Over the past four years, the Korean government has endeavored to advance science, technology, and education. It has expanded the budget for R&D by 1.5 and introduced the admissions officer system to the nation which enables colleges to recruit more creative and talented students rather than following standardized admission based on test scores. As a result, Korean education and technology has greatly improved in the global competitiveness rating by the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management and Development (IMD).
Ever since the government selected growth driving forces that include the green industry, it has fostered such industries at the national level. Some of the visible outcomes include mass production of a 40-inch LED TV for the first time in the world in 2009, exporting surveillance robot systems to Algeria in 2010, and signing a contract with the United Arab Emirates to export nuclear power plants.
During the Korea Electronics Show (KES) 2010, LG Electronics introduced the world's first Nano Full LED TV. (Photo: Yonhap News)
Korea also has built a base of science and technology by reinforcing the status and features of the National Science & Technology Council (NSTC). Through the NSTC, it proposed middle-long term development strategies of science and technology and has put Korea at the fifth rank in terms of science competitiveness. The Korean government has spared no support for R&D investment in the last four years.
The R&D budget is used to promote the development of creative science and technology or accumulate new knowledge. In a knowledge-based society where science, knowledge, and information lead the national development, the importance of R&D is significant. The size of the R&D budget can be an indicator for figuring out the size of the government’s investment in science and technology.
So far, the Lee administration has invested 68 trillion won on science and technology R&D. If including private investment in R&D, the ratio of R&D to GDP has increased from 3.21% in 2010 to 3.74% in 2011, ranking third highest worldwide. The rate of increase is also the second highest following China.
This year, the government assigned 16.0244 trillion won to the R&D budget, anincrease of 7.6% from the previous year’s budget despite uneasy financial conditions. This is evidence of the strong will of the government to promote Korea’s science and technology, the driving force for the growth of the nation. Thanks to investments in R&D, Korea maintains its rank as fifth for the number of international patents.
In 2011, Korea ranked 22nd in the IMD’s global competitiveness rating, the highest score in Korean history. Although its competitiveness in science has slightly dropped, competitiveness in technology increased four rankings to 14th.
The government will continue its support of major national assignments including green technology this year. In order for its original plan for science and technology to be completed without barriers, the government is going to gain a toehold for the next administration.
From the beginning, the Lee administration has introduced educational reforms with the goal ”to reduce private educational expense and increase the competitiveness of public education.” It has eased the burden of the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) and focused on public education by introducing the admissions officer system to colleges in Korea and supporting TV lectures from the Educational Broadcasting System (EBS).
First, the government has appointed 33 Meister high schools which provide industry-oriented vocational training. The curriculum at these schools is directly connected to industry and the development of professional and occupational education. Since the launch of the first Meister high school in 2010, over 80% of the prospective graduates of 2013 have been promised jobs.
In order for high school graduates to continue their education during their careers, a post-education infrastructure has also been formed. The government has revised some regulations and systems to improve the professionalism of teachers and attracted overseas education institutes to Korea.
It has continuously conducted various polices to realize educational welfare; extra pay for raising children has increased since 2009 and support for preschool education expenses will be available to more parents.
As a result, the ranking of Korean education in the IMD global competitiveness rating jumped to 29th in 2011. Considering the fact that Korea had maintained a 30-something rank for the last few years, this is an impressive result for the nation.
The Nuri Program will be established to provide education for five-year-olds (Photo: Gonggam Korea)
In March this year, the Nuri Program will be established to provide education for five-year-olds. Regardless of the incomes of their parents, the educational expense for kindergarteners will be paid by the government. Expenses for day care centers for kids under 24 months will also be supported by the government. Benefits for raising children will also be expanded up to the bottom 70 percent to offer qualified childcare services.