Education and industrialization

Dramatic increases in the number of primary and secondary school students required a large-scale investment in school facilities. School facilities were expanded under the first two Five-Year Economic Development Plans in the 1960s. Targets for building schools were exceeded and investment doubled, and the serious shortage of classrooms was gradually resolved. By 1971, the system of teaching students in two shifts a day was abolished nationwide, except for lower-grade students in primary schools. A large number of private schools were established to meet the strong demand for education in the 1970s.

The government decided to end the entrance examination to middle school, first in Seoul in 1969 and then in the rest of the country in 1971, in order to eliminate the burden placed on elementary school students in preparing for the entrance examination. The resulting rise in the number of middle school students led to a corresponding increase in the number of students attending high schools. But then the competition to enter a select group of prestigious high schools intensified, and led the government to decide in March 1973 to introduce the “high school equalization policy,” which assigned middle school graduates to high schools through a lottery. This system was first applied to high schools in Seoul and Busan in 1974 and then gradually introduced in other regions. This had the added benefit of encouraging more middle school students to attend high schools.

Vocational training programs at the high school level were started to produce the skilled manpower needed for industrialization. Higher education also received greater attention as industrialization required a large number of students trained in science and engineering.

Rapid economic development in the 1960s prompted the government for the first time to prepare a plan for higher education in line with its economic development agenda. The objectives of higher education changed from creating elites to developing systemically abroad range of talents needed to support economic growth. Starting in 1968, the government successfully managed to produce more students majoring in science than in liberal arts by imposing student quotas on universities.

The government established a plan to restructure the universities and passed the Private School Act in 1963 to address quality degradation resulting from the sudden surge in the number of university students. The plan and the law were later modified to become less restrictive, but they were the first instruments used by the government to tighten its control over universities.

Source : SaKong, Il and Koh, Youngsun, 2010. The Korean Economy Six Decades of Growth and Development. Seoul: Korea Development Institute.