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Korea
Overview of the education system (EAG 2014)
  • In 2012, more Korean adults had attained tertiary education than had attained upper secondary education as their highest level of education. Between 2000 and 2012, the share of Korean adults who have a tertiary qualification increased by 18 percentage points to 42%, the fifth largest share among OECD countries (the OECD average is 32%). Some 66% of 25-34 year-olds held a tertiary qualification - the largest proportion of this age group among OECD countries, and far larger than the OECD average of 39%. In this age group, Korea ranks first in tertiary attainment for both men (62%) and women (69%).
  • Only 8% of 55-64 year-old Korean women hold a tertiary qualification - the second smallest proportion, after that in Turkey, among all OECD countries.
  • More than 58% of Korean adults have attained higher levels of education than their parents, compared with the OECD average of 40%. Only in Finland and the Russian Federation have more than 50% of adults surpassed their parents' level of education. Korean men are considerably more upwardly mobile in education than women, with 62% of men attaining higher levels of education than their parents, compared with 53% of women.
  • In 2011, Korea's total expenditure on educational institutions, for all levels of education, was the third highest among OECD countries: about 8% of GDP compared with 6% on average across OECD countries. The share of private expenditure on education in Korea was also among the highest, especially at the tertiary level: in 2011, 73% of spending on tertiary education came from private sources, compared with the OECD average of 31%.
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    The following list displays indicators for which your selected country shows the highest and lowest values among countries. The list can be sorted by level of education or by age group. All rankings are calculated including available data from OECD and partner countries. Find out more about the methodology here.

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    Educational outcomes

    The level of upper secondary attainment among 25-34 year-olds is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (98.2 %, rank 1/36 ) Download Indicator

    The level of upper secondary attainment among 55-64 year-olds is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (47.6 %, rank 29/36 ) Download Indicator

    The level of below upper secondary attainment among 25-34 year-olds is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (1.8 %, rank 35/35 ) Download Indicator

    The level of tertiary attainment among 25-64 year-olds is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (41.7 %, rank 6/37 ) Download Indicator

    The level of tertiary attainment among 25-34 year-olds is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (65.7 %, rank 1/36 ) Download Indicator

    The level of tertiary attainment among 55-64 year-olds is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (13.5 %, rank 29/36 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of 25-34 year-old men who have attained tertiary education is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (62.2 %, rank 1/37 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of 25-34 year-old women who have attained tertiary education is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (69.4 %, rank 1/37 ) Download Indicator

    Participation in education

    The proportion of upper secondary students enrolled in vocational or pre-vocational programmes is one of the smallest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (19.4 %, rank 36/41 ) Download Indicator

    The average age of entry into tertiary-type B (vocational) programmes in Korea is comparatively young. (20.8 Years, rank 24/28 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of all tertiary students in Korea who are international students is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (1.8 %, rank 31/38 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of students in public tertiary educational institutions is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (19.2 %, rank 34/38 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of students in independent private tertiary educational institutions is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (80.8 %, rank 1/32 ) Download Indicator

    Fields of education

    The proportion of female graduates who studied life sciences in tertiary-type A programmes is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries. (48.7 %, rank 37/38 ) Download Indicator

    Intergenerational mobility

    The percentage of 25-34 year-old students whose educational attainment is lower than that of their parents is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries. (3.5 %, rank 21/21 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 25-34 year-old students whose educational attainment is higher than that of their parents is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries. (61.2 %, rank 1/21 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 25-34 year-old students with the same educational attainment as their parents is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries. (35.3 %, rank 21/21 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 25-34 year-old female students whose educational attainment is higher than that of their parents is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries. (63.1 %, rank 1/21 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 25-34 year-old male students whose educational attainment is higher than that of their parents is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries. (59.5 %, rank 1/21 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 20-34 year-old students in tertiary education with parents who had not attained upper secondary education is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries. (10.2 %, rank 6/20 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 20-34 year-old students in tertiary education whose parents also have tertiary education is one of the lowest among OECD and partner countries. (46.7 %, rank 16/21 ) Download Indicator

    Resources for education

    The change in expenditure between 2005 and 2010 per student at primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary levels is comparatively large. (142 Index, rank 6/32 ) Download Indicator

