Adult learning matters for Korea’s long-term prosperity and the well-being of its citizens.

Korea has been one of the fastest growing OECD economies in past decades, but economic growth has slowed down in recent years, and since 2020 has been adversely affected by COVID-19. Given the important relationship between skills and economic recovery and growth, developing and upgrading the skills of Korea’s population is essential, and Korea has an opportunity to do this by strengthening the governance of its adult learning system. Due to the wide range of actors with an interest and role in adult learning, effective governance arrangements – including collaboration across ministries and levels of government, stakeholder engagement, and financing – are essential to the success of the adult learning system.

Korea has some promising initiatives in the governance of its adult learning system. The Social Policy Ministers Committee promotes horizontal co-ordination across nine ministries on a variety of social policies, including adult learning. Lifelong education promotion councils and regional skills councils co-ordinate adult learning policies across levels of government. Government and stakeholders work together in adult learning policies through the Lifelong Learning City and the Local-based Job Creation Support Programme. Financial incentives such as the National Tomorrow Learning Card and the Lifelong Education Voucher provide individuals with financial incentives to participate in adult learning.

However, some challenges remain. While several ministries partake in the provision of adult learning, a comprehensive and shared vision is missing. Subnational governments vary significantly in their capacity to implement adult learning policies. While government and stakeholders are increasingly involved in social dialogue around adult learning policies, they often lack sufficient capacity to render the engagement effective. Financial incentives need to be tailored and targeted more to support the participation of disadvantaged groups in adult learning.

Recent and planned policy reforms show great promise, but more needs to be done to ensure stronger adult learning governance that involves all relevant ministries, levels of governments and stakeholders, such as employers, unions, education and training providers, non-governmental organisations, and individual learners.

Citizens of all ages and backgrounds should be able to develop and use their skills effectively to take up the opportunities of a rapidly changing society and contribute to Korea’s economic recovery and growth.

Based on an analysis of Korea’s adult learning governance, as well as findings from widespread engagement with stakeholders in Korea, the OECD has developed a number of concrete recommendations for Korea.

The OECD stands to support Korea as it seeks to implement better skills policies for better lives.

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