copy the linklink copied!4. A care and education policy fit for parents and children

This chapter looks at the formal education and care practices in Korea. It first establishes how much time Korean children spent in formal care and education services, including the system of private education services that is widely used as from an early age.

The chapter considers the rapid and remarkable development of Korea’s extensive Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) system as well as the supports for Out-of-Schools Hours Care (OSH). It also considers how the focus in ECEC- and OSH-care services is increasing on improving quality.

The fierce competitive nature of the education environment in Korea has implications for the cost of education to household budgets, but also on the well-being of Children. This final section of this Chapter considers implications for child well-being, and discusses issues around achieving a greater “child-focus” in policy development.

    

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

copy the linklink copied!4.1. Introduction and main findings

Among the many changes in Korea over the past decades, the sustained increase in educational attainment among the Korean population stands out as remarkable (Chapter 2). Almost all men and women in the 25-34 age group have obtained at least upper secondary education in Korea, which is 7.5 percentage points above those in the 45-54 age group and 13.5 percentage points above the OECD average (OECD, 2018[1]).

The increase of educational attainment has led to Korea’s high educational mobility and the development of a highly skilled labour force with employment participation close to the OECD average. Education is of major importance to Koreans: it is widely regarded as the key to individual progress. Many parents, therefore, invest in supplementary private education for their children to position their children as well as possible for entrance into the most prestigious university courses and ensure access to job-secure well-paid careers. From a very early age, Korean parents and their children enter an educational struggle to get ahead that involves daily participation in schools, after-school programmes, and private cramming schools or “Hakwon”. For children, this means they spend a considerable amount of time in school or studying, while education costs to parents in Korea are well above the OECD-average, and may contribute to Korean parents not having as many children as they would otherwise like (Chapter 5).

To help parents reconcile work and care commitments and address the associated costs as a barrier to having more children, Korea developed a comprehensive Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) system since the turn of the millennium, and it has also developed subsidised out-of-school-hours programmes to help parents meet education costs and provide care options. However, the widespread use of Hakwon has proven much more difficult to change, as not many parents and children want to jeopardise their preparations for entrance exams in prestigious schools and universities.

This chapter looks at how much time Korean children spend in formal care and education services. It then considers the remarkable development of Korea’s Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and discusses relevant aspects of the Korean private education system. The chapter ends with considering implications for child well-being, and issues around achieving a greater “child-focus” in policy development.

Main findings

  • Even when children are very young in Korea (0 to 2), they spend a considerable amount of time in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) facilities: very young children in Korea spend almost 7 hours per day in day-care centres and kindergarten: one hour more than the OECD average.

  • The regular school day may not be long in Korea (about 4 to 7 hours per day for primary and lower secondary school students, as increasing with age), but 82.5% of primary school students and 69.6% of lower secondary school students participate in private education after their regular school day. On average, primary school students on average spend about 5 hours per day in Hakwon and/or private tutoring, doing homework, engage in other studies or read books. Korean teenagers spend more time studying than teenagers in other OECD countries, and study hours can last until 11-12 p.m. at night.

  • Korea has developed a comprehensive ECEC system over the past two decades, largely driven by concerns about persistently low birth rates. Since the early 2000s, public expenditure on ECEC in Korea has increased tenfold to about 1% of GDP in 2016, only below public spending on ECEC in Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

  • With the development of comprehensive ECEC capacity policy, attention is increasingly turning to quality and child development concerns in ECEC in Korea. The pre-primary education “Nuri Curriculum” for ECEC services was introduced in 2012, and mandatory accreditation of childcare centres was introduced in 2019. However, not all centres are of a standard that befits public ECEC facilities and there is room for improvement in standardising the curriculum across all centres, enhancing quality standards across more centres and strengthening quality monitoring.

  • The ECEC system in Korea involves an extensive range of services for children under school age: centre-based day-care, kindergarten, and childminding services at home. They can also receive public support for additional “out-of-hours” childminding services. Parents who do not benefit from these services can access a “home care allowance” towards full-time parental care, but payment rates are relatively low and there is no evidence they affect labour supply on a widespread basis.

  • Korea has developed an extensive system of after school education services provided by the Ministry of Education. The relatively short hours of primary school and the subsidised fees contribute to high participation rates: in 2016, 65.9% of all primary school students attended these after education classes. Denmark and Sweden are the only other OECD countries where over 60% of children aged 6 to 11 go to centre-based out-of-school-hours (OSH) services during a typical week.

  • Education in Korea is widely regarded as the key to individual progress and social mobility; therefore, there is widespread investment in education by parents. To position one’s children as well as possible for prestigious universities and colleges, parents make use of after-school educational programmes, Hakwon, and/or private tutors to ensure that academic records and entrance exam preparations leave nothing to be desired. It is a fiercely competitive environment in which no parent wants to blink first. As a result, children spend long days in school, Hakwon and carrying out associated homework. Making education less stressful and time consuming is key to improving child- and family well-being.

  • Given the development of the private education market, it is no surprise that household spending on private education has increased markedly over the last 35 years. Since 1982, the proportion of monthly household consumption spending on private education (including tertiary education) increased from 1% to 7%. This is a considerable amount of money, which is likely to affect the willingness of prospective parents to have (more) children.

  • Greater public spending on education could increase the number of hours in primary education and increase its quality by reducing student-to-teacher ratios, thereby reducing the demand for private education services. The planned extension of coverage of “After-school childcare classes” to all primary schools students and the “roll-out” of community-based care services will also be important. Giving greater weight in university admission processes to broader criteria such as teacher recommendations, service projects, extra-curricular activities and employment experience, will also reduce the need to use private education to prepare for the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT).

  • In terms of educational mobility, Korea comes first among OECD countries. However, as the education-base has widened across generations, the scope of further educational mobility is diminishing. Furthermore, as previous Chapters have shown high educational mobility has not translated into earnings mobility, in view of the pervasive characteristics of the dual labour market in Korea, and limited occupational mobility.

  • Korea often performs reasonably well on cross-national measures of children’s well-being in education and at school. For example, a relatively high proportion of students report feeling like they ‘belong’ at school, and a relatively low share report being the victim of bullying. However, long school and study days and working hours in Korea contribute to Korean teenagers being more likely than their peers across the OECD to report that they did not talk to their parents on a regular school day and less likely to take up part-time work, watch TV or the internet or engage in sports and physical exercise. Korean teenagers do not seem to have the time, and are more likely to report low life satisfaction than their peers in most other OECD countries. The high parental expectations on their academic performance affects Korean teenagers’ self-esteem and students’ perception of control over their own life.

  • Care and education policies should focus more on children and adolescents’ well-being from the early years of life, and should pay more attention to child development of personal self-esteem, trust, and social skills. To that end, ECEC and afterschool services could make more room for play-based learning, sport training and arts education, which have a positive effect on children's cognitive, emotional and social development. The planned extension of the “after-school childcare classes” to all primary school students is a step in the right direction.

  • The Korean government has developed a community-based “all-day care framework” in a whole-of-government approach, involving the Ministries of Education, Health and Welfare, the Interior and Safety, and Gender Equality and Family, as well as local governments and local education offices. This community-based care service network will provide childcare services using school and community facilities (e.g., town halls, local libraries, and local social services), and link and expand current OSH-care programmes. Each local government is encouraged to develop its own type of community-based service network making use of local strengths. For example, greater investment in a better organisation of local service, as through the scheduled roll out of “all together care centres” which can help the delivery of “wraparound care services”, so that children are not on their own at any time during the day. Establishing partnerships between various groups of practitioners and stakeholders at the local level, and sharing of best practices in local service delivery can also help further develop high-quality cost effective services.

copy the linklink copied!4.2. Children in Korea: A busy life

4.2.1. Very young children spend a lot of time in childcare and kindergarten

Even when children are very young in Korea, they spend a considerable amount of time in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) facilities, such as day-care centres and kindergarten. Figure 4.1, Panel A, shows that in international comparison very young children in Korea spend almost 7 hours per day in ECEC-facilities, one hour more than across the OECD on average. Figure 4.1, Panel B shows that for young children under age 6, childcare facilities or kindergarten are often the main carer during the day (49%). Even in families with non-working mothers this concerns about 40% of the young children (Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2016[2]). For working mothers (and their partners), ECEC facilities are even more important in terms of care provision during the day, while grandparents are also an important source of care support for such families (Lee, 2011[3]).

Looking across the day, parents are main carers before 9.00, while childcare facilities and kindergarten are the main carers between 9.00 and 16.30-17.30 – up to 52.1% to 24.5% respectively. Relatives (grandparents and siblings) are the main carer for about 12% of the young children between 16.30 until 19.00, and less than 2% of the children under age 6 use a half-day private education after- school service or Hakwon. It is estimated that about 0.1-0.3% of children under age 6 stay alone at home from 3p.m. onwards until their parents come home from work (Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2016[2]).

