South Korea - Education

Education is a priority for South Korea; focus is on quality of education, inclusiveness, and vocational training

South Korea spent US$288 million on education in 2016, the latest year for which multilateral and bilateral data is available from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This makes it the seventh-largest donor to education in absolute terms and the sixth in relative terms.

 In 2016, South Korea channeled 91% of its ODA to education bilaterally. About 9% of this was earmarked funding to multilaterals. Between 2016 and 2018, South Korea’s bilateral funding for education decreased by 13%, falling from US$262 million (15% of bilateral ODA) to US$228 million (12%). This decrease does not reflect a de-prioritization of education within South Korea’s development policy; rather, it could be related to proactive measures taken by the government to eliminate duplication by merging or linking ODA projects implemented by different ministries.

South Korea’s bilateral education focuses on support for post-secondary education

In 2018, most of South Korea’s bilateral funding was allocated to ‘post-secondary education’, which accounted for 42% of bilateral ODA in 2018. This includes the costs of hosting international students in South Korea. These costs are reported as ODA, but do not constitute cross-border financial flows. The next largest area to receive funding in 2018 was ‘basic education ’, receiving 22% of bilateral education flows. Smaller shares were spent on ‘vocational training’ (15%), ‘general education ’ (12%), and ‘secondary education’ (9%). This funding pattern is in line with South Korea’s priorities for education as outlined in ‘KOICA’s education mid-term strategy 2016-2020’.

In addition to bilateral funding for education, South Korea channels some of its ODA to multilateral organizations. In  2016 (the latest year for which data is available), South Korea contributed 9% of its ODA to education through multilateral channels, below the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 30%. Of the US$26 million South Korea contributed as core funding to multilateral in 2016, the International Development Association of the World Bank (IDA) received 57%, the Asian Development Fund (AsDf) received 19%, and the International Bank for Recontruction and Development (IBRD) received 12%. South Korea joined the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2014 and has pledged a total of US$4.2 million, including US$2.2 million for the 2018-2020 replenishment period. 

South Korea considers education as a key sector through which it can support partner countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Consistent with this, education is one of the priorities of South Korea’s 2020 and 2021 International Development Cooperation Implementation Plans. KOICA’s education mid-term strategy 2016-2020 envisions “inclusive development through quality education”, and its mission is “to ensure rights to education for all by strengthening education systems in partner countries”. An updated strategy is likely to be published in late 2020 or early 2021. The current strategy outlines three strategic objectives which are linked to the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (“Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”):
1.    Quality education and learning achievement;
2.    Inclusive education for disadvantaged groups; and
3.    Improving skills and technology for work by identifying skill shortages in local labor markets.

South Korea is not a major provider of multilateral ODA to education

South Korea is not a major provider of multilateral ODA to education, spending only US$25 million in 2016 (the latest year for which complete data is available), representing 9% of its total education ODA that year. Most of this funding was channeled in the form of core contributions to the World Bank (69%) and the Asian Development Bank (19%). South Korea has increased its multilateral engagement in education since becoming a member of the OECD DAC. It joined the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2014. South Korea has budgeted to contribute KRW770 million (US$680,000) to GPE in 2019, and KRW824 million (US$730,000) in 2020.  By the end of 2020, South Korea will have provided a total of KRW5.7 billion (US$5 million) to GPE.

South Korea hosted the 2015 World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea, where stakeholders identified key elements of the ‘Education 2030: Framework for Action’, which laid out a vision for global education policy for the coming 15 years and the financing required to achieve the Education 2030 agenda. Education featured prominently in South Korea’s four flagship initiatives launched in 2016. Three of the four initiatives had a focus on education: ‘Better Life for Girls’; ‘Science, Technology, and Innovation for Better Life’; and ‘Better Education for Africa’s Rise’. Although the initiatives themselves were discontinued during the presidential impeachment in 2017, the education budget has been protected and much of the committed funding has been allocated to other government programs with an education focus. Gender equality, linked to girls’ education, remains a cross-cutting issue of South Korea’s development policy. As one of South Korea’s priority sectors, ODA for education, could be expected to increase moderately in the future in line with the overall expectations for a growing ODA budget.

MOFA’s Development Cooperation Bureau guides international education policy

MOFA drives the formulation of South Korea’s global education policy. Within MOFA, the Development Policy Bureau is responsible for developing policies (specifically the Development Policy Divisions within the Bureau). MOFA’s Multilateral Development Cooperation Division manages relations with multilateral education initiatives such as GPE. KOICA (overseen by MOFA) is responsible for the implementation of bilateral grants and other technical cooperation. The Korea Eximbank implements projects for the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MOEF), mainly in the form of ODA loans. 


17 - South Korea education - total bilateral/multilateral

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18 - Education ranking absolute - South Korea

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19 - Education ranking percentage - South Korea

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