Study visit to the Republic of Korea

16 May 2011
ATP participants share their views on the education system

In the framework of IIEP Advanced Training programme, 22 trainees visited the Republic of Korea from 16 April to 1st May 2011 to learn about the Korean education system. The visit mainly focused in the study of policies and reforms related to particular themes: ICT for education, tertiary education and teachers.

The study visit was hosted and funded by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and implemented in partnership with the  Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI) and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.

The two ATP participants who already shared their expectations before now give us their impressions of the study visit.

Q1: Did the visit meet your expectations? Why?

Agnes Arach*: Yes, in many ways. In terms of policies in higher education, ICT and teacher management, my expectations were certainly met. I learned a lot about past and present policies in higher education and teacher management. I also learnt a lot about financing at this level. We also learned some things about the internal efficiency of the system.

Jalaludin Atayee*: First of all, I would like to thank very much the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) for making this study visit possible, and of course to express my gratitude to IIEP for organizing such a fruitful visit. Honestly, I must say that the visit was more enlightening than I ever expected. They provided us with much useful and practical information through lectures, site visits and interaction with educationalists. Hopefully, I will be able to carry the successful experience to my country (Afghanistan) to reform and improve our education system.

Q2: What was the most surprising for you? What will you remember most?

A. A.: The most surprising thing for me in Korea is what they termed the “great enthusiasm” for education felt by parents and students. You often hear that Korean parents would sell off everything they have to educate their children. Also surprising was the degree of private tutoring in the system. What I will remember most in terms of education are: the highly qualified lecturers of tertiary education institutions (i.e. all lecturers are PhD holders); the high level of private institutions’ contributions to tertiary education (80% of tertiary education institutions are privately owned and managed); and private institution owners being motivated not by profits but rather by the opportunity of making social contributions to the nation by setting up higher institutions of learning.

On the social level, I found the Koreans we met to be very social, generous, friendly, and organized.

J. A.: There were many aspects of their education system that impressed me very much. First of all, the success of the Korean Education System in universalization of tertiary education within a very short period of time. The high value attached to education by the government, parents, and students, as well as strong government commitment to education provision. The policy on teachers’ professional careers which values the teachers’ role as the main driver of better education . The successful public-private partnerships in the provision of tertiary Education. And, finally, the use of ICT especially in teaching and learning activities, which I think makes the Korean Education System rather unique.

Q3: Is the ‘Korean model’ applicable in your own country? If so, which aspects? If not, why?

A.A.: It can be applicable to some extent, while taking into consideration the differences in context. For instance Korea’s e-learning model cannot be applied in my country (Uganda) to the level they have in Korea because internet and power facilities are not as developed as in Korea. The life-long education aspect would not be easily applicable in my country because of the financial constraints.

J.A.:  Most education systems have a lot in common, so they can share experiences with each other. But I don’t believe in simply copying, right away, even successful experiences into Afghanistan’s or any other country’s education system. I believe it is better, before taking actions, to conceptualize the lessons learnt, and then adapt them to one’s own system. What I have learnt from the Korean Education System that can be applicable to Afghanistan’s system is this: First, there is a need for strong and sustainable government commitment to support education. And second, how very important it is that parents believe in educating their children.
So, many ideas are applicable, but still it depends on the policy of the country and the role of decisions-makers. For instance, in a country where more than 5 million children do not have access to education, is it still proper to use a sophisticated ICT in teaching and learning?

* Agnes Arach is Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports. Jalaludin Atayee is Head of the Research and Evaluation Unit of the Department of Planning and Evaluation at the Afghan Ministry of Education.

Photo: ATP participants with Korean officials