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.
Society, especially parents, regards teaching as a high-status profession.
Teaching is a stable, well paid job, with good holidays and work-life balance.
The attractiveness of the profession means that supply of subject teachers is plentiful, especially in urban areas.
Lack of a sense of urgency about reform or improvement to system due to the high attractiveness of the teaching profession
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Only those individuals who are high achievers are selected into the ITE programmes in Korea.
Measured steps taken to reduce the number of places available.
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.
Competition for places creates pressure to use measurable criteria.
There appear to be limited pathways for people with experience in other industries, or other groups that could add something to the teaching profession.
Drawing only from top achievers may limit diversity and teachers’ capacity to relate to all students.
Restricting number of entrants to ITE could allow for the use of a broader range of criteria for selection, and pathways into ITE.
Reducing the number of entrants to ITE may reduce diversity further.
If private sector careers become more attractive, the pool to select teachers from is vulnerable to depletion.
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.
Shared belief that depth in content knowledge and a strong approach to developing this knowledge is important.
Access to content specialists (scientists, historians etc.) in education faculties.
The national curriculum for schools drives content and is regularly reviewed.
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.
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.
The high stakes examination process, national curriculum, employment examinations and evaluation in general dominate and militate against evidence based innovation and experimentation.
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.
Recognition that the curriculum for ITE needs to develop to help prepare for the 4th industrial revolution.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
“A” to “E” ratings provide a basis for action to adjust numbers, and to inform student choice.
High stakes and clear consequences for underperforming programmes means that ITE providers must act on results.
Teacher education institutions report that the process motivates improvement and provides information to target improvement efforts.
Feedback on quality of graduates in the evaluation is based on examination performance and graduate satisfaction – not on school or employer satisfaction.
School voice is limited: assessors are professors who lack experience teaching in schools and explore quality issues mostly with university staff and review teams.
New practices are unlikely to be adopted if they decrease a teacher education institution’s rating.
The idea of evaluation is well established and the measures of evaluation and composition of teams could be expanded.
Having an accepted system for identifying high performers would support showcasing good practice.
Strengthening school-partnerships could bridge the theory-practice divide.
It is difficult and burdensome to collect the data required to broaden the system.
As enrolments decrease, there is a risk of penalising good ITE providers unless measures are carefully selected to focus on what matters.
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.
All prospective teachers must pass the same employment exam. All teachers are thus evaluated using the same measures.
The 2nd-round examination can be developed, administered and evaluated by local offices according to their own needs.
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.
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 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.
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.
Potential usefulness of data from teacher certification exam to drive research into teacher quality and effectiveness, especially around teacher selection.
There is the potential for future operationalisation of 4th Industrial Revolution in next review of teacher employment examination.
Risk of standardising ITE programmes as all try to teach to the test.
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.
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.
Awareness across system of need to improve and general agreement on the steps needed to make this happen.
Offices of education have the freedom to adapt the support for new teachers to best suit local needs.
“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.
Uneven provision of support for new teachers across regions and between schools.
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.
Learning that you have passed and will receive a post in February leaves very little time to prepare to start in March.
Induction packs a lot of preparation for the classroom into a short amount of time. This contrasts with the theoretical focus of ITE.
The intense emphasis on exams and lack of in-school experience of new teachers can lead to a generation gap.
Broad agreement on how to improve (mentoring, coaching, practicum etc.) provides a window of opportunity for action.
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.
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 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 links between research and practice raises possibility that solutions and new programmes might not be the most effective/adapted to modern classrooms.