On average Korean children aged 5 spend about 10 hours asleep, 7 hours in ECEC facilities, half an hour in a private education facility or Hakwon, and a bit more than 6 hours on play, using media (TV) and basic daily activities, such as eating, tending to personal hygiene, etc. (Kim et al., 2016[4]). When children move to primary school, they spend 4 hours each day in school, which is three hours less than the average ECEC hours for a 5-year old. However, a Korean 7-year old tends to spend about 2.5 hours per day more in Hakwon and/or out-of-school-hours programmes than a 5-year old enrolled in ECEC (Kim et al., 2016[4]).

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Figure 4.1. Average hours in ECEC are relatively long in Korea and for many Korean toddlers childcare centres are the main carer during the day.
Figure 4.1. Average hours in ECEC are relatively long in Korea and for many Korean toddlers childcare centres are the main carer during the day.

Notes: Panel A: Data for Switzerland refer to 2014 and for Iceland and Korea to 2015. With the exceptions of Korea and New Zealand, data are OECD estimates based on information from EU-SILC. Data refer to children using centre-based services (e.g. nurseries or day care centres and pre-schools, both public and private), organised family day care, and care services provided by (paid) professional childminders (see OECD Family Database of for more detail). For Korea, data refer to children using centre-based childcare facilities only, and are based on estimates of average daily time in centre-based childcare facilities, multiplied by five.

Sources: Panel A: The Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare (2016[2]), based on the National Childcare Survey Report 2015, http://www.mohw.go.kr/react/jb/sjb030301vw.jsp?PAR_MENU_ID=03&MENU_ID=0321&CONT_SEQ=332764&page=1, and the OECD Family Database, http://www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm. Panel B: The Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare (2016[2]) based on the National Childcare Survey Report 2015, http://www.mohw.go.kr/react/jb/sjb030301vw.jsp?PAR_MENU_ID=03&MENU_ID=0321&CONT_SEQ=332764&page=1.

The regular primary school day in Korea is not long in international comparison. A 6-year-old child in a Korean primary school spends a little less than 600 hours in school on an annual basis, compared to close to 800 hours on average for 6-year olds across the OECD (Figure 4.2, Panel A). This figure also shows that school hours are longer for 12-years olds in Korea (about 850 hours per year), but still somewhat shorter than the OECD average for this age group (OECD, 2018[5]). School hours in Korea in compulsory education increase with the age of the student. In general, a first or second year primary school student (age 6-7) is in school from 9a.m. until 1p.m., during which they attend four classes (lasting 40 minutes each), plus lunchtime. Third and fourth year students have five classes and their school day ends at 2p.m. Fifth and sixth year students have six classes per day and their school day usually ends at 3p.m. Students in lower secondary education have six or seven classes (lasting 45 minutes) per day and are in school from 9a.m. until 3 or 4p.m. Students in upper secondary education have 7 classes (lasting 50 minutes) per day and are generally in school from 9a.m. until 5p.m.

4.2.2. Korean schoolchildren study for a long time each day

The regular school day may not be long, but 82.5% of students in primary education and 69.6% of lower secondary school students participate in private education after their time in school (Figure 4.2, Panel B). In 2018, students in primary and lower secondary education spent about 6.5 hours per week in private education (Statistics Korea, 2019[6]). This number is an average throughout the year (including holidays), and does not include associated homework.

The long day of Korean children is related to their study hours after school – 4.5 to 5.5 hours per day. On a regular weekday, most Korean youngsters spend about 2 hours per day in Hakwon and/or private tutoring, while this is about half an hour during the weekend (Figure 4.3). Homework and other studies take about 3 to 3.5 hours a day on a weekday, and about 2 to 2.5 hours during the weekend. Regardless of the amount of time school and private tutoring take, the Korea adolescent survey also shows that 18.4% of children aged 9-12 are at home alone after school for at least 3 days per week. This proportion increases to almost quarter of those aged 13-18 (Korea Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 2017[7]).

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Figure 4.2. Public school hours are not long in Korea, but Korean teenagers spend more time studying than teenagers from almost all other OECD countries
Figure 4.2. Public school hours are not long in Korea, but Korean teenagers spend more time studying than teenagers from almost all other OECD countries

Sources: Panel A: OECD (2018), Education at a Glance 2018: OECD Indicators, http://www.oecd.org/education/education-at-a-glance/, and Panel B: Statistics (2019[6]) Private Education Expenditures Survey, Korea (annual publication), http://www.korea.kr/briefing/pressReleaseView.do?newsId=156321151&pageIndex=1&repCodeType=&repCode=&startDate=2008-02-29&2019-03-12&srchWord=.

Students in primary education frequently use Hakwon for childcare purposes before their parents come home from work (Statistics Korea, 2019[6]). Participation in Hakwon declines with age. In 2018, private education participation rates were 82.5% for primary school students, 69.6% for lower secondary school students, and 58.5%for upper secondary school students. The intensity of participation also declines with age: students of primary, lower secondary and upper secondary schools spend 6.5, 6.5 and 5.3 hours per week in private education, respectively. Students in primary education are more likely to attend private education for art, music, sports and leisure activities (66.4%) rather than the study of general subjects (55%).

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Figure 4.3. Children in Korea study for about 5 hours after school.
Average daily hours spent on reading and study, by type, children age 9 and age 12, Korea, 2010
Figure 4.3. Children in Korea study for about 5 hours after school.

Note: Time use surveys are a key source of information on how individuals allot their time day-to-day. Generally, participants are asked to keep a diary for one or two days per week noting their activities in ten-minute time slots from a prescribed list of activities (OECD, 2016[8]). While such detailed time-use data for Korean children does not exist, there are estimates on how Korean children spend their time based on the Korean Children and Youth Panel Survey (Jung and Jang, 2014[9]). Participants in this panel survey were asked how they spend their time with nine questions, such as ‘what time do you go to bed or get up?’, ‘how long do you spend time in hakwon or private tutoring per day?’, ‘how long do you spend time on watching TV, video, and DVD for fun per day?’ and so on. The participants considered their time-use during regular school days, weekends and school vacation, respectively (Kim et al., 2010[10]). Data presented here concern two cohorts in 2010 – Year 4 in primary school (age 9, n=2 378) and Year 1 in secondary school (age 12, n=2 351).

Source: Korean Children and Youth Panel Survey (wave 1-3, 2010-2012) from (Jung and Jang, 2014[9]).

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), provides some information on time use by 15-year old students (OECD, 2016[11]). Among students across OECD countries, Korean teenagers spend the most time in school and on their studies (Figure 4.4). Figure 4.2 Panel B suggests that the length of their study day has increased further in recent years. Figure 4.4, demonstrates how cross-country variation in total study time is driven almost entirely by homework and private study – the range on time spent in school lessons is 5 to 6 hours per day across countries, while it ranges for 2 to 5.5 hours per day for after-school study.

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Figure 4.4. Korean teenagers spend more time studying than teenagers in other OECD countries
Average time spent studying per week in regular lessons and after school, 15-year-old students, OECD and key partner countries, 2015
Figure 4.4. Korean teenagers spend more time studying than teenagers in other OECD countries

Note: Time spent studying in regular lessons refers to total learning time in all school subjects, based on students' self-reports. Time spent studying after school refers to time spent learning in addition to the required school schedule, including homework, additional instruction and private study, again based on students' self-reports. B-S-J-G (China) refers to Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Guangdong (China).

Source: OECD (2016[11]), PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264267510-en.

copy the linklink copied!4.3. Korean ECEC policy in international perspective

4.3.1. Korea has developed a comprehensive ECEC system over the past two decades

The amount of time Korean children spend in day-care and kindergarten reflects the comprehensiveness of the modern Korean ECEC system. It was not always so, but over the past two decades the ECEC system has expanded rapidly to what it is today. Since the early 2000s, the Korean Government has introduced a series of major reforms aimed at increasing the availability and affordability of formal ECEC services and backed up with considerable financial investment. Public expenditure on ECEC in Korea has increased tenfold since 2000, from less than 0.1% of GDP in 2000 to about 1% of GDP in 2016 (Figure 4.5). Today, public spending on ECEC in Korea is above the OECD average, and only below public spending on ECEC in France and the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden).

The expansion in public investment in ECEC in Korea has contributed to a dramatic increase in ECEC enrolment. National estimates on enrolment vary depending on the exact methodology used, but data collected by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which tracks enrolment at the end of each year, suggest that enrolment among 0- to 2-year olds increased from 3% in 2001 to 40.9% in 2018 (Statistics Korea, 2018[12]). Alternative data supplied by the Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI) to the OECD for international comparison, and which use 31 March (i.e. after the start of the school year) as the reference date, show an even higher rate. According to these data, in 2016, 53.4% of 0- to 2-year-olds and 93.4% of 3- to 5-year-olds in Korea were enrolled in early childhood education and care (Figure 4.6). These rates are well above the OECD averages (33.2% (0-2) and 86.3% (3-5), respectively).

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Figure 4.5. Public spending on ECEC in Korea has increased tenfold since 2000
Public expenditure on early childhood education and care, as a % of GDP, 2000 and 2015/2016a
Figure 4.5. Public spending on ECEC in Korea has increased tenfold since 2000

Note: In some countries, local governments play a key role in financing and providing childcare services. Such spending is comprehensively recorded in Nordic countries, but in some other (often federal) countries it may not be fully captured by the OECD Social Expenditure Database.

a. Data for Australia, Chile, Israel, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey, and the United States refer to 2016. Data for Poland refer to 2014. Data for all other countries refer to 2015.

