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Human Capital and Development

Lessons and Insights from Korea's Transformation

Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong

During recent decades, Korea has been one of only a handful of countries that have made the successful transformation to become a developed nation by simultaneously achieving persistent economic growth combined with a democratic political system. Experts and political leaders worldwide have attributed this achievement to investments in people or, in other words, the power of education. Whilst numerous books have highlighted the role of industrial policies, technological growth, and international trade in Korea’s development process, this is one of the first to focus on the role of human capital. It shows how the accumulation of human capital aided transformation and helps explain the policies, strategies and challenges that Korea faces now and in the future.
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Chapter 3: Making education diversification reform happen

Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong

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Amid globalization and knowledge-based economies, many countries have given higher priority to education reforms. However, when it comes to specific goals, policy agendas, and strategies regarding education reform, consensus among countries has yet to be formed. For example, Korea strongly focused on lowering college advancement rates and reducing the test burdens on students. In contrast, increasing college enrollment rates and improving the test scores of students in secondary and primary schools are major goals of the U.S. and the U.K. Thus, the direction of Korea’s education reform may appear to be headed towards the opposite direction as those of the U.S. and the U.K. In Korea, as discussed in the previous chapter, the ‘education bubble’, which is defined as persistent increases in educational expenditures that do not contribute to human capital accumulation, formed since the 1990s when the surge of demand for higher education enlarged the size of private tutoring and low-quality colleges with their graduates receiving wages lower than high school graduates. Korea’s education bubble is the result of the quantity-oriented expansion of education, which was derived from the consistent demand for education amid low improvements in quality and weak horizontal differentiation among schools and colleges.

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