Revista Electrónica de Investigación Educativa

Vol. 2, No. 2, 2000

Main Reform on Higher Education
Systems in Korea

Jeong-Kyu Lee

Division of Educational Policy Research
Korean Educational Development Institute

92-6 Umyeon-dong
Seocho-ku, 137-791
Seoul, South Korea

(Received: September 20, 2000; accepted for publishing: October 11, 2000)



This article examines the main reform in current Korean higher education by briefly reviewing a historical perspective on higher education reform, then discussing the main issues of recent education reform since 1994 by focusing on legal and administrative system changes, reforms or innovations of university management, and reforms of organizational culture. Finally, the main challenges and visions of Korean higher education systems toward the 21 st century are presented.

Key words: Higher education, university reform, history of education.



The development of modern higher education in Korea has been influenced by both spiritual and practical factors since the end of the nineteenth century: educational activities of Western Christian missionaries, Japanese and American colonial heritages, traditional and adopted religious and philosophical thoughts, domestic and international socio-political situations, governmental policies for the national economic development through industrialization, and the recent demand of highly qualitative human power for the establishment of an information-oriented society. In the development of Korean higher education, the relationship between government and higher education has been inseparable: the former has acted as a demander to activate higher education to produce human capital and scientific technology, whereas the latter has served as a supplier of human resources to work for the development of national economy.1

The quantitative expansion of tertiary education between 1945 and 1970 2 was necessary for the promotion of the national industrialization. This was regarded as the driving force behind the development of the national economy, as well as the fulfillment of the strong desire of the Korean people who regarded higher education as a means to enhance socioeconomic position on the basis of Confucian social values. With the expeditious growth of Korean economy from 1970s to 1980s,3 the quantitative expansion, especially within the field of engineering, was inevitable because the state required a great deal of human power to produce largely labor-intensive products. During the two decades, higher education greatly contributed to Korean socioeconomic growth.

Since 1990, higher education has already evolved into mass education.4 In 1999, the advancement rate of general high school graduates was 84.5 percent (Ministry of Education [MOE] and Korean Educational Development Institute [KEDI], 1999, p. 244). According to the Condition of Education (NCES, 1999), the percentage of the 25-34 year old population that completed higher education in Korea showed 30.1 in 1996 (p. 280).5 From 1990 to the present, the qualitative improvement in higher education has become a principal goal of national policy. The present Korean government recognizes that "the changes in the marketplace engendered by technological advance and globalization have rendered labor-intensive manufacturing obsolete and no longer dependable as an initiative factor in economic growth" (MOE, 1998b, p. 13). In this vein, the government regards higher education as a prime motivator for the establishment of a high-quality manpower system as well as for the extension of national power. As an emphasis is placed on occupying a competitive edge in the international marketplace, educational reform, especially higher education, is now considered a viable option for the new century (MOE, 1998b, p. 11).

In order to examine the main reform in current Korean higher education, this article briefly reviews a historical perspective on higher education reform and then discusses the main issues on recent education reform since 1994 by focusing on changes of legal and administrative systems, reforms or innovations in university management, and reform on organizational culture. Finally, the main challenges and visions of Korean higher education systems toward the 21 st century conclude this article.


A Historical Perspective on Higher Education Reform

The liberation of Korea from Japanese occupation (1910-1945) on 15 August 1945 was a turning point in the history of Korean education. Under the U.S. Military rule (1945-1948), the military government made radical reforms to democratize higher education, as well as to eradicate the remnants of Japanese colonial education. The significant reform in higher education was a democratic reorganization and expansion of the Korean people, by introducing American education systems and curricula. After the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, the newborn Korean government promulgated a basic Education Law on December 31, 1949 in order to set up a new educational system (PCER, 1998, p. 32). Between 1948 and 1960 the main educational policy for higher education was expansion plans.6

After the Military Coup d'etat in 1961, the Korean government strongly recognized the necessity for educational reform in order to industrialize the country as well as to build national identity. In answer to the strong need for educational reform, the government strengthened legal and administrative systems of higher education under its uniform control (H. Lee, 1999, pp. 14-15). On the other hand, the government upgraded teacher education: normal high schools to teachers junior colleges in 1962 and institutions training secondary school teachers to four-year colleges of education in the same year ([MOE, 1998a, pp. 30-32). On December 5, 1968, the Charter of National Education was promulgated to recover the national spirit and educational reform (MOE, 1998a, p. 31). In the 1970s, the Korean government attempted to reform tertiary education to innovate academic management and structure. Consequently, the national policy for higher education was diversified to meet the rapid process of socioeconomic change. As a result of the government policy for educational reform, the Air and Correspondence College was opened to promote adult education in 1972, and two to three year junior colleges began to take a large share of higher education during this decade, fitting the manpower demand for the national economic development (MOE, 1998a, pp. 32-34).

