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David Neumark, Yong-seong Kim and Sang-Hyop Lee
Education is a subject of never-ending public attention, and that attention has contributed to numerous reforms. One starting point in the search for better human capital policy is a careful review of past accomplishments and shortcomings of the education system, as well as future challenges facing it. Moreover, for most people the goals of human capital policy encompass the efficiency and effectiveness of policy, as well as its contribution to equity and social and economic mobility. The topics of this volume therefore delve into the quality of education, the effectiveness of public school systems and means of improving them, the competitiveness and accountability of higher education, and linkages between education and labor market outcomes. The authors focus on Korea and the United States. The Korean education system can be credited for much of the remarkable economic growth achieved by the country in recent decades, during its transformation into an industrialized country. The economy during this period is regarded as a textbook case of taking a leap from being a marginal player in the global economy to being a leading one. Many factors must be taken into account to explain this transition. Among them, the country’s education system, well designed and effective for its time, played an essential role in achieving both industrialization and social mobility. In terms of the quantity and quality of its human capital, Korea has made astonishing progress since regaining its independence in the late 1940s. With the rapid expansion of enrollment in both primary and secondary schools, the literacy rate increased from about 20 percent in 1945 to almost 100 percent today. The proportion of the population with tertiary education is the highest among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. The expansion of education was accompanied by a soaring academic record. Recent international achievement tests, such as the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), have ranked Korea at the top in mathematics, reading and sciences.