Source: OECD Social Expenditure Database, https://www.oecd.org/social/expenditure.htm

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Figure 4.6. Participation in ECEC in Korea is now above the OECD average
Percent of 0- to 2-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education and care services and percent of 3- to 5-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education and care or primary education, OECD and key partner countries, 2016
Figure 4.6. Participation in ECEC in Korea is now above the OECD average

Note: For 0- to 2-year-olds: Data generally include children enrolled in early childhood education services (ISCED 2011 level 0) and other registered ECEC services (ECEC services outside the scope of ISCED 0, because they are not in adherence with all ISCED-2011), but exact definitions differ across countries. Data for Korea are based on information supplied by Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI) to the OECD, and refer to children in the given age range at the start of the given year who were attending ECEC on 31 March of the given year. Data for the United States refer to 2011, for Switzerland to 2014, and for Japan to 2015. For 3- to 5-year-olds: Data include children enrolled in early childhood education and care (ISCED 2011 level 0) and primary education (ISCED 2011 level 1). See OECD Family Database Indicator PF3.2 for more detail.

Source: OECD Family Database, Indicator PF3.2, http://www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm.

4.3.2. The balance of policy objectives

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services are central to a range of policy objectives regarding families, children, labour markets and gender equality. Access to affordable ECEC provides parents with young children with options to engage fully in paid work. Parental employment reduces family and child poverty risks, while increased labour supply fosters economic growth (Chapter 3) and tax revenue. Since mothers rather than fathers adjust their employment patterns in face of care responsibilities (OECD, 2016[13]; OECD, 2017[14]), ECEC services are especially important for women’s labour market opportunities and gender equality objectives (Jaumotte, 2003[15]; Thévenon, 2013[16]; Del Boca, 2015[17]; Olivetti and Petrongolo, 2017[18]). Furthermore, the evidence suggests that participation in high-quality ECEC also has positive effects on child cognitive and social development (Camilli et al., 2010[19]; Havnes and Mogstad, 2011[20]; OECD, 2013[21]), particularly for children from more disadvantaged backgrounds (Heckman et al., 2010[22]; Ruhm and Waldfogel, 2012[23]; Havnes and Mogstad, 2015[24]; García et al., 2016[25]).

In Korea, investment in ECEC services and family policy more broadly was largely driven by concerns about persistently low birth rates, and the development of ECEC services are a major feature in the first and second Basic Plans on Low Fertility and an Ageing Society (Chapter 1). With the development of comprehensive ECEC capacity, policy attention is increasingly turning to quality and child development concerns in ECEC in Korea, while the gender equality objective has emerged as a major issue in the low fertility and ageing society policy roadmap for the period 2018 to 2022 (Chapter 1).

All OECD governments support and help fund early childhood education and care in one way or another, but cross-country differences in policy objectives affects the mix of policy measures. It is therefore no surprise that, across countries, the scale of support and the means and methods of delivering assistance are diverse. Some OECD countries, like the Nordic countries, provide comprehensive publicly-operated ECEC systems, with all children entitled to a heavily-subsidised place in public centre-based care from a young age (often around their first birthday). Others (e.g. Australia, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) make greater use of cash supports and demand-side (fiscal) subsidies directed at parents, with the provision of services themselves left largely to the market, at least for very young children.

However, for a coherent policy discharge, it is vital that the different family policy tools fit together neatly, and do not leave families with gaps in support during the early life-course: parental leave, ECEC, primary education and out-of-school-hours care policies should all be framed in a consistent continuum of supports for families. For both equity and efficiency considerations, it is important that policy starts to invest in families with children early in childhood, while many OECD countries still leave it until the kindergarten or primary school years for investment to take shape (Adema, 2012[26]).

4.3.3. A comprehensive range of ECEC services in Korea

The ECEC system in Korea involves a comprehensive range of services for children under school age. There are three main types of ECEC supports: centre-based day-care, kindergarten, and childminding services at home. Support for centre-based day-care services is available to the parents of all children aged 0-5, (all-day) home-based childminding services are targeted at children aged between 3 months and 3 years old, while kindergarten is for children aged 3 to 5 (Figure 4.7). Parents can receive support for the use of only one of these services at any one time, so they must choose between the three options. However, they can also receive public support for additional “out-of-hours” childminding services – to be used during the weekends and outside usual day-care hours (9a.m. – 5p.m.) – and before/after-kindergarten services (from 9a.m. – 2p.m.) – even if their children use centre-based services during the day. Parents who do not use any of the three main types of ECEC supports can access a home care allowance that provides financial support towards full-time parental care (parents claiming the home care allowance can access the out-of-hours childminding service).

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Figure 4.7. Parents in Korea are entitled to public support for a range of different support services
Figure 4.7. Parents in Korea are entitled to public support for a range of different support services

Source: OECD.

Centre-based care facilities

In 1995, there were fewer than 10 000 centre-based day-care facilities in Korea (Figure 4.8, Panel A) serving about 300 000 children (Figure 4.8, Panel B) – about seven in every 100 children aged 0 to 5. Over the two decades since, however, the number of facilities has grown by more than four times to 39 171 in 2018. Over the same period, the number of children enrolled in centre-based day-care has increased by almost five times, to 1 415 000 or roughly one in every two children aged 0 to 5. Much of this growth has come through a rapid expansion of facilities operated by private owners or by parents’ associations. They dominate the current day-care market in Korea as they operated around 72% of day-care facilities in 2018 (Figure 4.8, Panel A).

The rapid development of centre-based day-care services in Korea was driven in large part by the introduction and gradual extension of two complimentary public supports: a public subsidy for centre-based day care service providers, and a fee subsidy for parents using centre-based services.

Historically, subsidies for day-care service providers in Korea were directed largely only at public facilities. Government support for private facilities was limited and covered only teaching materials (Sung, 2006[27]), resulting in a preference among many parents for public services, which were often cheaper and higher in quality. In 2006, the Korean government established the “First Plan for Childcare” (2006-2010) which aimed to strengthen the role of the state and enhance the quality of all centre-based day-care services. As part of this plan, a universal “basic subsidy” equal to the standard care cost per child minus the user fee per child, was made available to all childcare facilities for children 0-2, regardless of whether they were publicly or privately owned. The level of the basic subsidy varies by the age of the child. In 2019, the basic subsidy for private day-care facilities varies from KRW 485 000 (USD 441) per child per month for children aged 0 to KRW 197 000 (USD 179) per child per month for children aged 2.

In addition to this basic subsidy to service providers, the Korean government also provides a tuition fee subsidy to parents whose children use centre-based day-care services. When first introduced in 1992, the fee subsidy was means-tested on household income, and until reform in the mid-2000s, it was provided only to parents with very low incomes, close to the absolute poverty threshold applied by the National Basic Livelihood Support Programme: 30% of median income or KRW 501 000 (USD 455) per month (OECD, 2018[28]). However, from 2004 onwards, the income-test was gradually phased out, while the tuition subsidy fee payment rate increased. In 2005, all children aged 5 became entitled to the subsidy regardless of household income level, while a series of adjustments in 2005, 2008 and 2011 increased the income threshold on the income-test for children aged 0-4. In 2013, the income test was abolished altogether, effectively granting the tuition fee to all parents of all children aged 0-5. As of 2019, the subsidy ranges from KRW 454 000 (USD 413) per child per month for children aged 0 to KRW 220 000 (USD 200) per child per month for children aged 3-5.

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Figure 4.8. The rapid development of centre-based care between 1995 and 2015
Centre-based day-care facilities and the number of children enrolled in centre-based day-care facilities by type, Korea, 1995-2018
Figure 4.8. The rapid development of centre-based care between 1995 and 2015

Note: For Panel B, data refer to absolute enrolment in centre-based day-care facilities as of 31 December each year. According to census-based population projection data from Statistics Korea, on 1 July 2018 there were 2 576 000 children aged 0-5 in Korea, producing an enrolment rate of approximately 55%.

Source: Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare (2018[29]), Childcare Statistics, https://central.childcare.go.kr/.

Kindergarten

Kindergarten has a longer history than centre-based day-care in Korea. Reforms in the early 1980s started an increase in the number of facilities (Figure 4.9). The 1991 Child Care Act widened the eligible age range for kindergarten from 4-5 to 3-5 year-olds, and also shifted the focus of kindergarten away slightly from ‘childcare’ towards education. These reforms were supported by an expansion of public subsidies and financial supports, and in 2015 the expansion of large kindergarten facilities led to a considerable increase in the number of children attending kindergarten that year.