On July 30, 1980, the newly military-based Administration made a radical reform to normalize school education, which was distorted, due to a severely competitive examination system for college or university entrance, as well as the chronic problem of overheated out-of-school private lessons. The main educational reforms of July 30 were as follows: abolition of individual college or university examinations, establishment of graduation quotas of colleges, readjustment of curricula in terms of work load, emphasis on high school achievement in determining eligibility for college entrance, initiation of an education tax, and the launching of educational broadcasting programs (MOE, 1998a, pp. 33-35; MOE, 1999, pp. 8-9; J. Yun, 1999, pp. 42-43).

More noteworthy was the March 1985 creation of the Presidential Commission on Education Reform under the direct supervision of the President to reconsider educational competitiveness (MOE, 1999, p. 8; J. Yun, 1999, p. 44). The Commission suggested "ten reform tasks,"7 including administrative and financial concerns. The suggestions were adopted and practiced by the government. Later, the Commission was replaced by the Advisory Council for Educational Policy to the Ministry of Education in 1988, and the Presidential Commission on Education was set up to assist the President in educational affairs in the same year (MOE, 1998a, p. 35; MOE, 1999, p. 9).

In the 1990s, Korean higher education met a new challenge. Although the great quantitative expansion of higher education resulted from the Korean people's enthusiasm for education reform as well as from the governmental education policy for the socioeconomic development, the severe imbalance between quantity and quality in higher education was significantly large to cope with a newly coming information-technology society. So as not to lose the competitive edge in the world market, new education reform was inevitable. With the wind of change in higher education, in February 1994 the Presidential Commission on Educational Reform [PCER] was organized in order to create the "New Korea". The Commission that was composed of the nucleus of the Presidential caucus presented the President with its Preliminary Report 8 under the title "Directions and Tasks of Educational Reform for the Creation of New Korea" on September 5, 1994 (MOE, 1998b, p. 38; PCER, 1996, pp. 18-26; PCER, 1998, p. 78; PCER, September 1994, pp. 14-22). The Report that was submitted to the President in 1994 emphasized two important tasks in higher education, the strengthening of international competitiveness, and the improvement of the college entrance examination system.

On May 31, 1995, the First Educational Reform Plan, including nine core tasks and 48 specific tasks, was released as a new framework of open education in preparation for the twenty-first century (PCER, 1998, p. 78; PCER, May 1995, pp. 29-70). The nine core tasks were: establishment of an open edutopian [education-utopia] society, diversification and specialization of universities, creation of a democratic and autonomous school community, emphasis on humanity and creativity in curricula, innovation of a university entrance examination, development of diverse educational programs, establishment of a new form of evaluation and a supporting system for schooling, remodeling of teacher training programs, and increasing educational budget up to five per cent on the Gross National Product (GNP) (PCER, 1998, p. 82-110). In the First Reform Plan, two banners for higher education reform were carried: one was the diversification and specialization of universities to promote educational quality; and the other was the creation of a new university entrance system to escape "examination hell" and to relieve heavy burdens on parents' out-of-school expenditures.

On the basis of the First Reform Plan, the Committee for the Promotion of Educational Reform was organized under the direct supervision of the Prime Minister on August 1995. This committee released the succeeding three reports 9 which elaborated on 120 specific reform tasks between February 1996 and June 1997 (MOE, 1998b, p. 42; PCER, 1998). As for higher education reform, the 2nd Reform Plan in February 1996 released the following amendments: construction of a new vocational education system, introduction of a professional graduate school system, and reformation of education related lavs (PCER, February 1996, pp. 5-74). The 3rd Reform Plan in August 1996 achieved the following: heightening the autonomy and accountability of private colleges and universities, using information technology and building virtual institutions, and restructuring the social education system based on an open policy for diversified access and participation (PCER, August 1996, pp. 11-46). The 4th Reform Plan in June 1997 implemented: innovations in university management, --improving high quality and changing a semester system-- promotion of research university, supporting local junior colleges and universities, innovation of college entrance systems, etc. (PCER, June 1997, pp. 7-48). Among the 120 specific reform tasks planned by the Commission, one third of the tasks 10 were already completed, and the others have been carried forward to the present Administration and are currently underway.