    The change in the number of students between 2005 and 2010 at primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary levels is comparatively small. (90 Index, rank 26/33 ) Download Indicator

    In Korea, total expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP for all levels of education is comparatively high. (7.6 %, rank 3/37 ) Download Indicator

    In Korea the change in public expenditure between 2008 and 2010 on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP is comparatively large. (118 Index, rank 5/33 ) Download Indicator

    The change in the share of private expenditure on education between 2000 and 2010 is one of the largest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (128 Index, rank 10/29 ) Download Indicator

    The share of private expenditure on all levels of education is one of the largest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (37.2 %, rank 2/33 ) Download Indicator

    The share of private expenditure on pre-primary education is one of the largest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (46.2 %, rank 4/33 ) Download Indicator

    The share of private expenditure on all levels of education below tertiary is one of the largest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (19.3 %, rank 3/36 ) Download Indicator

    The share of private expenditure on tertiary education is one of the largest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (73 %, rank 2/34 ) Download Indicator

    In Korea, public expenditure on education as a percentage of total public expenditure is comparatively high. (16.5 %, rank 5/34 ) Download Indicator

    The change between 2000 and 2010 in private expenditure on tertiary educational institutions is one of the largest compared to other OECD and partner countries with available data. (139 Index, rank 9/28 ) Download Indicator

    Teachers

    The number of students per teacher in primary schools is one of the largest among OECD countries and partner countries with available data. (18 Students, rank 10/36 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of students to teaching staff at the lower secondary level is especially high. (18 Students, rank 6/36 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of students to teaching staff at the upper secondary level is especially high. (15 Students, rank 10/35 ) Download Indicator

    The number of students per teacher in secondary schools is one of the largest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (17 Students, rank 7/37 ) Download Indicator

    After 15 years of experience, a lower secondary teacher can expect to have one of the highest salaries among OECD and partner countries with available data. (50040 USD Equivalent, rank 8/32 ) Download Indicator

    After 15 years of experience, an upper secondary teacher can expect to have one of the highest salaries among OECD and partner countries with available data. (50040 USD Equivalent, rank 8/31 ) Download Indicator

    After 15 years of experience, a pre-primary teacher can expect to have one of the highest salaries among OECD and partner countries with available data. (48738 USD Equivalent, rank 5/27 ) Download Indicator

    After 15 years of experience, a primary teacher can expect to have one of the highest salaries among OECD and partner countries with available data. (50145 USD Equivalent, rank 8/32 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of pre-primary teachers' salaries to earnings for full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (1.32 Ratio, rank 1/25 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of primary teachers' salaries to earnings for full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (1.36 Ratio, rank 1/28 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of lower secondary teachers' salaries to earnings for full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (1.36 Ratio, rank 1/28 ) Download Indicator

    The ratio of upper secondary teachers' salaries to earnings for full-time, full-year workers with tertiary education is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (1.36 Ratio, rank 1/28 ) Download Indicator

    The salary progression for a lower secondary school teacher is among the most rewarding among OECD and partner countries with available data. (2.79 Ratio, rank 1/33 ) Download Indicator

    The change between 2000 and 2011 in statutory salaries for primary teachers with 15 years of experience and minimum training is comparatively small in Korea. (95 Index, rank 21/26 ) Download Indicator

    The change between 2000 and 2011 in statutory salaries for lower secondary teachers with 15 years of experience and minimum training is comparatively small in Korea. (96 Index, rank 19/25 ) Download Indicator

    The change between 2000 and 2011 in statutory salaries for upper secondary teachers with 15 years of experience and minimum training is comparatively small in Korea. (96 Index, rank 18/25 ) Download Indicator

    The number of hours lower secondary teachers spend teaching in public institutions is comparatively small in Korea. (568 Hours, rank 29/33 ) Download Indicator

    The number of hours upper secondary teachers spend teaching general programmes in public institutions is comparatively small in Korea. (549 Hours, rank 26/33 ) Download Indicator

