and art specialty high schools to which students can attend with prior entrance examinations, which are generally highly competitive. Other type of high schools include public high schools and private high schools, both with or without entrance examinations. These high schools do not report to specialize in a field, but are more focused on sending their students to college. For students who do not wish a college education, vocational schools specializing in fields such as technology, agriculture or finance are available, in which the students are employed right after graduation. Around 30% of high school students are in vocational high schools. On noting the schedule of many high school students, it is not abnormal for them to arrive home from school at midnight, after intensive "self-study" sessions supported by the school. The curriculum is often noted as rigorous, with as many as 11 or so subjects and most of the students choose to attend private academies called 학원 (學院, pronounced hagwon) to boost their academic performance. Core subjects include Korean, English and Math, with adequate emphasis on social and physical science subjects. It is critical to note that the type and level of subjects may differ from school to school, depending on the degree of selectivity and specialization of the school.

High school is notmandatory, unlike middle school education in Korea. However, according to a 2005 study of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD) member countries, some 97% of South Korea's young adults do complete high school. This was the highest percentage recorded in any country.

As it stands, the Korean secondary system of education is highly successful in preparing students for teacher-centered education such as that often used to teach math since the transfer of information is mostly one way, from teacher to student. However, this does not hold true for classroom environments where students are expected to take on self-reliant roles wherein, for the most part, active and creative personalities seem to lead to success.


Vocational

Vocational high schools offer programs in five fields: agriculture, technology/engineering, commerce/business, maritime/fishery, and home economics. In principle, all students in the first year of high school (10th grade) follow a common national curriculum, In the second and third years (11th and 12th grades) students are offered courses relevant to their specialization. In some programs, students may participate in workplace training through co-operation between schools and local employers. The government is now piloting Vocational Meister Schools in which workplace training is an important part of the program. Around half of all vocational high schools are private. Private and public schools operate according to similar rules; for example, they charge the same fees for high school education, with an exemption for poorer families. The number of students in vocational high schools has decreased, from about half of students in 1995 down to about one-quarter today. To make vocational high schools more attractive, in April 2007 the Korean government changed the name of vocational high schools into professional high schools. With the change of the name the government also facilitated the entry of vocational high school graduates to colleges and universities.

Most vocational high school students continue into tertiary education; in 2007 43% transferred to junior colleges and 25% to university.


Tertiary education


Examinations

Students have options of participating in either 수시 (pronounced:su-shi, early decision plans for college) or 정시(pronounced:jeong-shi, regular admissions). Students will have to take the College Scholastic Ability Test(colloquially known as 수능Su-neung). The Korean College Scholastic Ability Test has five sections: Korean Language/Reading, Math, English, Various "elective" subjects in the social and physical sciences, and 'Foreign Languages or Chinese Characters and Classics'. Unlike the American SAT, this test can only be taken once a year and requires intensive studying, some starting preparation as early as kindergarten. Students who perform below their expectations on the test and choose to defer college entrance and study for one year to score higher are called jaesuseng.

Because college entrance depends upon ranking high in objectively graded examinations, high school students face an "examination hell", a harsh regiment of endless cramming and rote memorization of facts that is incomparably severe. Unlike the Confucian civil service examinations of the Choson Dynasty, their modern reincarnation is a matter of importance not for an elite, but for the substantial portion of the population with middle-class aspirations. In the late 1980s, over one-third of college-age men and women (35.2 percent in 1989) succeeded in entering and attending institutions of higher education; those who failed faced dramatically reduced prospects for social and economic advancement.

Tests given in high school (two times each semester) were almost as important in determining college entrance as the final entrance examinations. Students had no opportunity to relax from the study routine. The empahsis on memorization has been criticized. Much of the family and social life concerns their student's education.

Examinations are very serious times of the year and they change the whole pattern of society. Businesses often start at 10 am to accommodate parents who have helped their children study late into the night and on the evenings before exams recreational facilities, such as tennis clubs, close early to facilitate study for these exams.

The costs of the "examination hell" have been evident not only in a grim and joyless adolescence for many, if not most, young South Koreans, but also in the number of suicides caused by the constant pressure of tests. Often suicides have been top achievers who despaired after experiencing a slump in test performance. Also, the multiple choice format of periodic high school tests and university entrance examinations has left students little opportunity to develop their creative talents. A "facts only" orientation has promoted a cramped and unspontaneous view of the world that has tended to spill over into other areas of life than academic work.