In spite of an unheard-of-event, "Economic Crisis," 11 in November 1997, the present government has constantly pursued core educational reform tasks that were planned by the former government, until the present. In order to dynamically perform the reform tasks, the present government set up the Presidential Commission for New Education Committee (PCNEC) in July 1998. The Commission printed a blueprint of educational reform, "A Five Year Plan for Educational Development," on March 11, 1999. The Plan generally adopted the previous reform plans that focused on building an open educational system, establishing student-centered or clientele-centered education, achieving the equal educational access, strengthening vocational or social education, promoting the quality of university, heightening information-oriented or high-technology education, and increasing the school-based management (MOE, March 1999). In terms of higher education reform, the Five Year Plan emphasized functional diversification and specialization, autonomy and accountability in academic affairs, learner-centered education, and encouragement of research and development in graduate schools. Synthesizing the educational reform plans presented by the PCER and the PCNEC, the main issues of current Korean higher education are quality, diversity, autonomy, accountability, internationalization, consumer-centered education, and information-technology [IT] access.


Changes of Legal and Administrative Systems

In order to put these educational reform plans into practice, the changes of legal and administrative systems had to be settled. The previous Education Law of 1949 was insufficient in bringing about new educational reforms 12 that included construction of an open education system, learner-centered education, and autonomy and accountability in the school community. Accordingly, the new Education Law has been remodeled to establish the new educational system and to embody the spirit of Constitution advocating autonomic democratic education in the dimension of educational reform for the new century. The new laws 13 pertinent to the framework of elementary and secondary, and higher education were passed in the National Assembly in November 1997 and entered into force on March 1, 1998 (MOE, 1998b, p. 42; PCER, 1998, p. 151).

The Framework Act on Education enforced in March 1998 prescribed the rights and duties of the people and the obligations of the state and local governments on education, as well as the educational system and the basic matters on its operation (Article 1 [Act No. 5437, Dec. 13, 1997]). The main contents of the remodelled Framework Act are as follows: every citizen has a right to learn through life (Article 3); autonomy in schools shall be respected (Article 5.2); schools shall promote lifelong education (Article 9.2); all forms of social education shall be encouraged (Article 10.1); human rights of learners shall be respected and protected in the process of education (Article 12.1); custodians such as parents shall have the right and obligation to educate their children (Article 13.1); and the state and local government shall establish and execute a policy necessary to promote various sorts of education (Articles 19 to 29) such as special, early childhood, vocational, science and technology, information oriented, scientific and cultural, and internationalization (Act No. 5437; I. Kang, 1997, pp. 35-38; PCER, 1998, pp. 151-56).

Based on the Framework Act on Education, the Higher Education Act enforced in March 1998 emphasized the enlarging of educational opportunities, improvement of educational quality, and harmonization between autonomy and accountability. With these emphases, the important contents of the Higher Education Act newly prescribed are: changes of school types (Article 2)14, school regulations (Article 6)15, discipline of students through a due process (Article 13), school personnel's classification and qualification (Articles 14 & 16)16, autonomy of school names in junior colleges (Article 18), field work classes and recognition of credits taken at other colleges (Articles 22 & 23), specialty-deepening courses in junior colleges (Article 49), admission into other colleges or universities during the school terms (Article 51), and degrees granting in miscellaneous collegiate schools (Article 59) (Act No. 5437; I. Kang, 1997, pp. 47-48; 9; B. Seo, 1998, pp. 73-74; PCER, 1998, pp. 156-58).

Considering the Framework Act and the Higher Education Act, these two education laws set up a systematic foundation of open and lifelong education, as well as a learner-centered and information-oriented education for a new millenium.

