Education Trends in Japan and Korea

Below are some interesting education trends in Asia reported in the recent OECD Education Indicators 2013.


Teachers spend longer hours in school compared to other OECD countries. In 2011, public school teachers in primary to upper secondary education worked for 1 883 hours, more than the OECD average of 1 671 hours at primary level and 1 667 at secondary. Teaching hours are however shorter than the OECD average – taught 731 hours at the primary level (compared to OECD average of 790 hours); 602 at lower secondary (OECD average: 709 hours); and 501 hours at upper secondary level (OECD average: 664 hours). The gap between working hours and teaching hours, according to the report, may reflect the time teachers spend working outside of the classroom. Teachers in Japan are expected to perform a wide variety of tasks besides teaching in the classroom. These typically include supervising students’ extracurricular activities, providing student counselling and dealing with administrative matters.

Foreign students are also attracted to Japan. In 2008, the Japanese Government announced the “30,000 International Students Plan”, aimed at increasing the number of international students by 2020. In 2011, attracted 3.5% of foreign tertiary students from around the world. Australia attracted 6%. Despite the language of instruction is Japanese, its tertiary education is popular with students from Asia, comprising about 93.3% of intake. About 62% are from China and 17% from Korea.

South Korea

Spending on early childhood education in Kore has increased between 2000 and 2010, up to USD 6 739 per pre-primary students, close to the OECD average of USD 6 762. The introduction of a financial support program that provides tuition fees for all 5-year olds in 2012, and the extension of this program to 3 and 4 year olds in 2013, is expected to lead to a steady increase in the proportion of total expenditure from public sources over the coming years.

Spending is in fact increasing on all levels of education. The annual public expenditure per student in Korea is below the OECD average. On average, Korea spent in 2010 USD 8 198 per student from primary to tertiary education, against the USD 9 313 of OECD countries. However, expenditure per student increased significantly between 2005 and 2010: for all levels of education, expenditure increased by 39%, more than doubling the average increase across OECD countries for levels below tertiary (17%) and more than quadrupling the average for tertiary education (8%).

Korea has increased significantly public expenditure on tertiary education institutions by 104 percentage points between 2000 and 2010 against an average increase of 35 percentage points for OECD countries.

Korea has a relatively young and well-paid teaching force. For example, at the primary level almost 59% of teachers are under 40 years old compared to the OECD average of 41%. Teachers are also well paid in comparison with teachers in other OECD countries. In lower and upper secondary schools, teachers with 15 years experience and minimum training, earn USD 48 146, slightly more than the OECD average of USD 39 934 for lower secondary and USD 41 665 for upper secondary teachers. With the same level of experience and training, in primary schools, teachers salaries amount to USD 48 251, compared to the OECD average of USD 38 136. However, although teachers in Korea remains among the best paid in OECD countries, their salaries were frozen between 2008 and 2010 as a consequence of the economic downturn, and fell by 6% in real terms during that period. However, in 2011, salaries were slightly increased.

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