The prospects for basic change in the system—a de-emphasis on tests—were unlikely in the late 1980s. The great virtue of facts-based testing is its objectivity. Though harsh, the system is believed to be fair and impartial. The use of nonobjective criteria such as essays, personal recommendations, and the recognition of success in extracurricular activities or personal recommendations from teachers and others could open up all sorts of opportunities for corruption. In a society where social connections are extremely important, connections rather than merit might determine entry into a good university. Students who survive the numbing regimen of examinations under the modern system are at least universally acknowledged to have deserved their educational success. Top graduates who have assumed positions of responsibility in government and business have lent, through their talents, legitimacy to the whole system.


Higher education

Most students enrolled in high school apply to colleges at the end of the year. College entrance depends upon ranking high in objectively graded examinations.

In the late 1980s, over one-third of college-age men and women (35.2 percent in 1989) succeeded in entering and attending institutions of higher education; those who failed faced dramatically reduced prospects for social and economic advancement. The number of students in higher education had risen from 100,000 in 1960 to 1.3 million in 1987, and the proportion of college-age students in higher-education institutions was second only to the United States.

The institutions of higher education included regular four-year colleges and universities, two-year junior vocational colleges, four-year teachers' colleges, and graduate schools. The main drawback was that college graduates wanted careers that would bring them positions of leadership in society, but there simply were not enough positions to accommodate all graduates each year and many graduates were forced to accept lesser positions. Ambitious women especially were frustrated by traditional barriers of sex discrimination as well as the lack of positions.

The curriculum of most schools is structured around the content of the entrance examination.


Korean university rankings

As expected, it is in the interest of the Korean government and universities to improve the international rankings of the domestic universities. Attempts by the government are being made to improve the situation. Another solution may be as simple as making it fundamentally more attractive for highly qualified foreign professors and researchers to come to work and more importantly to stay in Korea. All in all, the Korean Ministry of Education hopes to remedy the problem via the ‘National Project Toward Building World Class Universities’. The project is designed to attract highly qualified foreign professors and researchers to Korean universities to improve their international rankings.


Vocational

At the tertiary level, vocational education and training is provided in junior colleges (two- and three-year programs) and at polytechnic colleges. Education at junior colleges and in two-year programs in polytechnic colleges leads to an Industrial Associate degree. Polytechnics also provide one-year programs for craftsmen and master craftsmen and short programs for employed workers. The requirements for admission to these institutions are in principle the same as those in the rest of tertiary sector (on the basis of the College Scholastic Aptitude Test) but candidates with vocational qualifications are given priority in the admission process. Junior colleges have expanded rapidly in response to demand and in 2006 enrolled around 27% of all tertiary students.

95% of junior college students are in private institutions. Fees charged by private colleges are approximately twice those of public institutions. Polytechnic colleges are state-run institutions under the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour; government funding keeps student fees much lower than those charged by other tertiary institutions. Around 5% of students are enrolled in polytechnic colleges.


English education

English is taught as a required subject from the third year of elementary school up to high school, including most universities, with the goal of performing well on the TEPSTOEIC and TOEFL, which are tests of reading, listening and grammar-based English. For students who achieve high scores, there is also a speaking evaluation.

Because of large class sizes and other factors in public schools, many parents pay to send their children to private English-language schools in the afternoon or evening. Usually different private English-language schools specialize in teaching elementary school students or in middle and high school students. The most ambitious parents send their children to kindergartens that utilize English exclusively in the classroom. Many children also live abroad for anywhere from a few months to several years to learn English. Sometimes, a Korean mother and her children will move to an English-speaking country for an extended period of time to enhance the children's English ability. In these cases, the father left in Korea is known as a gireogi appa(Korean: 기러기 아빠), literally a "goose dad" who must migrate to see his family.

There are more than 100,000 Korean students in the U.S. The increase of 10 percent every year helped Korea remain the top student-sending country in the U.S. for a second year, ahead of India and China. Korean students at Harvard University are the third most after Canadian and Chinese.