Under the influence of the new legal system, the administrative systems of the government and universities also began to change. The Ministry of Education 17 was remodelled as the primary effector of educational reform in May 1999. The Higher Education Support Bureau 18, which replaced the former Academic Research Policy Bureau, consists of four divisions: Graduate School Support, Admission Support, College Academic Affairs, and Higher Education Finance (MOE and KEDI, 1999, pp. 922-23). The main duties of the bureau include: promoting academic research and development, managing and improving university admission systems, establishing educational policies and systems, supporting finance, and authorizing and coordinating management of higher education institutions (MOE, Compared with the functions of the former Academic Research Policy Bureau, the new Higher Education Support Bureau has increased both graduate school support and financial support for institutions not only to promote higher education quality, but also to foster prospective leaders in the new century.

On the other hand, administrative systems in higher education have also been changed in order to keep the balance with current educational reform. Since 1948, the chronic problems of administrative systems in Korean higher education have been the uniform control and supervision-centered administration by the government, a highly centralized institutional hierarchy based on Confucian sociopolitical rules, authoritatively closed communication systems stemmed from Confucianism or Japanese Shinto-Confucianism, inefficient administrative management due to nonprofessionals and unsuitable posts, unfairness and inappropriateness of personnel management on the ground of personal connection and factionalism, and documentation centered administration on the bases of formalism and hierarchical steps of a decision (J. Shin et al., 1995, pp. 60-96; B. Ahn, 1992, pp. 19-35).

In order to overcome the problems, the ideal types of administrative systems suggested by the Educational Reform Committee are autonomous and support-centered administration, decentralized open organization systems for the administrative transparence, professional management for the guarantee of administrative specialization and efficiency, fairness and justice of personnel administration and faculty appointment systems, and information-technology centered administration (PCER, 1998). As suggested in response to the directions by the new Reform Plans, each college and university is now trying to change its administrative system, to innovate its managerial system, and to reform its organizational culture. These main issues will be specifically discussed in the following sections.


Reforms or Innovations in University Management

As indicated by Education Reform Plans, the main reforms or innovations in university management emphasized organizational innovation in administration, clientele-centered or learner-centered education, functional diversification and specialization for the qualitative improvement, operational autonomy in student quotas and academic affairs, diversification of criteria for student selection, and financial support for public and private schools (MOE, 1998b, pp. 67-79; PCER, 1998; Yun, 1999, pp. 55-56).

First, the directions for organizational innovations in university administration guarantee autonomy in university management on the basis of its character and diversification, the substitution of department-centered academic administration with faculty or college-centered academic management, the establishment of specialization in administration on the grounds of efficiency and accountability, the promotion of efficiency in administrative organizations and human resource management, and the construction of the information-technology management system for the activation of administrative productivity and educational informationalization (Y. Chung, 1995, pp. 56-57; Yun, 1999, p. 55). Based on these directions, the administrative system, centered on the governing council, requires a functional differentiation in order to share authority and responsibility with its subordinates or constituencies. Additionally, it is necessary for various advisory organizations, such as the Faculty Senate, the Administrative Council, and the House of Student, to communicate openly between superiors and subordinates (Yun, 1999, pp. 55-56).

Second, faculty-centered education is required to be replaced by clientele-centered or learner-centered education as a new framework in the current of openness and democratization. University administrators and faculty members as change agents must motivate passive students to become active ones that possess creativity and personality copying with informationalization and internationalization.

Third, the functional diversification and specialization of universities is one of the most significant issues in terms of educational quality improvement. Almost all Korean universities did not demonstrate individuality or uniqueness because of the duplications of educational affairs, selection procedures, administrative styles, and curricula under the uniform control of the government. Furthermore, since all universities were ranked into a hierarchical order according to the competency level of entrants (MOE, 1998b, p. 72), they paid little or no attention to the qualitative improvement or to functional diversification and specialization. This is especially evident in graduate schools in Korea, which have generally placed foci on instruction-oriented programs rather than on research-oriented ones without defining any distinctive academic specialty or diversity. In order to promote the functional diversification and specialization of graduate schools, not only has the government positively supported university-based research and development to open an information technology-oriented society, but has embarked on an ambitious project to strive for a research level on a par with the standards of developed countries. The project 19, "BK 21" (Brain Korea for the 21 st century), is already under way, in the hope of attaining the goal to raise graduate schools standards to global levels by encouraging university competitiveness.

