Korea is definitely a country of education. We can say that this title comes from the spirit of our greatest king,King Sejong. Then, what is his spirit of education? His primary concern was everyone’s right to be educated. Therefore, he invented Hangeul for all people in the country, in order to learn and use their own language easily. Not only that, King Sejong cared and embraced foreigners so much so that even the tribes of Jurchen (Yeojin), who were widely considered barbarian then, were accepted. To him, they were also given the same right to be educated, just like the people of Chosun. It has been believed that this spirit of King Sejong would be a proponent of ”Education for All" (EFA). As subsequent generations of King Sejong, we have succeeded in his spirit to realize “Education for All.” We have been trying to make sure all people in this country get the same opportunities to be educated and moreover, we have contributed to education equality in other countries.
The effort for domestic “Education for All”
First of all, let’s take a look at our efforts to realize EFA in Korea. Korea has been evaluated to have pretty advanced systems of education. For example, we have the law of compulsory education from elementary to middle school. As a result, Korea is one of the countries which has a high literacy rate. Aside from that, we haven’t disregarded the likely-isolated classes, such as students in rural or island areas as well as handicapped and multiethnic students by meeting their special needs.
And lastly, since 2012, we have implemented the Nuri Curriculum in which all children ages 3 to 5 are guaranteed an equally high quality of education as well as are provided the expense of schooling and nurturing. We used to pretty much rely on private preschools which, in fact, are a high financial burden. Consequently, low income families were less likely to have their child attend preschool. With this policy, it is highly expected that every child can have same opportunity to be educated. Like the above, Korea has put constant effort to be a country of education equality.
The effort towards a global “Education for All”
Beyond the domestic EFA, Korea also has contributed in trying to realize the project of EFA all over the world. World Education Forum will be held during May 19th – 22nd, 2015 in Incheon, and mainly dealing with the agenda of EFA. It shows that as a host country of World Education Forum, we are actually taking an initiative role for spreading and performing the project of EFA.
We have constantly given a hand to under-developed countries in terms of education. For instance, as of 2015, the Korea International Cooperation Agency has been providing basic education to those who are illiterate in other countries by building elementary and middle schools there as well as developing and distributing textbooks. In addition, the Korea National Commission for UNESCO has dispatched experts of education to train local teachers who will teach literacy and job education in such countries.
Can we say our effort is enough?
Possibly; however, it is also true that we have a long way to go. Domestically, although statistics are showing that we have been doing a good job for EFA, there are a lot of stories behind these statistics. In terms of practical literacy rate, which evaluates the ability to understand complicated sentences and apply that understanding to daily life, we are in a quite low rank among OECD countries. Also, we have quite controversial voices for even within the Nuri Curriculum due to budget issues. Globally, the situation looks way worse, if we have a look at statistics showing the absolute lack of education in many countries. According to UNESCO, as of 2014, more than 57 million children and 69 million adolescents still do not have access to even basic education due to such issues as poverty, isolation, and discrimination.
King Sejong must have had a dream. Through education, he wanted all people to develop themselves, to be better people, and ultimately to be happy. Absolutely, we have followed the trail that King Sejong dreamed and actually started such an educational path. However, we should not stop here. As an educationally developed country, we have to guarantee that all people be educated not only in the aspect of quantity, but quality. It is not our choice. It is not our benevolence. It is everyone’s right.
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