Due to recent curriculum changes, the education system in Korea is now placing a greater emphasis on English verbal abilities rather than grammatical skills. Universities require all first year students to take an English conversation class in their first year and some universities require students to take conversational English classes throughout the entirety of their university life. According to a 2003 survey conducted by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, despite being one of the countries in Asia that spends the most money on English-language education, South Korea ranks the lowest among 12 Asian countries in English ability.


History

Following the Korean war, the government of Syngman Rhee reversed many of these reforms after 1948, when only primary schools remained in most cases coeducational and, because of a lack of resources, education was compulsory only up to the sixth grade. The school system in 1990, however, reflects that which was established under the United States occupation.

During the years when Rhee and Park Chung Heewere in power, the control of education was gradually taken out of the hands of local school boards and concentrated in a centralized Ministry of Education. In the late 1980s, the ministry was responsible for administration of schools, allocation of resources, setting of enrollment quotas, certification of schools and teachers, curriculum development (including the issuance of textbook guidelines), and other basic policy decisions. Provincial and special city boards of education still existed. Although each board was composed of seven members who were supposed to be selected by popularly elected legislative bodies, this arrangement ceased to function after 1973. Subsequently, school board members were approved by the minister of education.

Most observers agree that South Korea's spectacular progress in modernization and economic growth since the Korean Waris largely attributable to the willingness of individuals to invest a large amount of resources in education: the improvement of "human capital." The traditional esteem for the educated man, now extend to scientists, technicians, and others working with specialized knowledge. Highly educated technocrats and economic planners could claim much of the credit for their country's economic successes since the 1960s. Scientific professions were generally regarded as the most prestigious by South Koreans in the 1980s.

Statistics demonstrate the success of South Korea's national education programs. In 1945 the adult literacy rate was estimated at 22 percent; by 1970 adult literacy was 87.6 percent and, by the late 1980s, sources estimated it at around 93 percent. Although only primary school (grades one through six) was compulsory, percentages of age-groups of children and young people enrolled in primary, secondary, and tertiary level schools were equivalent to those found in industrialized countries, including Japan. Approximately 4.8 million students in the eligible age-group were attending primary school in 1985. The percentage of students going on to optional middle school the same year was more than 99 percent. Approximately 34 percent, one of the world's highest rates of secondary-school graduates attended institutions of higher education in 1987, a rate similar to Japan's (about 30 percent) and exceeding Britain's (20 percent).

Government expenditure on education has been generous. In 1975, it was 220 billion won, the equivalent of 2.2 percent of the gross national product, or 13.9 percent of total government expenditure. By 1986, education expenditure had reached 3.76 trillionwon, or 4.5 percent of the GNP, and 27.3 percent of government budget allocations.


Student activism

Student activism has a long and honorable history in Korea. Students in Choson Dynasty secondary schools often became involved in the intense factional struggles of the scholar-official class. Students played a major role in Korea's independence movement, particularly the March 1, 1919. Students protested against the Rhee and Park regimes during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Observers noted, however, that while student activists in the past generally embraced liberal and democratic values, the new generation of militants in the 1980s were far more radical. Most participants have adopted some version of the minjung ideology but was also animated by strong feelings of popular nationalism and xenophobia.

The most militant university students, perhaps about 5 percent of the total enrollment at Seoul National University and comparable figures at other institutions in the capital during the late 1980s, were organized into small circles or cells rarely containing more than fifty members. Police estimated that there were seventy-two such organizations of varying orientation.


Reforms in the 1980s

Following the assumption of power by General Chun Doo-hwan in 1980, the Ministry of Education implemented a number of reforms designed to make the system more fair and to increase higher education opportunities for the population at large. In a very popular move, the ministry dramatically increased enrollment at large. The number of high school graduates accepted into colleges and universities was increased from almost 403,000 students in 1980 to more than 1.4 million in 1989. This reform decreased, temporarily, the acceptance ratio from one college place for every four applicants in 1980 to one for every three applicants in 1981. In 1980 the number of students attending all kinds of higher educational institutions was almost 600,000; that number grew almost 100 percent to 1,061,403 students by 1983. By 1987 there were 1,340,381 students attending higher educational institutions. By 1987 junior colleges had an enrollment of almost 260,000 students; colleges and universities had an enrollment of almost 990,000 students; other higher education institutions enrolled the balance.