A tuition fee subsidy for parents with children in kindergarten was introduced in 1999, which similar to the fee subsidy for centre-based day-care, was initially means-tested and available only to children aged 5 from low-income families in rural areas. However, a series of reforms across the 2000s saw eligibility for the subsidy widened to 3- and 4-year-olds, and the income-test slowly phased out. By 2012, all 5-year-olds were entitled to the subsidy regardless of the level of household income, and with the introduction of the Nuri Curriculum in 2013 (see the quality section below), the income-test was abolished altogether. Today, the tuition fee subsidy is available to all children aged 3-5 who are enrolled in kindergarten, and is worth KRW 60 000 (USD 55) per child per month for children in national and public kindergarten, and KRW 220 000 (USD 200) per child per month for children in private kindergarten. Similar to the subsidy for centre-based day-care, the introduction and expansion of the tuition fee subsidy has contributed to a large increase in the number and especially share of children enrolled in kindergarten facilities. In 2000, for instance, only about 550 000 (roughly a quarter) of 3- to 5-year-olds were enrolled in kindergarten; by 2015, once the income-test had been abolished, this had increased to approximately 680 000, or about half of all 3- to 5-year-olds (Figure 4.9, Panel A).

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Figure 4.9. The development of Kindergarten started in the early 1980s
The number of kindergarten facilities and the number of children enrolled in kindergarten by type, Korea, 1970-2018
Figure 4.9. The development of Kindergarten started in the early 1980s

Note: For Panel B, data refer to absolute enrolment in kindergarten as of 1 April each year. According to census-based population projection data from Statistics Korea, on 1 July 2018 there were 1 330 000 children aged 3-5 in Korea, producing an enrolment rate of approximately 51%.

Source: Korean Ministry of Education (2018), Education Statistics, http://www.index.go.kr.

Childcare costs in Korea

As result of Korea’s decades-long effort to introduce and expand childcare supports, Korea now has some of the lowest, typical out-of-pocket childcare costs in the OECD (Figure 4.10). The subsidies provided to publicly supported facilities mean that fees are low in comparison to many other OECD countries, and the now-universal cash supports given to parents help reduce net costs even further. For a single-parent household in Korea making 67% of average full-time earnings, the net costs of childcare for two children (aged 2 and 3) equates to just 4.9% of the average wage (AW, see Chapter 2). This is almost half the OECD average for this type of family (8.5%). Net costs are actually very slightly lower still for a typical dual-earner couple family – just 3.0% of the national average full-time wage.1 This is far below the OECD average for this family type (14.6%), and less than a tenth of what a similar family would pay in countries like the United States (33.2%) and the United Kingdom (35.7%).

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Figure 4.10. Childcare costs are low in Korea
Out-of-pocket childcare costs for a two-child family as a proportion (%) of the national average full-time wage (AW), by family type, 2018
Figure 4.10. Childcare costs are low in Korea

Note: Data reflect the net cost (gross fees less childcare benefits/rebates and tax deductions, plus any resulting changes in other benefits received following the use of childcare and/or change in family income) of full-time care in a typical childcare centre for two-child family with children aged 2 and 3. Gross earnings for the two earners in the 'dual-earning two-child couple family' are set equal to 100% of average earnings for the first earner and 67% of average earnings for the second earner. Those for the single earner in the 'single-parent two-child family' are set to 67% of average earnings. 'Full-time' care is defined as care for at least 40 hours per week. Where benefit rules are not determined on a national level but vary by region or municipality, results refer to a “typical” case (e.g. Michigan in the United States, the capital in some other countries). See the OECD Tax and Benefit Systems website (http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/benefits-and-wages.htm) for more detail on the methods and assumptions used and information on the policies modelled for each country.

Source: OECD Tax and Benefit Models 2018, http://www.oecd.org/social/benefits-and-wages/.

Childminding services at home

Korean policy also provides financial support to parents using childminders at home outside of regular hours (Box 4.1). Originally introduced in 2007 as a measure to help parents who work unusual hours, often away on business, or to help in case of child illness, the service has since been adjusted several times. In 2019, there are two types of childminding services:

  1. 1. Parents with children aged between 3 months to and 3 years can access 200 hours of all-day childminding per month. Only parents whose children do not use day-care or kindergarten and who do not claim the home care allowance can access this service. Support is income-tested and the parental fee ranges from KRW 1 930 (USD 2) to KRW 9 650 (USD 9) per hour (no fee support).

  2. 2. Parents with children aged between 3 months and 12 years can access 720 hours of “part-time” childminding per year. Support is income-tested and ranges from KRW 1 447 (USD 1) to a maximum fee of KRW 9 650 (USD 9) per hour for a “childcare-only” service; and, from KRW 4 374 (USD 4) to KRW 12 550 (USD 11) per hour for a “childcare and childcare-related chore” service (such as washing children’s clothing and bedding, cleaning a child’s room, preparing snacks and washing dishes).

The use of these at-home childminding services is limited, even though use has doubled over the 2010-2018 period (Korea Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 2018[30]). In 2018, around 60 000 families used the “part-time” service, while about 4 500 families used the all-day service. In both cases, this amounts to less than 1% of eligible children. The services were provided to 94 000 children in 2018, or about 1.7% of eligible children (there were about 5.6 million children up to age 12.)

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Box 4.1. Before/after-kindergarten services

The “part-time” childminding service is not the only out-of-hours service available to parents with children 0-5. The usual kindergarten service hours are from around 9a.m. to 1 or 2p.m. In Seoul, kindergartens can offer three services, an extended service from 9a.m. to 5p.m., and EDUCARE service from 7a.m. to 5p.m. and 3.00/14.00), and an all-day service from 7a.m. to 10p.m. (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, 2018[31]).

Since 2012, the Korean government provides a fee subsidy to parents using the out-of-hours kindergarten services: KRW 50 000 (USD 45) per month for users of national and public kindergartens, and KRW 70 000 per month for users of private kindergartens. In 2016, 99.6 per cent of kindergartens in Korea provided out-of-hours services, and 67.7% of children enrolled in kindergartens used the service (Kim, Lee and Cho, 2016[32]).

The Korean Home Care Allowance

Korean policy also provides support to parents who care for their young children (0-5) at home. The home care allowance was introduced in July 2009 and this cash transfer is conditional on the non-use of childcare- kindergarten and full-time childminding services (part-time use of childminding services is compatible with receipt of the home care allowance). At introduction, the benefit was limited to low-income households with children not yet 2 years of age. However, eligibility was widened to 2-year-olds in 2011 and in 2013, the income-test was abolished and coverage extended to 3-5 year-olds. Payments are set at KRW 200 000 (USD 182) per month for children under 12 months, KRW 150 000 (USD 136) per month for children age 1, and KRW 100 000 (USD 91) per month for children age 2-6, or about 5%, 3.7%, and 2.5% of the average wage (AW, see Chapter 2), respectively. The allowance is payable until December of the year in which the child turns 7.

The home care allowance has been popular, especially after 2013, when the income test was abolished and eligibility widened to 3-5 year-olds. In 2010, the home care allowance was claimed by parents of about 50 000 children, but by 2013, the number of claimants had jumped to just over 1 000 000 or 37% of the children aged 0-5. Since then, take-up has declined by 200 000 children particularly among 2 to 5-year old children (Figure 4.11). Parents of very young children (including those on maternity/parental leave) often claim the home care allowance: in 2018, almost 600 000 parents with children 0 to 2 (about 50% of this age group) years old claimed the home care allowance. In comparison, about 36% of all children in this age group participated in ECEC.

Korea is not the only OECD country to provide the parents of young children with a home-care allowance. Finland operates a relatively similar policy for parents with young children, as does Norway for parents with children aged between 1 and 2 years old. From a public finance perspective these home care allowances are generally less costly than providing all children with a subsidised spot in a formal ECEC facility (OECD, 2007[33]; OECD, 2011[34]; Thévenon, 2016[35]). However, because the home-care allowance is lost as soon as parents make use of formal ECEC, they also provide single parents and second earners in couple-families (typically the mother) with financial incentives not to be in paid work – especially for parents with limited potential labour market earnings. As a result, home-care allowances may discourage labour market participation when children are young, diminishing mothers’ longer-term career opportunities and earnings progression which has immediate and long-term effects on family incomes and poverty risks (OECD, 2007[33]; OECD, 2011[34]).

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Figure 4.11. The home came allowance became popular when the income test was abolished in 2013
Number of children whose parents claimed the home care allowance, 2010-2018
Figure 4.11. The home came allowance became popular when the income test was abolished in 2013

Source: Statistics Korea (2018), Index.go.kr, http://www.index.go.kr/potal/stts/idxMain/selectPoSttsIdxMainPrint.do?idx_cd=3023&board_cd=INDX_001.

Promoting quality in ECEC

Having rolled out an extensive system, the ECEC policy focus is increasing towards improving quality. Quality issues play a key-role around tightening regulations on the ECEC workforce (OECD, 2019[36]) and ECEC facilities, standardising the ECEC curriculum, and strengthening quality monitoring, also through periodic assessments and accreditation programmes.

Developing and disseminating a standardised ECEC curriculum is a clear way of ensuring quality of ECEC across the country. As part of this approach, the Nuri Curriculum was introduced as a nationwide common curriculum at kindergarten and day-care centres for children aged 5 in 2012 and children aged 3-4 in 2013. Regardless of whether enrolled in a centre-based day-care facility or a kindergarten, children aged 3-5 take a common nationwide course of study covering health and physical activities, communications, social skills, art, music and drama, and mathematical and scientific approaches. The Nuri curriculum is implemented in ECEC-services for four to five hours a day, including lunchtime – generally from 9a.m. until 1 or 2p.m.

