Quality Matters in Early Childhood Education and Care

2226-9673 (online)
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This series of reports on quality in childhood education examine both specific countries as well as specific issues related to the quality of childhood education and make recommendations.

Quality Matters in Early Childhood Education and Care: Korea 2012

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Miho Taguma, Ineke Litjens, Janice Heejin Kim, Kelly Makowiecki
25 Apr 2012
9789264175648 (PDF)

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Early childhood education and care (ECEC) can bring a wide range of benefits – for children, parents and society at large. However, these benefits are conditional on "quality". Expanding access to services without attention to quality will not deliver good outcomes for children or long-term productivity benefits for society.

This series of country reports focuses on quality issues. Each report tackles a specific theme that was selected by the country reviewed. These reports suggest strengths and point to areas for further reflection on current policy initiatives.

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  • Foreword
    This publication is intended to be a quick reference guide for anyone with a role to play in encouraging quality in Korea’s early childhood education and care (ECEC) curriculum.
  • Executive Summary
    A common curriculum framework helps staff to enhance their pedagogical skills, children to grow with a smooth transition into schooling, and parents to better learn about child development.
  • Introduction
    Early childhood education and care (ECEC) has become a policy priority in many countries. A growing body of research recognises that it makes a wide range of benefits, including social and economic benefits, better child well-being and learning outcomes as a foundation for lifelong learning, more equitable outcomes and reduction of poverty, and increased intergenerational social mobility. But these positive benefits are directly related to the "quality" of ECEC.
  • Where does Korea stand regarding policy outcomes and inputs?
    Korea performs above the OECD average on several ECEC outcome indicators but underperforms on others. On participation, Korea has a relatively large share of children aged three and under attending some form of ECEC. On child outcome indicators, infant survival rates are high, there is very little child poverty, and Korean students aged 15 perform well on PISA assessments for reading, mathematics and science. Possible policy changes from an international comparative perspective include: increasing participation rates of five-year-olds; improving female labour market participation; and improving gender equality in earnings for women.
  • What does resarch say?
  • Where does Korea stand compared to other countries?
    Korea has different curricula in place for different provisions: the standard child care curriculum covers all children aged zero to five in child care. In parallel, there is the national curriculum for kindergarten for children aged three to five attending kindergarten. Recently, Korea set out a national, common curriculum for all children aged five, the Nuri Curriculum, and plans to extend the common curriculum to cover ages three and four, aiming at providing a more continuous child development process for young children in ECEC. Finland, New Zealand and Scotland (United Kingdom) have an integrated curriculum framework covering either all ages in ECEC or children in early education and beyond.
  • What are potential areas for reflection?
    Potential areas for reflection can contribute to broadening country perspectives through comparison with other countries and highlight emerging issues in a changing society. Based on other country practices and international data, potential areas for reflection for Korea include: 1) reviewing the curriculum approach; 2) improving alignment with primary schooling; 3) revisiting or rethinking the curriculum content by applying the latest research findings in policy design; 4) improving children’s life satisfaction through curriculum; 5) reflecting parental expectations in curriculum; 6) addressing emerging subjects, such as children’s health and revisiting the use of ICT in ECEC; and 7) improving leadership skills of staff and management.
  • What are the challenges and strategies?

    Common challenges countries face in enhancing quality in ECEC curriculum are: 1) defining goals and content; 2) curriculum alignment for continuous child development; 3) effective implementation; and 4) systematic evaluation and assessment.

    Korea has made several efforts to tackle these challenges, mostly focusing on defining and revising the content by, for example, providing autonomy to local authorities for adaptation of the framework to local needs. Korea has also taken steps to align curricula better through the development of a common national curriculum for all children aged five. To further their efforts, Korea could consider strategies implemented by Finland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, such as engaging parents in setting child-specific curricula; developing one curriculum for children in the whole ECEC age range; developing a communication toolkit for staff and materials that target parents; and ensuring that assessment practices meet the aspirations of the curriculum.

  • Definitions and methodologies
  • Figures for the spider web on policy outcomes
  • Figures for the spider web on policy inputs
  • Notes to the spider webs
  • Methodology and data sources for the spider webs
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