A second reform was the prohibition of private, after-school tutoring. Formerly, private tutors could charge exorbitant rates if they had a good "track record" of getting students into the right schools through intensive coaching, especially in English and in mathematics. This situation gave wealthy families an unfair advantage in the competition. Under the new rules, students receiving tutoring could be suspended from school and their tutors dismissed from their jobs. There was ample evidence in the mid-1980s, however, that the law had simply driven the private tutoring system underground and made the fees more expensive. Some underpaid teachers and cash-starved students at prestigious institutions were willing to run the risk of punishment in order to earn as much as W300,000 to W500,000 a month. Students and their parents took the risk of being caught, believing that coaching in weak subject areas could give students the edge needed to get into a better university. By the late 1980s, however, the tutorial system seemed largely to have disappeared.

A third reform was much less popular. The ministry established a graduation quota system, in which increased freshman enrollments were counterbalanced by the requirement that each four-year college or university fail the lowest 30 percent of its students; junior colleges were required to fail the lowest 15 percent. These quotas were required no matter how well the lowest 30 or 15 percent of the students did in terms of objective standards. Ostensibly designed to ensure the quality of the increased number of college graduates, the system also served, for a while to discourage students from devoting their time to political movements. Resentment of the quotas was widespread and family counterpressures intense. The government abolished the quotas in 1984.

Social emphasis on education was not without its problems, as it tended to accentuate class differences. In the late 1980s, a college degree was considered necessary for entering the middle class; there were no alternative pathways of social advancement, with the possible exception of a military career, outside higher education. People without a college education, including skilled workers with vocational school backgrounds, often were treated as second-class citizens by their white-collar, college-educated managers, despite the importance of their skills for economic development. Intense competition for places at the most prestigious universities—the sole gateway into elite circles—promoted, like the old Confucian system, a sterile emphasis on rote memorization in order to pass secondary school and college entrance examinations. Particularly after a dramatic expansion of college enrollments in the early 1980s, South Korea faced the problem of what to do about a large number of young people kept in school for a long time, usually at great sacrifice to themselves and their families, and then faced with limited job opportunities because their skills were not marketable.


Teachers union

Although primary- and secondary-school teachers traditionally enjoyed high status, they often were overworked and underpaid during the late 1980s. Salaries were less than those for many other white-collar professions and even some blue-collar jobs. High school teachers, particularly those in the cities, however, received sizable gifts from parents seeking attention for their children, but teaching hours were long and classes crowded (the average class contained around fifty to sixty students).

In May 1989, teachers established an independent union, the Korean Teachers Union(KTU — 전국교원노동조합(전교조),Jeongyojo). Their aims included improving working conditions and reforming a school system that they regarded as overly controlled by the Ministry of Education. Although the government promised large increases in allocations for teachers' salaries and facilities, it refused to give the union legal status. Because teachers were civil servants, the government claimed they did not have the right to strike and, even if they did have the right to strike, unionization would undermine the status of teachers as "role models" for young Koreans. The government also accused the union of spreading subversive, leftist propaganda that was sympathetic to the communist regime in North Korea.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal Asia, the union claimed support from 82 percent of all teachers. The controversy was viewed as representing a major crisis for South Korean education because a large number of teachers (1,500 by November 1989) had been dismissed, violence among union supporters, opponents, and police had occurred at several locations, and class disruptions had caused anxieties for families of students preparing for the college entrance examinations. The union's challenge to the Ministry of Education's control of the system and the charges of subversion had made compromise seem a very remote possibility at the start of 1990.


Political Involvement in the Education System

South Korea still has issues with North Korea after the Korean War. This contributed South Korea's confrontational stance against North Korea in the education field. For instance, on July 7th, 2011, the National Intelligence Servicewas criticized for the search and seizureof a civilian think tank, Korea Higher Education Research Institution (한국대학교육연구소). This incident was carried out through a warrant to investigate an alleged South Korean spy who followed an instruction from North Korea with a purpose of instigating university student rallies to stop the on-going tuition hike in South Korea.



All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.)


Follow us on Facebook

Testimonials