Another measure to guarantee the good quality of ECEC services is the ECEC quality accreditation programme for centre-based childcare facilities and kindergarten. Korea established frameworks for monitoring the quality of ECEC services in centre-based childcare facilities in 2005 and kindergarten in 2007, respectively (OECD, 2012[37]).

With regard to ECEC services in Korea, the central support centre for childcare plays an important role through service accreditation, professional training, operational support for services and information to parents. Its role could be strengthened to train more professionals in new educational approaches, and develop the necessary partnerships between the various actors and resources existing at the local level. Developing guidelines and/or a repository of good practices, such as those listed for example by the Swiss Academy for Development (SAD, 2015[38]), can also help enhance the development of high quality cost effective services.

In 2019, the tasks of central childcare support centre are delegated to the Korea Child Promotion Institute. This institute assesses the quality of ECEC services upon request from a centre-based facility. The assessment concerns care environment, management, childcare programmes, interactions with infants/children and care workforce, teaching methods, health, nutrition, and safety (Child Care Act, 2019[39]). The results – three grades A, B or C for a pass, and D if the centre fails to meet the minimum criteria, are made public; childcare facilities that successfully passed the assessment can put up the relevant quality sign of accreditation. This accreditation assessment will be mandatory to all centre-based childcare facilities from June 2019 onwards.

Another government approach to ensure the quality of ECEC is to bring private facilities into the public sphere. While the Korean parents prefer public centre-based childcare facilities to private ones, private owners run three-quarters of childcare facilities (Figure 4.8). To reduce the discrepancy, the government has operated an “official recognition programme” since 2011, which assesses private centre-based childcare facilities, and awards good quality facilities the label “Childcare facility of public standard”. Childcare facilities are denoted as such for a three-year period, and the qualification is renewable. Private centres that have passed the test, receive government subsidies towards wage costs, overhead costs, and facility-improvement costs (Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2018[40]). The number of private facilities of public standard has almost quadrupled over the last nine years – from 679 in 2011 to 2 356 in 2018 across the country – and these centres now cover 7.3% of children enrolled in childcare facilities in 2018 (Korea Childcare Promotion Institute, 2018[41]). A similar programme was introduced in Seoul in 2009 (Ahn and Park, 2010[42]), and since then about 47% of the centre-based childcare facilities – 2 955 out of 6 226 – have officially been recognised as a “Seoul-type childcare facility” (Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2018[43]).

With the enactment of the Early Childhood Education Act in 2004. The legal grounds for the assessment of kindergartens were laid and in 2007, the Ministry of Education introduced a kindergarten assessment programme on a pilot basis that was rolled out nationwide in 2008, and transferred the assessment authority to 17 local education offices in 2012 (Seoul Early Childhood Education & Promotion Centre, 2018[44]). Local education offices assess the quality of all kindergartens in their jurisdiction. The quality assessment tool evaluates the ECEC curriculum, the environment and management practice, health and safety, and workforce standards (Korea Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 2018[30]). Local education offices also utilise the kindergarten assessment exercise to provide educational supervision and consulting. The Ministry of Education and the Korea Education and Research Information Service (KERIS) also operate a website with kindergarten information on a range of items including, the status of kindergarten facilities, current status of school staff, student safety and kindergarten assessment results.

copy the linklink copied!4.4. Education and care for children in primary and secondary education

4.4.1. The Korean education system

Korea has a 6-3-3 education system for primary and secondary education consisting of six years of primary education (age 6-12), three years of lower secondary (age 12-15), and three years of upper secondary education – either academic or vocational (age 15-18). Children who turn 6 in a given year are required to enter primary school on March of the following year. School principals have discretion in setting holidays, but generally, the school year has two semesters, of which the first runs from March to July and the second from late August until late December. School years include at least 220 school days per annum (Enforcement Decree of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 2017[45]), and participation is compulsory (and free of charge) for primary and lower secondary education (age 6-15). By 2021 upper secondary education is also planned to be free of charge, but participation is not compulsory (Korea Ministry of Education, 2019[46]).

Those who graduate from upper secondary school are qualified to enter tertiary education – university with four to six year bachelor’s degrees, or junior college (vocational courses) with tertiary degrees after two or three years. Those who complete bachelor’s degrees at university can enrol in master’s degrees – normally two years long. If successful, students can apply for a doctoral degree (Table 4.1).

Students can enter a university through a “regular admission” or an “early admission” application process. Universities often also run special admission procedures for those from disadvantageous backgrounds such as low-income families, agricultural and fishery areas, or North Korean defectors. In case of the regular admission process recruitment, universities use applicants’ College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT) scores and a performance test (depending on the department of choice). In the course of the “early admission” application, students prepare a dossier of academic and non-academic records, take an essay test arranged by the university, or a performance test depending on the type of study. In their assessment, university admission officers give greater weight to broad criteria (teacher recommendations, service projects, extra-curricular activities, employment experience) other than CSAT-scores, and often set up individual interviews. Giving greater weight to broader assessment criteria within university entrance procedures, would reduce the demand for Hakwon, which include a strong focus on preparing students for the university entrance exam (OECD, 2014[47]). There is a need for caution as reliance on more subjective criteria opens up opportunities for favouritism, but the reliance on multiple-choice exams provides legitimacy to the university entrance process (OECD, 2014[47]). In any case, since the introduction of “early admission” application procedures in 1997, the number of students who achieve university admission in this manner has increased each year and concerned 76.2% of all new entrants of 2019 (Cho, 2018[48]).

Young people invest heavily in their education and tend to spend a long time preparing for entry exams to large companies and/or the public sector. Most of the Korean university students take one or more semesters off to obtain additional qualifications to improve their labour market chances. The qualifications involved – referred as ‘Spec’ (specifications) in Korea – include career experiences like internships, volunteer activities, English language certificates, etc. In all, it takes Korean students just over 5 years to graduate: 4.7 years for young women, and 5.8 years for young men who also have to serve in the armed forces; the duration of the period varies a little by the type of armed service (e.g. Air Force, Army Navy), but is close to 2 years.

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Table 4.1. The Korean Education system

Age

Level of education

Compulsory

Duration

3-6

Pre-primary education at kindergarten

Non-compulsory

3 years

6-12

Primary education at primary school

Compulsory

6 years

12-15

Upper secondary education at high school

Compulsory

3 years

Admissions criteria

15-18

Academic upper secondary school

Vocational upper secondary school

Non-compulsory

3 years

College Aptitude Test (CSAT)

Tertiary education

18+

University

Junior College

Non-compulsory

2-4 years

Source: National Center on Education and the Economy (2019[49]), South Korea: Learning Systems, http://ncee.org/what-we-do/center-on-international-education-benchmarking/top-performing-countries/south-korea-overview/south-korea-instructional-systems/.

4.4.2. Out-of-school-hours care services

Children in the compulsory education system are often in school from 9a.m. to 3p.m. (as discussed above, the length of the school-day increases with age), but such regular school hours are incompatible with a full-time working week, especially in Korea with its long hours culture, and school holidays are always longer than workers’ annual leave entitlements (OECD, 2017[50]).

The Korean Ministry of Education provides two main types of out-of-school-hours services for school-age children, both of which are provided on the school premises.

  • “After-school education” (until around 5p.m.) is available in almost all schools from primary school right through to upper-secondary school, and provides children with a range of curricular and extra-curricular education activities, depending on age. The programme aims to supplement the formal education curriculum, improve educational attainment, develop aptitude through the arts, music and sports activities, and reduce the burden of private education costs on households. The programme is open to all students, but only children from low-income families are not charged a fee: in 2018, free admission was granted to about 626 211 students or 21.4% of students that participated in the programme and 11.2% of all students enrolled in primary and secondary schools (Korea Ministry of Education, 2019[51]).

  • “After-school childcare” provides students mainly in the first and second years of primary school with a range of care, play and education activities after the end of the regular school day. In 2018, about 97% of primary schools provided OSH-care until 5p.m., and 24% also provided an evening service until 10p.m. (Korea Ministry of Education, 2019[52]). The programme is subsidised and is largely free of charge (for example, meals and refreshments can be charged). The full cost of care is provided free of charge to children from low-income households. (Korea Ministry of Education, 2019[52])

In addition to the services provided in schools by the Ministry of Education, several other smaller-scale publicly supported OSH-care services are available. Examples include the after-school academies – services for children from disadvantaged backgrounds that aim to support the personal, social, health and educational development of children aged 9-14 – and the freshly-piloted ‘all-together care centres’, which are publicly-run centres aiming to provide care services for children age 6-12 (Box 4.2). There are also community childcare centres – small, local centres, often run by individuals, non-governmental organisations or religious groups under the supervision of the local government – that provide a range of education and care services to children of all ages. Such centres are typically open five days per week and eight hours per day, including the core opening hours of 2p.m. to 7p.m. during school terms and 12p.m. to 5p.m. during school holidays. In 2017, 30.3% of community childcare centres were open on Saturdays, and 41.4% were open after 8p.m. The centres are not government run, but are subsidised, and services are generally free with a few exceptions. There are about 4 000 community childcare centres that receive a government subsidy serving about 100 000 children (Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2018[53]), mostly in the age group 6 to 14 (Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare, 2018[53]).

