SWOT Diagnosis

1. Attracting the most suitable candidates into ITE programmes

In Korea, teaching is generally viewed as a secure, attractive and high-status profession – and there is strong competition to enter teaching. The term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is widely used in education discourse in Korea to denote the growing need for education reform to respond to pressing issues such as a low birth-rate, an aging society and a declining number of school-age children.

Positive reputation and high status of the teaching profession

Society, especially parents, regards teaching as a high-status profession.

An attractive job

Teaching is a stable, well paid job, with good holidays and work-life balance.

Plentiful supply

The attractiveness of the profession means that supply of subject teachers is plentiful, especially in urban areas.

Lack of a sense of urgency

Lack of a sense of urgency about reform or improvement to system due to the high attractiveness of the teaching profession

Initial teacher education as a pathway to other fields

Due to employment barriers and teaching conditions, some students may enter ITE with the intention of using their degree as a pathway to other fields. This risks potentially losing the best and brightest from the profession.

Negative impact of competition on teacher diversity

Competition works against those with diverse profiles (socio-economic background, geographic region, disability) – and mechanisms to diversify reach only a very small percentage of individuals.

Strength in numbers

Sheer numbers of teacher candidates mean that there is a huge pool of applicants that can be mobilised across the system to meet policy goals. For example minority groups (i.e. those with diverse backgrounds, languages, others) can be brought it to reinforce the overall profession, and applicants can be encouraged to study for certain fields to modernise the educational offer (e.g. STEM, robotics etc.).

Focus on security

Is the focus on security bringing in the risk averse? If so, potential to weaken innovation capacity.


Increased frustration from those who complete ITE but do not get a job will continue to affect the perception of career and the willingness to train for it.

Feminisation of the teaching profession

Increasing feminisation may lead to an eventual lowering of status. Additionally, it results in a lack of role models for boys, especially in primary and lower secondary education.

Heavy workload

The demands on both new and experienced teachers are ever growing in the face of new technologies, increased administrative tasks, new social challenges in schools (e.g. bullying, etc.) and parents’ expectations.

2. Selecting the most suitable candidates into ITE programmes

Since 2008, universities in Korea can select teacher candidates using either academic scores (i.e. College Scholastic Ability Test and high school grades, known as “scheduled admission“) – or a range of filters, such as regional/cluster balance, high school records statement of purpose and recommendation letter, known as “non-scheduled admission“. Teacher candidates can enter secondary teaching via the Open System, which means that they do not  necessarily major in any subject in College or Department of Education in a university. Instead, those non-education majors can apply for general pedagogical courses in seeking 2nd-grade teaching certificate.

Selecting high achievers

Only those individuals who are high achievers are selected into the ITE programmes in Korea.

Steps being taken to match intake to future demand for teachers

Measured steps taken to reduce the number of places available.

Greater focus on non-academic characteristics

A more systematic focus on non-academic capabilities by universities, through the use of interviews for example, and other criteria or quota, does not need to compromise academic standards and could allow for a more diverse teacher cohort.

Fierce competition to enter ITE programmes

Competition for places creates pressure to use measurable criteria.

Linear pathways

There appear to be limited pathways for people with experience in other industries, or other groups that could add something to the teaching profession.

Negative impact of selectivity on teacher diversity

Drawing only from top achievers may limit diversity and teachers’ capacity to relate to all students.

Broadening selection

Restricting number of entrants to ITE could allow for the use of a broader range of criteria for selection, and pathways into ITE.

Risk of reducing numbers of ITE entrants

Reducing the number of entrants to ITE may reduce diversity further.

May be vulnerable to improvement in the private sector economy

If private sector careers become more attractive, the pool to select teachers from is vulnerable to depletion.

3. Equipping teacher candidates with what they need to know and do

Initial teacher education in Korea is delivered in national and private universities. Primary and secondary education is mostly delivered by different teacher education providers, and there are separate teacher education institutions dedicated to the four sciences. It takes four years to obtain a Bachelor-level degree in teaching – and 6.5 years to attain Master’s level. In order to obtain a 2nd-grade teaching certificate, teacher candidates are required by law to complete courses in general pedagogical knowledge, knowledge for the teaching profession and a practical component, which includes professional experience and at least 60 hours volunteering service to children of school age.