    The number of hours pre-primary teachers spend teaching in public institutions is comparatively small in Korea. (583 Hours, rank 27/28 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of primary teachers younger than 40 is especially high. (59.7 %, rank 2/31 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of lower secondary teachers younger than 40 is especially high. (45.5 %, rank 8/30 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of upper secondary teachers younger than 40 is especially high. (44.2 %, rank 7/31 ) Download Indicator

    Teachers' salaries at the top of scale with minimum training in primary schools are especially high. (79631 USD Equivalent, rank 2/33 ) Download Indicator

    The share of teachers younger than 30 in secondary schools is among the largest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (13 %, rank 10/32 ) Download Indicator

    Classroom environment

    Total compulsory instruction time for lower secondary students in Korea is one of the shortest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (2524 Hours, rank 24/33 ) Download Indicator

    Economic and social outcomes

    The employment rate among 25-64 year-olds with tertiary education is comparatively low. (77.1 %, rank 34/36 ) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among 25-64 year-olds without upper secondary education is comparatively high. (65.3 %, rank 6/35 ) Download Indicator

    The employment rate among 25-64 year-old women with tertiary education is comparatively low. (61.2 %, rank 36/36 ) Download Indicator

    The unemployment rate among 25-34 year-olds with below upper secondary education is comparatively low. (6.5 %, rank 32/33 ) Download Indicator

    The unemployment rate among 25-34 year-olds with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education is comparatively low. (5.4 %, rank 30/35 ) Download Indicator

    The unemployment rate among 25-64 year-olds without upper secondary education is comparatively low. (2.6 %, rank 35/35 ) Download Indicator

    The unemployment rate among 25-64 year-olds with upper secondary or post-secondary non-tertiary education is comparatively low. (3 %, rank 35/36 ) Download Indicator

    The unemployment rate among 25-64 year-olds with tertiary education is comparatively low. (2.9 %, rank 29/36 ) Download Indicator

    The unemployment rate among 25-64 year-old women without upper secondary education is comparatively low. (1.7 %, rank 35/35 ) Download Indicator

    The unemployment rate among 25-64 year-old women with upper secondary or a post-secondary non-tertiary education is comparatively low. (2.5 %, rank 34/35 ) Download Indicator

    The unemployment rate among 25-64 year-old women with tertiary education is comparatively low. (2.8 %, rank 31/35 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of female full-time earners among all earners aged 35 to 44 with below upper secondary education is comparatively high. (65.5 %, rank 6/29 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of male full-time earners among all earners aged 35 to 44 with tertiary education is comparatively low. (70.4 %, rank 26/30 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of female full-time earners among all earners aged 35 to 44 with tertiary education is comparatively low. (45.7 %, rank 28/30 ) Download Indicator

    Compared with other OECD and partner countries, the earnings of adults without an upper secondary education are relatively low compared to those of adults with an upper secondary or a post-secondary non-tertiary education. (71 Index, rank 24/33 ) Download Indicator

    Compared with other OECD and partner countries, the difference in earnings between 25-64 year-old men with tertiary education and those with upper secondary education is quite low. (140 Index, rank 26/33 ) Download Indicator

    Compared with other OECD and partner countries, the difference in earnings between 25-64 year-old women with tertiary education and those with upper secondary education is quite low. (152 Index, rank 24/33 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of 15-19 year-olds who are neither employed nor in education or training is comparatively large in Korea. (8.5 %, rank 10/34 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of 20-24 year-olds who are neither employed nor in education or training is comparatively large in Korea. (22.5 %, rank 8/34 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of 25-29 year-olds who are neither employed nor in education or training is comparatively large in Korea. (24.7 %, rank 9/34 ) Download Indicator

    The proportion of 15-29 year-olds who are neither employed nor in education or training is comparatively large in Korea. (18.5 %, rank 10/34 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 15-29 year-old men who are not in education, are unemployed and are not in the labour force in Korea is one of the highest among OECD and partner countries with available data. (17.4 %, rank 6/34 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 15-29 year-olds without an upper secondary degree who are neither employed nor in education or training is comparatively low in Korea. (5.1 %, rank 34/34 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 15-29 year-olds with an upper secondary or post-secondary degree who are neither employed nor in education or training is comparatively high in Korea. (22.9 %, rank 5/34 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 15-29 year-olds with a tertiary degree who are neither employed nor in education or training is comparatively high in Korea. (24.4 %, rank 2/34 ) Download Indicator