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Box 4.2. All-together care centres

According to the 2015 Korean Family Survey, 37% of children enrolled in primary school spend at least one hour at home alone after returning from school or other facilities. The survey also indicates that demand for services is highest between 2 and 8p.m. with peak demand between 4 and 6p.m.

As part of the policy agenda set by the Moon JaeIn administration, seventeen pilot programmes were set up under a whole-of-government approach (Korean government, 2018[54]), including the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the Ministry of the Interior and Safety (Public facilities), local governments and local education offices. The basic idea of all together care centres is to establish a community-based care service network, providing childcare services including temporary and urgent care, transport to and from schools, help with schoolwork, and offer meals. Each selected local government proposes its own type of all-together care centre, including different mixes of services, making use of local strengths. It is scheduled to have about 1 800 such centres across the country by 2022.

Local governments have their own reasons to engage in the programme. For example Gwacheon city in the wider Seoul Metropolitan region, has a local birth rate of less than one child per women. Gwacheon city invests in all-together centres to help address work/life balance and low-birth rate issues and to support the status of women in the community.

In 2016, 59.3% of all primary school students attended after-school education classes, whereas in 2018, 13.4% attended after-school childcare services and community childcare centres (these numbers are not additive as some children may be attending more than one service). A few other OECD countries have developed extensive out-of-school-hours (OSH) services for school-age children, and made it affordable by either subsidising the costs or offering free services to low-income families. For instance, in Denmark and Sweden over 60% of children aged 6 to 11 go to centre-based OSH services during a typical week. However, in most OECD countries, OSH-care services remain under-developed, and on average less than one in three children aged 6 to 11 are able to use centre-based OSH services during a usual week.

The high participation in after education classes that run until 5p.m. is related to the relatively short hours in primary education (see above). The limited participation in after-school childcare services and community-based services suggests, however, that there is considerable need for an extension of after-school-hours supports, especially after 5p.m. in view of the prevailing long working hours culture.

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Figure 4.12. Participation in out-of-school-hours services is highest in Korea, Denmark and Sweden
Proportion of 6- to 11-year-olds using centre-based out-of-school-hours services, 2016
Figure 4.12. Participation in out-of-school-hours services is highest in Korea, Denmark and Sweden

Note: Data for the United States refer to 2011, for Iceland and Switzerland to 2014, and for Australia to 2017. Data for Australia refer to children aged 6 to 12, for Japan to children aged 7 to 11, and for the United States to children aged 5 to 11. Data for Korea refer to children attending primary school. Data generally reflect the proportion of children who use centre-based out-of-school-hours care services for at least one hour during a usual week, cover the use of services offered before and/or after school hours only, and do not cover 'school-going' children who use centre-based care services only during school holidays or only on days when schools are closed. Exact definitions differ across countries; see OECD Family Database (http://www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm) Indicator PF4.3 for more detail. Data for Korea refer to primary school students attending after school education classes only, and do not cover children attending other types of out-of-school-hours services. As a result, they likely under-estimate the actual share of children using OSH services.

Source: OECD Family Database, Indicator PF 4.3, http://www.oecd.org/els/family/database.htm, and Korean Ministry of Education, Statistics on After-School Education, https://moe.go.kr/boardCnts/view.do?boardID=316&boardSeq=76304&lev=0&searchType=null&statusYN=W&page=1&s=moe&m=0302&opType=N.

4.4.3. Private education

Education in Korea is widely regarded as the key to individual progress and social mobility. Therefore, there is widespread investment in education by parents. To position one’s children as well as possible for entry into prestigious universities and colleges, parents make use of after-school educational programmes, Hakwon, and/or private tutors to ensure that academic records and entrance exam preparations leave nothing to be desired. It is a fiercely competitive environment in which no parent wants to blink first. as a result, children spend long days in school, Hakwon, and carrying out associated homework (Box 4.3).

Private education in Korea is independent from formal education and incurs additional cost. Practice varies from one-to-one private tutoring by undergraduates or professional tutors, to collective examinational preparatory courses, after-hours cramming schools (e.g. Juku in Japan and Hakwon in Korea), and/or full-scale preparatory examination schools (Baker, 2005[55]). In addition, foreign language education, also through home and e-learning (possibly with teachers checking on progress), has grown exponentially (Figure 4.13).

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Box 4.3. Origins and development of private education

Hakwon appeared in Korea in the late nineteen century as private education institutions, which transferred western culture including English, mathematics, modern music, and fine arts (Park and Back, 2016[56]). In the 20th century up to the end of WWII, private education institutions provided information on civil rights and national identity, but also provided skills and vocational training.

In the immediate aftermath of WWII until 1960, the private education market started to develop, as the rigid caste system collapsed and people started to realise that education may hold the key to a better future for their children. In particular, the introduction of the university qualification exam created new demands for private education in English and Mathematics.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the use of private education – particularly Hakwon – for the preparation of entrance exams and supplementary tutoring grew rapidly. This was driven by strong competition for entrance into secondary schools (primary education became compulsory in 1959), increased disposable household income, and latent high education zeal of parents brought up in the Confucian tradition (Yoom, 1997[57]). Since 1968, access to lower secondary education no longer requires passing an entrance exam, but it mainly meant that competitions shifted towards entrance exams in upper secondary education.

Already in the 1960s, academic performance served as an elite selection criterion and entrance into the best secondary schools and universities were closely linked to occupational outcomes (Park and Back, 2016[56]). This fuelled the rapid expansion of the private education market expanded until the military government banned students from taking private tutoring and attending Hakwon in 1980, to achieve a fair playing field and equal opportunities in education. The ban curtailed the private education market, but also led to new forms tutoring such as the “TV tutor” broadcasting service on public TV, and daily visit tutoring services with textbooks and recorded education tapes (Kang and Choi, 2014[58]).

Under public pressure, the ban on private education was gradually lifted – in 1989 the law on establishment and management of Hakwon was introduced and fully liberalised by 2000, when the Constitutional Court ruled the restrictions on private education unconstitutional.

The introduction during the 1990s of English language education in primary schools, the CSAT, essay tests and university admission exams in the 2000s, all increased demand for supplementary education and the emergence of “enterprise-type" Hakwon in the private education market (Yeo and Um, 2015[59]). In addition, service sector trade liberalisation in 1995 facilitated foreign investment, while the spread of broadband networks and personal computers facilitated the development of on-line education platforms.

Private education has negative effects on both the physical and mental health of students and household finances. In addition, since household income is closely linked with outlays and participation in private education – low-income families make least use of these services, the heavy reliance on private education reduces equality of opportunity prompting the government to take measures to reduce its role (KIm, 2009[60]) (OECD, 2014[47]). One approach is to enhance the quality of public education by, for example, reducing student-teacher ratios. Another approach is to provide alternative services: for example, the Korean government has developed EBS (Korea Education Broadcasting System) and after-school classes in primary and secondary education. More direct intervention measures include limiting opening hours of Hakwon and/or disclosure of tuition fees, but these measures have only had limited impact (Kim and Kang, 2017[61]). (Kim and Kang, 2017[61]) (Yeo and Um, 2015[59]). Giving greater weight to broader assessment criteria within university entrance procedures (as discussed above), would reduce the demand for Hakwon. The extension of school hours in primary education and subsidised after-school classes would also help.

Source: The history and meaning of private education market development in Korea (Park and Back, 2016[56]) and the growth of private education industry in metropolitan area and spatial change (Park and Lee, 2015[62])

From an educational perspective, supplementary education encompasses two notions, a “remedial approach”, which helps students catch up and/or relearn previously studied material, while the “extending learning approach” supports other students (who often already do well in school) to further improve their knowledge and academic performance. Private education often pursues both of these approaches. On average across OECD countries and accounting for students’ socioeconomic status, students who spend at least 60 hours per week on schoolwork, perform worse than those who study 40 hours (see (OECD, 2016[63]) as well as (Baker, 2001[64]) (Baker, 2005[55]) (Mori, 2010[65]). This suggest that overall across the OECD, remedial private tutoring is important. However, in Korea and major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, studying 60 hours or more per week is associated with large improvements in academic performance (OECD, 2016[63]), which suggests that the “extending learning” element in these private education systems plays an important role. Students with better academic performance are also more likely to participate in and spend more on private education (OECD, 2016[63]).

Survey data suggest that the main reason for participating in private education for compulsory school students is to reinforce knowledge of components of the regular school curricula and supplement it where possible. However, there is some variation with age. Children in primary education also engage in private tutoring for childcare purposes while those in lower and upper secondary education also engage in private education to prepare for entrance exams for upper secondary education and universities, respectively (Statistics Korea, 2019[6]).

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Figure 4.13. The private education industry has expanded markedly since the early 1990s.
Figure 4.13. The private education industry has expanded markedly since the early 1990s.

Note: Only general teaching Hakwon included; public education institutes and institutes for skills and arts are not included.

Source: National Business Survey, Statistics Korea (each year), http://kosis.kr/statHtml/statHtml.do?orgId=101&tblId=DT_1K51002&conn_path=I3.