The importance of deep knowledge

Shared belief that depth in content knowledge and a strong approach to developing this knowledge is important.

Specialist contributions

Access to content specialists (scientists, historians etc.) in education faculties.

Articulation with National curriculum

The national curriculum for schools drives content and is regularly reviewed.

Theory-practice divide, with limited practicum

Dislocation of content from practice, especially , for secondary students, through slim practicum and lack of connection between the course and the practicum in the structures.

The knowledge base

Insufficient focus on pedagogic content knowledge. In general there needs to be more, better articulated connection between content and process and between subject, pedagogic and pedagogic content knowledge.

Limited scope for innovation by ITE providers

The high stakes examination process, national curriculum, employment examinations and evaluation in general dominate and militate against evidence based innovation and experimentation.

Lack of cross cutting feedback loops

The feedback loops are limited and exist within silos. Cross cutting feedback loops with those responsible for the quality of ITE lack feedback from beneficiaries.

Curriculum for the 4th industrial revolution

Recognition that the curriculum for ITE needs to develop to help prepare for the 4th industrial revolution.

Societal changes

Changing societal expectations can act as a prompt for ITE curriculum innovation, and empowering and engaging different stakeholders in the development of the curriculum.


Global interest in research informed policy and practice in teaching and ITE.

Self-contained system

ITE seems to be overly constructed as a relatively closed higher education oriented system rather than as entry to a profession. There is scope for more feedback loops between schools and teacher education institutions.

Knowledge orientation

Knowledge orientation necessarily focuses on the past; future orientation requires enquiry, risk taking and speculation, disciplined by evidence. So a relatively narrow focus of ITE curriculum may not serve the future of education.

4. Delivering ITE programmes effectively (quality assurance)

According to the 4th Period Basic Plan for Promotion of Evaluation on Teacher Training Institutions (2015), initial teacher education programmes are evaluated by the Korean Educational Research Institute (KEDI) on behalf of the Ministry of Education every 3 years. ITE programmes are evaluated on a 5-point scale using 22 indicators measuring educational conditions, curriculum and outcomes. The evaluation process entails self-evaluations; written assessment by an independent evaluation committee, which includes peers; and on-site visit evaluations by an independent agency.

Range of ITE programme evaluation measures regularly reviewed

Teacher education institutions use a variety of ways to review and improve their programmes including student course surveys and feedback from schools via school-university partnerships – and these are regularly reviewed.

ITE programme ratings as a basis for action

“A” to “E” ratings provide a basis for action to adjust numbers, and to inform student choice.

Pressure to act on results

High stakes and clear consequences for underperforming programmes means that ITE providers must act on results.

Evaluation as a tool for improvement

Teacher education institutions report that the process motivates improvement and provides information to target improvement efforts.

Inadequate measure of quality of graduates

Feedback on quality of graduates in the evaluation is based on examination performance and graduate satisfaction – not on school or employer satisfaction.

Limited school voice

School voice is limited: assessors are professors who lack experience teaching in schools and explore quality issues mostly with university staff and review teams.

High stakes process may limit innovation and sharing of good practice

New practices are unlikely to be adopted if they decrease a teacher education institution’s rating.

New measures of ITE programme evaluation and composition of teams

The idea of evaluation is well established and the measures of evaluation and composition of teams could be expanded.

Showcasing good practice

Having an accepted system for identifying high performers would support showcasing good practice.

Expanding partnerships between schools and universities

Strengthening school-partnerships could bridge the theory-practice divide.

Burden of data collection

It is difficult and burdensome to collect the data required to broaden the system.

Focusing on what matters

As enrolments decrease, there is a risk of penalising good ITE providers unless measures are carefully selected to focus on what matters.

5. Certifying & hiring new teachers

In order to be a fully tenured teacher in a public school in Korea, teacher candidates must complete an ITE programme. Students can apply to their ITE institution for a 2nd grade teaching certificate any time before completing their 2nd year (grade) and then sit a 2-stage employment examination. The 1st round is a written National Employment Examination, while the 2nd round can include interviews, demonstration lessons, etc. Both exams are developed by the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation and administered by Offices of Education. Only 10-15% pass the exams. Those who do not sit the exam or who do not pass the exam can become contract teachers or apply to private school. Offices of Education select and hire teachers.