    Adult competencies

    The percentage of 25-64 year-olds with low literacy proficiency (below Level 2) in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) who are employed is comparatively high. (68.5 %, rank 2/21 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 25-64 year-olds with high literacy proficiency (Level 4/5) in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) who are employed is comparatively low. (78.5 %, rank 20/21 ) Download Indicator

    The percentage of 25-64 year-olds in formal and non-formal education is low compared to other countries participating in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). (50.1 %, rank 12/21 ) Download Indicator


    General findings
    • Across almost all OECD countries, upper secondary attainment is the norm. About 75% of adults aged 25-64 have attained at least upper secondary education; among 25-34 year-olds, about 80% have.
    • In some OECD countries, younger adults have higher tertiary attainment rates than older adults by an average of more than 20 percentage points.
    • More than 40% of 25-34 year-olds in most OECD and partner countries have tertiary education, but this proportion of tertiary-educated 55-64 year-olds is seen only in Canada, Israel, the Russian Federation and the United States.
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    • Access to education for 5-14 year-olds is universal in all OECD and most partner countries with available data.
    • More than three-quarters of 4-year-olds (84%) are enrolled in early childhood education and primary education across OECD countries.
    • In 2012, enrolment rates among 15-19 year-olds were greater than 75% in 34 of the 40 OECD and partner countries with available data.
    • More than 20% of 20-29 year-olds in all OECD countries, except Luxembourg, Mexico and the United Kingdom, participated in education in 2012.
    • In 2012, 72% of students in tertiary-type A education attended public institutions, 14% attended government-dependent private institutions, and 14% attended independent private institutions.
    • Under 2012 enrolment conditions, a 5-year-old in an OECD country can expect to participate in more than 17 years of full-time and part-time education, on average, before reaching the age of 40.
    • Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States together receive more than 50% of all foreign students worldwide.
    • International students represent 10% or more of the enrolments in tertiary education in Australia, Austria, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
    • Across countries, more than 50% of adults participate in formal and/or non-formal education.
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    • In 2011, OECD countries spent an average of 6.1% of their GDP on educational institutions; seven countries (Argentina, Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Korea, New Zealand and Norway) spent more than 7%.
    • On average, OECD countries spend USD 9 487 per student per year from primary through tertiary education: USD 8 296 per primary student, USD 9 280 per secondary student, and USD 13 958 per tertiary student.
    • Education accounts for 12.9% of total public spending, on average across OECD countries, ranging from less than 10% in Hungary, Italy and Japan, to more than 20% in Indonesia, Mexico and New Zealand.
    • Nearly 92% of the funds for primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary educational institutions come from public sources, on average in OECD countries; only in Chile and Colombia is this share less than 80%. Tertiary institutions and, to a lesser extent, pre-primary institutions obtain the largest proportions of funds from private sources: 31% and 19%, respectively.
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    • The ratio of students to teaching staff varies across OECD countries and levels of education. At the primary level, there were more than 15 students for every teacher on average in OECD countries in 2012. In most countries, the student-teacher ratio decreases between primary and lower secondary school, despite an increase in class size. In 2012, there were, on average, about 13 students per teacher at the secondary level. At the tertiary level, there were, on average, about 14 students per teacher in OECD countries.
    • The number of teaching hours per teacher in public schools in 2012 averaged 782 hours per year in primary education, 694 hours in lower secondary education, and 655 hours in upper secondary education.
    • Teachers' statutory salaries vary widely across countries, but often increase with the level of education. In 2012, the statutory salaries of teachers with at least 15 years of experience averaged USD 37 350 at the pre-primary level, USD 39 024 at the primary level, USD 40 570 at the lower secondary level, and USD 42 861 at the upper secondary level. Between 2000 and 2012, teachers' salaries increased in real terms in most countries.
    • On average in OECD countries, pre-primary school teachers' salaries in 2012 amounted to 80% of full-time, full-year earnings of tertiary-educated adults working in different occupations. Primary school teachers' salaries amounted to 85% of that income, lower secondary school teachers' salaries amounted to 88% of that benchmark, and upper secondary school teachers' salaries amounted to 92% of those earnings.