Fourth, operational autonomy both in student quotas and in academic affairs is essential to diversify and to specialize each tertiary institution. Since 1995, in order to promote autonomy, the government has partly allowed both public and private universities to determine not only the student quotas of enrollment but also the management of academic affairs, such as the minimum credit requirement per semester, the required hours of class attendance to get one credit, the minimum credit requirement for graduation, etc., on the assumption that universities have the abilities to harmonize autonomy and accountability (MOE, 1998b, pp. 74-79). The common trend in most universities was for the minimum credit requirement of major subjects to decrease in relation to other subjects, and also the minimum requirement for graduation dropped to 120 credits (MOE, 1998b, p. 78).

Fifth, the establishment of a new examination system for university entrance is also an important issue. The old entrance examination system that relied entirely upon a highly objective evaluation greatly emphasizing memorization and rote learning brought students "examination hell" and imposed heavy burdens on parents who lavished their money on private educational expenditures for their children. In order to remedy these evils, the government has designed a new screening system to make available a more comprehensive, justifiable, and accurate resource on students. The major factors for assessing new potential students are the Comprehensive Personal Record, 20 Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT), essay writing, and personal interview (MOE, 1998b, pp. 132-46; PCER, 1998). In October 1998, the Ministry of Education released "An Improvement Plan of the Year 2002 Examination System for University Entrance" that emphasizes the verified and characterized screening according to each university's character and enrollment unit (Min, 1999, pp. 100-02).

Last, educational financial support is a key to accomplish educational reform. In order to attain the goals of educational reform suggested by the Presidential Committee, the former government tried to secure education tax revenue 21 so as to reach a target of five per cent of the GNP for education investment by 1998. To secure the education tax, the government revised pertinent laws such as the Education Tax Law, the Government Grant for Local Education Law, and the Special Accounting Law for the Improvement of Educational Environment (MOE, 1998b, pp. 159-61). However, in spite of the past and the present governments' efforts, securing the five percent of the GNP for educational investment, they failed to come to fruition due to an "Economic Crisis" in December 1997. However, the present government achieved the 4.33 percent of the GNP for educational investment based on public educational expenditures in 1999.


Reform on Organizational Culture

One of the fundamental directions of educational reform in Korean higher education is the creation of a new organizational culture based on an open and clientele-centered system. According to orthodox organization theories, the open system is "a set of interacting elements that acquires inputs from the outside, transforms them, and produces outputs for the environment" (Hoy and Miskel, 1996, p. 31). In terms of the organizational theories, an open system connotes both an open education system in a broad sense and a clientele-centered system in a narrow sense. The open education system bridges the gap between schools and society, providing to every constituent the opportunity to study in universities or to obtain a job in industrial sites. Furthermore, the clientele-centered education system puts an emphasis on students and parents rather than on teachers and administrators.

Traditionally, Korean higher education has maintained a closed system based on an administrator-centered or a teacher-centered system. The administrator-centered closed system has sustained a rigidly formal and functional authority as well as reinforced a highly centralized institutional hierarchy under a top-down system (Lee, 1999a, p. 20). The majority of college and university administrators emphasize hierarchical order and authority rooted in Confucianism and Japanese Shinto-Confucianism (Lee, 2000). College and university administrators seldom share their power or responsibilities with their subordinates, thus stressing formalized hierarchical order between superiors and subordinates, or between the old and the young, according to Confucian ethico-political rules (Lee, 1999a, p. 20; Lee, 2000). On the other hand, the relationships between faculty members and students generally follow the traditional Confucian socioethical principles that demonstrate externally hierarchical relationships with authority, but that internally involve reciprocally obligatory relationships founded on mutual care. In practice, however, most faculty members reinforce authoritative attitudes towards their subordinates rather than paternalistic ones.