Consistent and “fair” approach to selection

All prospective teachers must pass the same employment exam. All teachers are thus evaluated using the same measures.

Tailored to needs of local offices of education

The 2nd-round examination can be developed, administered and evaluated by local offices according to their own needs.

Selection process further raises the quality bar of teacher candidates

A small proportion of those who sit the national employment exam pass it. This means that the exam is highly competitive and high stakes, which raises the status of the profession.

Cramming schools

Most students go to private schools to prepare for the teachers’ employment examination – and they may do this multiple times. This indicates a lack of alignment between the content of examinations as part of ITE and the qualities employers are seeking as reflected in the teacher employment examinations.

Lack of feedback loops to improve relevance of the teacher’s employment examination for teaching

Lack of formal feedback channels between those who develop the examination (KICE); those who employ teachers (Offices of Education); institutions training teachers; and the needs of new teachers in schools means that the exam does not reflect what goes on in the classroom.

Untapped pool of quality teacher candidates

The huge pool of high quality teacher candidates who do not pass the exam could be redeployed to enrich the teaching profession in other ways, for example in academia/research, policy or school support.

Using data to support policy making and school improvement

Potential usefulness of data from teacher certification exam to drive research into teacher quality and effectiveness, especially around teacher selection.

Aligning the 4th IR with the Teacher Employment Exam

There is the potential for future operationalisation of 4th Industrial Revolution in next review of teacher employment examination.

Teaching to the test

Risk of standardising ITE programmes as all try to teach to the test.

Need for coherent processes and measures to inform ITE policy

Need for coherence between the teacher employment examinations, new national curriculum, teachers’ competencies and ITE programme evaluation criteria to better inform and shape ITE policy.

6. Supporting new teachers

There is no legal requirement for induction in Korea, and there are no formal requirements for mentors or selection of mentors. However, Offices of Education provide on average 60 hours of induction to new teachers, which is strongly recommended by the Ministry of Education. Mentoring for new teachers is performed informally and through professional learning communities by the same grade, by subject, etc.

Shared vision

Awareness across system of need to improve and general agreement on the steps needed to make this happen.

Local responsibility allows for flexibility

Offices of education have the freedom to adapt the support for new teachers to best suit local needs.

Trust in ability of new teachers

“The best and the brightest” is not just rhetoric, there is a deep level of trust in their ability and capacity to learn and grow into their new role.

Fragmentation of offer

Uneven provision of support for new teachers across regions and between schools.

Quality assurance of mentoring

No systemic structure to evaluate or monitor the quality, responsiveness, or fit for purpose of the mentor activity. New teachers are often posted to the most difficult schools – where there are few senior teachers who can act as mentors.

Timing of exams

Learning that you have passed and will receive a post in February leaves very little time to prepare to start in March.

Lack of continuity between ITE and induction

Induction packs a lot of preparation for the classroom into a short amount of time. This contrasts with the theoretical focus of ITE.

Narrowness of the pre-service experience

The intense emphasis on exams and lack of in-school experience of new teachers can lead to a generation gap.

Agreement on improvement agenda

Broad agreement on how to improve (mentoring, coaching, practicum etc.) provides a window of opportunity for action.

Cadre of experienced teachers, including master teachers, able to support change

Excellent and experienced teachers, including master teachers, can be used in leadership roles in schools, local offices, and key agencies to lead and inform change. This would serve to free up places for qualified candidates still waiting for posts.

Developing stronger and more strategic research capacity

There is potential for developing targeted and rigorous research to address the weaknesses identified and suggest potential ways forward. The cadre of teachers with Master’s and PhDs have the potential to focus this innovation in future, if teachers and schools can identify the foci of research efforts.

Lack of teacher diversity

Lack of diversity in teacher recruits in an increasingly global world – can they tailor support to those who will be in the most disadvantaged schools? Who have the most diverse students?

Weak research-practice links

Weak links between research and practice raises possibility that solutions and new programmes might not be the most effective/adapted to modern classrooms.