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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 8: Nuts and bolts of the aid for TVET

Ju-Ho Lee, Hyeok Jeong and Song Chang Hong


There is little argument about the critical role of human capital in the process of development. There are a variety of dimensions in the sources of human capital formation in real life, from formal education at schools to on-the-job training at work places and R & D at research universities. We observe, however, that in fostering human capital formation, both academia and the international community of development aid have placed asymmetric attention to formal schooling, in particular to general education, although the emphasis has recently shifted from primary education to secondary and tertiary education. It is obvious that general education at schools is the backbone of human capital formation of any country so that the past emphasis on general schooling in promoting the development process of the less developed countries should be continued. However, it is equally obvious that vocational education, more broadly technical and vocational education and training (TVET), also plays a critical role in materializing the development potential of the less developed countries by various channels such as labor market income generation, poverty alleviation, effective school-to-work transition, and lowering youth unemployment. Here we argue the importance of vocational education in facilitating the development process in particular for developing economies, which either struggle to take off or are going through structural transformation, which has been relatively less emphasized in international development literature. Furthermore, by analyzing the recent Korea’s development cooperation project (BEAR Project) on vocational education and training for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, based on Korea’s own development experience, we attempt to draw important lessons about what the essential components of development aid would be in order to promote vocational education in terms of effective human capital formation, aligned with national development plans.

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