Private education expenditures have increased rapidly since the early 1990s, although its growth was interrupted by the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997/8. Over the years, private education spending quadrupled from KRW 5 646 billion in 1994 to KRW 19 458 billion in 2018. However, wealth grew even faster, so over the same period private education spending fell 1.5 to 1.1% of GDP. Over the same period, as the number of students started to fall with the ongoing demographic transformation, outlays per student per month increased from KRW 220 000 in 2007 to KRW 291 000 (USD 265) in 2018 (Statistics Korea, 2008[66]; Statistics Korea, 2019[6]). The evidence also suggests that most of the revenue is concentrated in a limited number of firms, in 2008 the top 20% of institutes took 75% of the market-share (Korea Ministry of Education, 2008[67]).

Given the development of the private education market, it is no surprise that household spending on private education has increased markedly over the last 35 years. Figure 4.14 shows that since 1982, the proportion of monthly household consumption spending on private education (including tertiary education) increased from 1% to 7%. This is a considerable amount of money, which may well have an impact on the willingness of prospective parents to have (more) children (Chapter 5).

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Figure 4.14. Private education is a growing part of household spending
Private education spending as a proportion of household consumption spending, Korea, 1982-2016
Figure 4.14. Private education is a growing part of household spending

Note: Household private education expenditure per month includes private supplementary education for student under secondary education provided in Hakwon.

Source: Korea Household Income and Expenditure Survey, Statistics Korea (each year), http://kosis.kr/statHtml/statHtml.do?orgId=101&tblId=DT_1L9H002&conn_path=I3.

The growth of the private education market is often related to Korea being an academic achievement-oriented society, where people believe education is the best way to achieve social mobility (Ahn and Baek, 2012[68]; Anderson and Kohler, 2013[69]). Kim and Lee (2010[70]) also saw the desire to pass entrance exams for prestigious universities as the cause of the growth of private education services. Shouse (2011[71]) found that this also concerns low-income families, as they see education as the key to upward social mobility.

In terms of educational mobility (i.e. whether an individual has lower, the same or higher educational attainment than his/her parents), Korea comes first among OECD countries (Figure 4.15, Panel A). However, as the education-base has widened across generations, the scope of further educational mobility is diminishing, particularly when compared with the generation of older workers, aged 55 to 65 (Figure 4.15, Panel B).

Korea has also been doing well in facilitating educational prowess among students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Korea has the fourth highest share of ‘resilient’ students in the OECD, behind Japan, Estonia and Finland (plus also B-S-J-G China), suggesting that coming from a disadvantaged background is much less of a barrier to high performance in Korea than it is in many other countries (OECD, 2018[72]). However, while educational mobility is high, this does not necessarily translate into earnings mobility, the pervasive characteristics of the dual labour market in Korea, and limited occupational mobility attests to that.

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Figure 4.15. Upward educational mobility is high in Korea, although it has fallen slightly among the youngest generation
Figure 4.15. Upward educational mobility is high in Korea, although it has fallen slightly among the youngest generation

Note: Latest available year refers to 2015 for Chile, Greece, Israel, New Zealand, Slovenia and Turkey and 2012 for remaining countries. Data for Belgium refers to Flanders and for the United Kingdom to England and Northern Ireland.

Source: OECD (2018[73]), Equity in Education: Breaking Down Barriers to Social Mobility, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264073234-en.

4.4.4. A focus on children

Compared to most other countries, Korean children spend a very long in time in school and after school studying to prepare for public or private school-classes. This may foster their chances of completing tertiary education, but it does not guarantee children’s happiness or the realisation of their full potential. The evidence suggests that the competitive university entrance exams shape Korean adolescents’ daily life experiences, and contribute to high rates of depression (Lee and Larson, 2000[74]). More recently, Fawaz and Lee (2016[75]) showed that spending long hours in private tutoring may adversely affect subjective well-being of adolescents, depending on their parents' aspirations with respect to their education. When parents and children have the same educational aspirations there is no issue, but if parents and children do not have similar aspirations, then the number of hours spent in private tutoring negatively affects subjective well-being and increases adolescents’ risk of depression.

Compared to other OECD countries, Korea performs relatively well on many (though not all) measures of child well-being (Table 4.1). For example, children in Korea enjoy disposable incomes that are moderate by OECD standards, and a risk of relative income poverty that is just above the OECD average. Then again, the long school days and working hours in Korea contribute to a relatively high share of 15-year-olds (10%) reporting that they fail to talk to their parents before or after school on the most recent day they attended school (Thévenon, 2018[76]).

Korea often performs particularly well on measures of children’s well-being in education and at school. For example, a comparatively high share of 15-year-olds say they feel like they ‘belong’ at school (80%, compared to an OECD average of 73%), and a relatively low share report being the victim of bullying at least a few times a month (12%, compared to an OECD average of 19%). Average scores on the OECD PISA reading and mathematics tests are also high in comparison to many other OECD countries, and a very high share of 15-year-olds say they expect to complete a university degree (75%, versus an average of 44%). Moreover, despite the highly competitive education system, only a moderate share of 15-year-olds in Korea report feeling anxious about school tests even when well-prepared (55%, the same as the OECD average).

This performance is the result of a relatively efficient school system, but also because of the widespread notion that “hard work” is valued characteristic for a person to have. Data from The World Values Survey shows that “hard work” is one of the values that two-thirds of Koreans between the ages of 20 and 54 want to instil in their children. This proportion is more than twice as high as that observed in Germany or Sweden, for example (Figure 4.16). Korean parents are also very supportive of their children's education: about 95% of 15-year-old adults surveyed in the PISA 2015 report that their parents are interested in their school activities and are supportive of their educational efforts.

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Table 4.2. Korea performs relatively well on several but not all measures of child well-being
Summary overview of Korea’s performance on selected measures of child well-being, Korea, OECD average, OECD minimum and OECD maximum

 

 

Korea

OECD average

OECD minimum

OECD maximum

 

 

Unit

Year

Well-being at home and in family life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.

Average disposable income for children (0- to 17-year-olds)

USD PPP

2016

29700

24600

6900

(MEX)

43500

(LUX)

2.

Relative income poverty rate for children (0- to 17-year-olds)

%

2016

15

13

3

(DNK)

25

(TUR)

3.

15-year-olds who report talking to their parents before or after school

%

2015

90

95

88

(TUR)

98

(ISL)

4.

15-year-olds who do paid work, before or after school

%

2015

6

23

6

(KOR)

38

(NLD)

5.

15-year-olds' average daily minutes using the internet outside school

Minutes

2015

55

145

55

(KOR)

195

(CHL)

6.

15-year-olds who watch TV or play video games, before or after school

%

2015

73

89

69

(SVN)

94

(JPN)

7.

15-year-olds who do regular vigorous exercise

%

2015

36

52

36

(KOR)

70

(ISL)

Well-being at school and in education

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.

15-year-olds who report that their parents are supportive of their education

%

2015

94

90

75

(TUR)

95

(PRT)

9.

15-year-olds who report feeling like they "belong" at school

%

2015

80

73

41

(FRA)

87

(ESP)

10.

15-year-olds who report feeling anxious about school tests

%

2015

55

55

34

(CHE)

72

(NZL)

11.

15-year-olds who report being the victims of bullying

%

2015

12

19

9

(NLD)

31

(LVA)

12.

15-year-olds' performance on the PISA reading tests

Points

2015

517

493

423

(MEX)

527

(CAN)

13.

15-year-olds' performance on the PISA mathematics tests

Points

2015

524

490

408

(MEX)

532

(JPN)

14.

15-year-olds' performance on the PISA science tests

Points

2015

516

493

416

(MEX)

538

(JPN)

Overall well-being and life satisfaction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15.

15-year-olds who report high life satisfaction

%

2015

19

34

19

(KOR)

58

(MEX)

16.

15-year-olds who report low life satisfaction

%

2015

22

12

4

(NLD)

29

(TUR)

Note: For notes and definitions, see the OECD Income Distribution Database for measure 1 and 2, OECD (2017) for measure 5, and the OECD Child Well-Being Data Portal for all other measures. CAN = Canada; CHE = Switzerland; CHL = Chile; DNK = Denmark; ESP = Spain; FRA = France; ISL = Iceland; JPN = Japan; KOR = Korea; LUX = Luxembourg; LVA = Latvia; MEX = Mexico; NLD = the Netherlands; NZL = New Zealand; PRT = Portugal; SVN = Slovenia; TUR = Turkey.

Source: OECD Child Well-Being Portal, http://www.oecd.org/social/family/child-well-being/, OECD Income Distribution Database, https://www.oecd.org/social/income-distribution-database.htm, and OECD (2017[77]), PISA 2015 Results (Volume III): Students' Well-Being, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264273856-en.

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Figure 4.16. Koreans think it important that children learn to work hard
Responses to the question "Here is a list of qualities that children can be encouraged to learn at home. Which, if any, do you consider to be especially important?", adults aged 20-54 with children, Korea and selected OECD countries, 2010-2014
Figure 4.16. Koreans think it important that children learn to work hard

Source: World Value Surveys, 2010-2014, http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs.jsp.