Synthesizing these analyses, Korean higher education is based on a rigidly closed organizational culture founded on an administrator-centered education system. To change this system, the Presidential Committee advocated not only an open system encouraging open communication channels to every constituent, but also a learner-centered education system whereby one is granted the opportunity to learn anytime and anywhere. With an open system, the recently proposed reform puts a stress on the autonomy and accountability of colleges and universities, especially private schools, to overcome bureaucratism or officialism. Now that the government has controlled and supervised all types of tertiary institutions since the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, every higher education institution was deprived of its autonomy and uniqueness, resulting in uniformity. Also, students were not educated differently or individually, but uniformly or equally at schools. In practice, the optimum harmony of freedom and diversification is the major functional characteristic of the ideal system in Korean higher education.

In order to create the optimum open system and a healthy organizational culture in Korean higher education, the recent education reform indicates that a formal, bureaucratic, and faculty-centered closed system of political and administrative reality should evolve into an informal, democratic, and learner-centered open system that allows subordinates to participate in the decision-making process and to reveal their personality in any environment (Lee, 1999b).


Main Challenges and Visions of Korean Higher Education Systems toward the 21 st Century

The recent educational reform planned by the Presidential Commission offers a new framework of higher education as the new century approaches. The new framework stresses the cultivation of individuality and originality to meet the current of informationalization and internationalization in a knowledge-based society.

Based on the main reforms reviewed in this article, the author presents several ideas regarding the main challenges and visions of Korean higher education systems for the 21 st century:

First, unless the recent education reform changes the government initiative into a constituency-centered initiative, calling for a response in every constituent such as a student, a faculty, and parents, it will not attain the goal established by the Presidential Commission.

Second, if the governing body of every college or university does not maintain the optimum balance between autonomy and accountability, the guarantee of autonomy and democracy in universities will dissolve, and the government will not minimize its bureaucratism.

Third, unless the hierarchical order of universities, determined by the scores of entrance examinations, and the Seoul National University-centered educational policy are abolished or improved, the promotion of educational quality and functional diversification in each college or university will fall short of the government's expectations, and the educational quality of provincial universities will deteriorate.

Fourth, unless a homogeneous closed administrative system based on personal ties and academic factionalism is eradicated or minimized, the innovation of a democratic administration system or the establishment of an open administrative system will end.

Fifth, if the technocracy-centered educational policy designed mainly by bureaucrats and a handful of scholars specializing the fields of science or engineering does not promote the mutually harmonious development between heterogeneous academic programs, the functional specialization plan for the qualitative innovation will fail.

Finally, without changing the autocratic attitudes of college administrators and faculty members and without creating an openly strong organizational culture on the basis of humanitarian morality, democratic education will fall short of the object of recent education reform.



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1 According to the national education policy for manpower supply, between 1970 and 1980 the number of junior colleges increased about over 3 times (39 to 128 schools) and the number of junior college students being able to contribute to the field of semi-skilled labor increased approximately 15 times (10,043 to 151,593 persons) (MOE, 1970, pp. 564-65; MOE, 1980, pp. 434-35). In addition, between 1980 and 1990 twenty-two universities (85 to 107 institutions) were newly established, and university students being able to produce highly skilled labor increased about 2.5 times (402,979 to 1,040,166 persons) (MOE, 1980, pp. 434-35; MOE & NIEE, 1990, pp. 554-55).

2 Between 1945 and 1970, Korean higher education expanded from 19 schools, 1,490 teachers, and 7,819 students to 142 schools, 9,100 teachers, and 171,356 students (MOE, 1999, p. 8; MOE, 1970, pp. 564-65).

3 Between 1971 and 1989, per capita Gross National Product increased from $277 to $4,968 (Bank of Korea, 1978, pp. 276-77; Federation of Korean Industries, 1990, p.1092), and Korean higher education expanded from 136 schools and 179,489 students to 258 schools and 1,353,088 students (Seoul: MOE, 1971, pp. 614-15; MOE & NIEE, 1989, pp. 550-51). In particular, the number of 4 year college and university students in the fields of engineering increased over 6 times (36,594 to 227,554 students) (MOE, 1971, p. 720; MOE & NIEE, 1989, p. 636).

4 From 1990 to 1999, Korean higher education expanded from 258 schools, 42,911teachers, and 1,691,681 students to 354 schools, 55,718 teachers, and 3,154,245students (MOE & NIEE, 1990, pp. 554-55; MOE & KEDI, 1999, pp. 584-85). In addition, the number of graduate schools increased over twice (298 to 676 schools), and the number of graduate students increased nearly 3 times (86,911 to 204,773 persons) (MOE & NIEE, 1990, pp. 554-55; MOE & KEDI, 1999, pp. 584-85). However, almost all of graduate schools in Korea generally have instructional foci in their initial degree programs rather than research foci in their professional degree programs.

