The Republic of Korea (South Korea), generally known as the land of the morning calm, is a
beautiful, green and a hilly country resplendent with all colors of nature. In this small beautiful
country one is struck by the progress that has been made in the last sixty years. Korea is now
among the few nations that have made the transition from a developing country into that of an
advanced industrial state with a democratic form of government and a high standard of living.
This transition is mainly due to the progress achieved in the educational sector. In 1945 the
adult literacy rate was estimated to be 22 percent, by 1970 it rose to 87.6 percent, and by the late
1980s it was estimated to be around 93 percent, and today it is almost universal, thus making
the country one of the most literate and well-schooled nations in the world. It needs to be
mentioned that South Korea was the first country in the world to provide high-speed internet
access from every primary, junior, and high school. The social zeal for schooling, often referred
to as “education fever” (kyoyukyol), has been a crucial factor in accounting for this remarkable
educational expansion. Government expenditure on education too has been generous. In 1975 it
W220 billion, 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
W3.76 trillion, or 4.5
percent of the GNP, and 27.3 percent of government budget allocations.
The arrival of United States military forces in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula in 1945 led to the adoption of a school system based on the American model i.e. six years of primary school, six years of secondary school (divided into junior and senior levels), and four years of higher education. With minor modifications this educational system exists even today.
Kindergarten in South Korea is composed of children from ages of three to five. When the child reaches about six years of age he/she is systematically moved on to the first year of elementary school. Elementary school, called ‘chodeung- hakgyo’, consists of grades one to six. Students learn subjects
including, but not limited to, Korean, mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, fine arts, and music. Middle schools, called ‘jung hakgyo’, teach students in 7th grade to 9th grade. High schools, called ‘godeung hakgyo’, though not strictly mandatory, teach students from first grade (age 15) to third
grade (age 17), and students commonly graduate at age 18. A student may choose, however, the class he or she wishes to take for liberal arts. High schools in Korea may also have subject specialty tracks. For example, university-bound students may choose to go to an academic science or foreign language
specialty high school; while other students may choose a vocational track high school which emphasizes agriculture, commerce, or another technical curriculum. However, from Map of Korean Peninsula. This map of Korea is one of twelve hand colored maps in the manuscript atlas, Tae Choson Chido (Great Korean Map). 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.
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 TOEIC and TOEFL, which are tests of reading, listening and grammar- based English. Most schools and universities hire exclusively US, Canadian or other native speakers of English as teachers for their English education programs.
Korea has a system of entrance examinations to determine eligibility for admission to its universities and technical colleges. The country has many national as well as private universities.The national universities are supported by the government and are usually regarded as providing better education than private
ones. While the national universities are spread all over South Korea, most of the prestigious private universities are mainly located in Seoul with few exceptions. Some of the most prestigious and the highly desired universities and institutes in Korea are the Seoul National University, Korea University, Yonsei University, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), Sogang University, Ewha Womans University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Hanyang University, and Sungkyunkwan University.
Education is imparted mainly in the disciplines of Humanities & Art, Social Sciences, Business, Law
Services, Engineering, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Health & Welfare, and Physical Sciences. Almost all
the classrooms in good universities have multimedia facility along with a fast broadband internet. Most of
the Universities have education abroad program. Through MOUs with other universities they send
students abroad for one semester to attend and be examined in a comparable course and the grades that
they obtain are added onto their degree. For example, the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies and
Kangneung National University have MOUs with the University of Delhi for student exchange in subjects
relating to languages, social sciences and sciences. The higher education system in Korea today is a
globalized one, a direction that the Indian educational system should emulate.