Parental involvement plays an important role in the academic success of adolescents. Adolescents who have more involved parents (in the sense that parents discuss the child's well-being at school at least once a week, have a conversation with the child at least once a week, and eat a meal with the child at least once a week) have higher PISA test scores than others. The performance gap obtained in mathematics for these children is, for example, more than three times higher than that associated with having two highly educated parents (Doepke and Zilibotti, 2019[78]).

Alas, while most Korean children are happy with their life, teenagers in Korea are more likely to report not being satisfied with life as a whole than their peers in most OECD countries. Only 19% of 15-year-olds in Korea report high levels of life satisfaction (compared to an OECD average of 34%), while 22% report low life satisfaction (versus an average of 12%). International Children's World data for children aged 8 to 12 years show that the average level of subjective well-being of young children in Korea is also lower than that of the 18 countries covered by these surveys (Rees, 2017[79]).

For young teenagers (10-12 years old), the family and school environments are important elements of their life satisfaction, while for many Korean children, obtaining essential material goods is not a problem. The self-perception as a respected person with a certain freedom of choice, as well as the quality of relationships with friends, are important factors contributing to the well-being of children (Rees, 2017[79]). The comparison of data between countries suggests that a significant proportion of the differences in children's subjective well-being – and particularly the low score of Korean children – is due to relatively low self-confidence (Lee and Yoo, 2017[80]). These data also show that children’s subjective well-being declines rapidly from age 8 to age 12 in Korea: 60% of the 8-year-olds report that they are totally satisfied with their life, but this share falls to 40% among 10- and 12-year-olds. As children get older, relationships with friends, with teachers and satisfaction with school marks gain importance in determining the overall life satisfaction (Kim, Ahn and Lee, 2019[81]).

The increasing school pressure with age and the comparatively long time spent in school and in after-school classes leaves comparatively little time for 15-year-old adolescents to do anything else. Korean teenagers have little time to work in part-time jobs and even in “internet time”, they fall behind the OECD average. In terms of watching TV and engaging in sports and physical exercise, they don’t seem to have the time (OECD Child Well-being Portal).

As fertility rates drop in Korea, many Korean parents are motivated to devote an extensive amount of time and attention to the education of a smaller number of children. Due to severe competition in the Korean educational system and labour market, anxious Korean parents provide intensive support to their children, and they often sacrifice their own needs for the sake of their children’s advancement. Through such support, however, parents may tend to behave like "helicopter parents” by exercising excessive control over different dimensions of their children's lives (Foo, 2019[82]). Korean students may experience higher levels of helicopter parenting than other Asian children as their parents have higher expectations regarding their children’s academic performance and are more active in their children’s school life (Kwon, Yoo and De Gagne, 2017[83]). The high parental expectations are found to increase the risk of “over-parenting” (Box 4.4) and the risk of young adults developing depression (Lee and Kang, 2018[84]). Perceived over-parenting is also negatively associated with college students’ perception of control over their one life (Kwon, Yoo and Bingham, 2016[85]). However, over-parenting can also be perceived as a sign of parental affection and contribute to greater well-being if not perceived by adolescents as a lack of control (Lee and Kang, 2018[84]).

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Box 4.4. The over-parenting culture in Korea

In Korea, at the end of secondary school, students take the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) (Section 4.4.1), which plays a crucial role in determining future academic and labour market chances. Parents go to great lengths to ensure that their children are well prepared. In addition to paying for private tutoring, academic counselling etc., in Gangnam in Seoul – the most affluent part of the country – mothers devote their time to chart the educational journey of their children and micro-manage their life. In addition, mothers establish a myriad of informal, small, complex social networks (based on friendships, hobbies, and social status, and often related to income and/or educational background) to network on how to, for example, find the best mathematics tutor or ways to enter the best medical school in the country (Park, Lim and Choi, 2015[86]). Practice in Gangnam may be an extreme example in this regard, but through the media, it has a powerful influence across the country.

However, the practice of over-parenting, “Gangnam-style” is also being challenged in Gangnam. For example, the ‘Together-School’ in the Banpo Social Welfare Community Centre sets out to forge a playful environment for children. Like other Gangnam mothers, the mothers involved in this initiative want the best of their children, but they are very critical of competitive education environment and the Hakwon system that determines the daily lives of their children to a large extent (Lee, 2016[87]). The prevailing culture of over-parenting is also criticised for its inability to develop autonomy, independency and happiness among children.

A greater focus on children's personal and relational development by the education and care system could benefit children's well-being. Evidence on child development shows that the acquisition of personal "skills" such as self-confidence, emotional and relational skills starts very early in life and that they play a fundamental role in children's learning processes (Shuey and Kankaras, 2018[88]) (de Singly and Wisnia-Weil V., 2015[89]). There is also extensive evidence that high-quality staff-child interactions account for individual differences in children’s behavioural, social-emotional and academic outcomes; highlighting the importance of the quality of staff-child interactions for the effectiveness of ECEC services (OECD, 2018[90]). A critical factor in achieving effective learning is the self-confidence that educators can instil in children by engaging in supportive and warm interactions. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, arts education or musical training also have an important role to play in enabling children to make their own way in a world they are exploring (HCFEA, 2019[91]) (Box 4.5).

In Korea, there is a tendency to develop play-based early childhood programmes and to develop after-school services offering extracurricular activities, and this development seems to be consistent with expectations among a majority of parents who cite "self-expression" and "independence" as qualities that children need to learn (Figure 4.16). The benefits of developing play-based learning, or sports activities and arts education, can be integrated into the curriculum or roadmap guiding childcare services as, for example, in the curriculum in Australia (SACSA, 2009[92]) or in the roadmap to reorient the development of quality childcare services in France (HCFEA, 2019[91]). An important challenge remains to have qualified professionals and to develop partnerships between early childhood professionals, local associations and specialists from the arts and sports areas who can help develop these activities.

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Box 4.5. Sport, arts and play-based training: the benefit for children

Benefits of sport training and arts education

Research on the effects of sports and music practices on children's development is relatively rare and recent, but it suggests that they both contribute to foster physical, emotional, and social skills. In addition, while they provide fun and thereby help to engage children, sport and music help develop cognitive skills, such as coordination and balance, and they also contribute to learning teamwork, discipline, and how to focus on a goal. (Bidzan-Bluma and Lipowska, 2018[93]), and experiencing the rewards of participation.

Sport plays obviously an important role in improving physical health, but there is also evidence that sport increases self-esteem among adolescents, foster mutual understanding and help find solutions to solve conflicts (UNICEF, 2019[94]). Engaging in sport is also found to improve children’s school performance and peer relations (Felfe, Lechner and Steinmayr, 2016[95]).

Music training and other types of arts education are found to stimulate creative thinking; they learn children express feelings and emotions and improve their language and reasoning skills (CBNCCAS, 2012[96]). There is also evidence to suggest that learning to play a musical instrument vane affect brain networks that enable executive functioning thereby enhancing cognitive abilities (Sachs et al., 2017[97]) (Habibi et al., 2018[98]).

Advantages of play-based training

A play-based programme builds on child’s motivation to play, using play as a context for learning (Danniels and Pyle, 2018[99]). Children can explore, experiment, discover and solve problems in imaginative and playful ways. A play-based approach involves both child-initiated and teacher-supported learning. The teacher encourages children’s learning and inquiry through interactions that aim to develop their thinking. For example, while children are playing with blocks, a teacher can pose questions that encourage problem solving, prediction and hypothesising. The teacher can also raise the child’s awareness of mathematics, science and literacy concepts, allowing them to engage with such concepts through hands-on learning. Play-based learning has traditionally been the educational approach implemented by teachers in Australian preschool programs (SACSA, 2009[92]). It underpins state and national government early learning frameworks.

Although the hypothesis that play fulfils a fundamental role in child development has been contested (Lillard et al., 2013[100]), there is a growing body of evidence in favour of the use of play-based learning. High-quality play-based kindergarten programmes, where children are exposed to learning and problem solving through self-initiated activities and teacher guidance support positive attitudes to learning (Sylva et al., 2010[101]), and important characteristics as imagination, curiosity, enthusiasm and persistence. Some studies have found that students engage in more effective problem solving behaviours in child-directed play conditions than in more formal, teacher-directed settings (McInnes et al., 2009[102]). Child-directed play with peers is important for children to develop social and emotional competencies, such as leading and following rules, resolving conflicts, supporting the emotional well-being of others (Ghafouri and Wien, 2005[103]), and it has also been found to improve narrative language skills (Stagnitti et al., 2016[104]).

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Note

← 1. The modelled dual-earner two-parent family face slightly lower net out-of-pocket childcare costs relative to the modelled working single-parent family because the dual-earner two-parent family are able to benefit from a tax break for education expenses for children. This tax break a non-refundable tax credit, which directly reduces the amount of tax paid by the dual-earner two-parent family. The working single-parent family is technically eligible for the same tax break. However, the modelled single-parent family face no income tax liability at their earnings level (i.e. they are liable to pay zero income tax). As a result, they are not able to benefit from this tax break.

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4. A care and education policy fit for parents and children