5 According to Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators (OECD, 1998), indicator A1.2a shows that the percentage of Korean younger adults (25-34 year olds) who have attained at least higher education is 30, and the percentage of older adults (55-64) is 7. The difference (23 percentage) in attainment between generations represents the remarkably rapid expansion of tertiary education for three decades.

6 During this period, higher education expanded from 31 schools and 24,000 students to 85 schools and 101,045 students (MOE, 1976).

7 The ten reform tasks were reorganization of the school system, reform of the entrance examination system, modernization of school facilities, recruitment of qualified teachers, development of high-level manpower in science and technology, renovation of educational contents and methods, pursuit of excellence in higher education, autonomy in local educational administration, establishment of a consistent educational administration, and drastic increase in educational investment (MOE, 1999, pp. 8-9).

8 The Commission recommended 11 items for education reform: increasing the educational finance, strengthening of international competitive power in higher education, emphasis on autonomy and accountability in private schools, improvement of the college entrance examination system, reconsideration of diversification and elasticity in school systems, reorganization of elementary and secondary curricula, extension of teachers specialization and enhancing their spirit, creation of school community, innovation of vocational education, renovation of education laws and ordinances, and solidification of life-long education (PCER, 1996, pp. 18-26).

9 Three Reports were put out on February 9, 1996 (the 2 nd Reform Plan: 30 specific tasks), August 20, 1996 (the 3 rd Reform Plan: 24 specific tasks), and June 2, 1997 (the 4 th Reform Plan: 18 specific tasks) (PCER, 1998).

10 Among the specific reform tasks, the completed projects in higher education were diversification of universities with more autonomy, improvement of a college entrance examination system, and increase of government financial support (MOE, ).

11 Between 1996 and 1998, per capita GNP decreased from $11,380 to $6,823 because of "Economic Crisis" (Federation of Korean Industries, 1999, p. 1060).

12 The basic directions of education reform were established by the PCER in 1994.

13 The new laws, as the basic three education laws suggested in the Second Reform Plan in February 1996, include Framework Act, Elementary & Secondary Act, and Higher Education Act.

14 Open colleges were substituted by industrial colleges, and air and correspondence colleges were substituted with air colleges, correspondence colleges, and air and correspondence colleges.

15 The establishment or amendment of school regulations changed an authorization system into a report system.

16 The qualification standards for eligibility as school teachers and assistants are determined by the Presidential Decree (Article 16, Higher Education Act [Act No. 5439, Dec. 13, 1997]).

17 The Ministry of Education reorganized in May 1999 consists of 2 offices, 3 bureaus, 6 officers, and 30 divisions. As for higher education, Higher Education Support Bureau and Lifelong Education Bureau have controlled and supervised main affairs related to colleges and universities (MOE, 1999, pp. 922-23).

18 The Academic Research Policy Bureau consisted of three divisions: Academic Research Policy, Higher Education Policy, and Higher Education Coordination (MOE, 1999, p. 37).

19 The government yearly contributes with 200 billion Won for 7 years from 1999 until 2005. Specifically speaking, the fields of science and engineering are yearly supported 140 billion Won, humanities and social sciences 10 billion Won, and facilities 50 billion Won. The total amount is 1,400 billion Won for 7 years. On December 1, 1999, 1 U.S. dollar was estimated 1,179 Won.

20 The data of the Comprehensive Personal Record include "student achievement in subject matter, hidden competencies and aptitudes, personality traits, attendance status, extracurricular activities, ability to adapt to collective life, social service, certified qualifications or skill competencies, and awards" (MOE, 1998, p. 139).

21 The education tax is composed of the largest contributor (a target of 50 percent), with the remainder splitting between the central government tax (30 percent) and the local government tax (20 percent) (MOE, 1998, p. 161).

Please cite the source as:

Lee, J. K. (2000). Main reform on higher education systems in Korea. Revista Electrónica de Investigación Educativa, 2 (2). Retrieved month day, year from the World Wide Web:


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