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    • In a majority of OECD countries, education now begins for most children well before they are 5 years old. More than three-quarters of 4-year-olds (84%) are enrolled in early childhood education and primary education across OECD countries; among OECD countries that are part of the European Union, 89% of 4-year-olds are.
    • In Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, more than 90% of 3-year-olds are enrolled in early childhood education.
    • Publicly-funded pre-primary education tends to be more strongly developed in the European than in the non-European countries of the OECD. Private expenditure varies widely between countries, ranging from 5% or less in Belgium, Estonia, Latvia Luxembourg and Sweden, to 25% or more in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Colombia, Japan, Korea, Spain and the United States.
    • As a percentage of GDP, expenditure on pre-primary education accounts for an average of 0.6% of GDP. Differences between countries are significant. For example, while 0.1% of GDP is spent on pre-primary education in Australia, about 0.8% or more is spent in Chile, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain and the Russian Federation.
    • The pupil-teacher ratio, excluding non-teaching staff (e.g. teachers' aides), ranges from more than 20 pupils per teacher in Chile, France, Israel, Mexico and Turkey, to fewer than 10 in Estonia, Iceland, Indonesia, New Zealand, Slovenia and Sweden.
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    • Tertiary-educated younger adults have higher unemployment rates than tertiary-educated older adults: about 7% and 4%, respectively.
    • Across OECD countries, compared with adults with upper secondary education who have income from employment, those without this qualification earn about 20% less, those with post-secondary non-tertiary education about 10% more, those with tertiary-type B (vocationally oriented) education about 30% more, and those with tertiary-type A (academically oriented) education or advanced research earn about 70% more.
    • Across OECD countries, a tertiary-educated woman earns about 75% of what a similarly educated man earns. Only in Belgium, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey do the earnings of tertiary-educated women amount to 80% or more of men's earnings. In Brazil, Chile and Hungary, women with a tertiary degree earn 65% or less of what tertiary-educated men earn.
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    • The proportion of young people neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET) includes those who are unemployed or inactive. The latter group is particularly important as it includes discouraged young people who gave up looking for a job.
    • In 2012, on average across OECD countries, 15% of 15-29 year-olds were neither employed nor in education or training (NEET) (7% unemployed and 8% inactive), as were 7% of 15-19 year-olds (2.8% unemployed and 4.6% inactive), and 19% of 25-29 year-olds (8% unemployed and 11% inactive).
    • For all levels of education combined, in Chile, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Spain and Turkey, more than 20% of 15-29 year-olds are NEET. In Spain, 19% of 15-29 year-olds are unemployed NEET youth and 7% are inactive. In Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Turkey the reverse pattern is seen: around 15% of NEET youth are inactive while 6% or fewer are unemployed. In Austria, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, fewer than 10% of 15-29 year-olds were neither in education nor employed.
    • On average across OECD countries in 2012, 17% of 15-29 year-old women were NEET (6% unemployed and 12% inactive) as were 13% of 15-29 year-old men (7% unemployed and 5% inactive).
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    The data table will display up to six selected countries.
    Note: These values should be interpreted with care since they are influenced by countries' specific contexts and trade-offs. In education, there is often no simple most- or least-efficient model. For instance, the share of private expenditure in education must be read against other measures designed to mitigate inequities, such as loans and grants; longer learning time is an opportunity to convey more and better content to students, but may hinder investments in other important areas. If you want further information on the nature of different variables, please take the time to read the analysis and contextual information, available at the website for each publication.
    All rankings for individual variables are compiled on the basis of OECD and G20 countries for which data are available. The OECD average includes only OECD countries which are listed here: http://www.oecd.org/about/membersandpartners/

    *TALIS averages are based on all countries participating in the TALIS survey, including partner countries and economies. This explains the difference between the OECD average and the TALIS average. Data from the TALIS survey and Education at a Glance (EAG) may differ. See Annex E of the TALIS technical report and Annex 3 of EAG for more details about the data collections.

    For additional notes, please refer to annexes in the list of links below the introductory country profile text.