About 40 percent of South Korean adults aged under 70 have received college-level or higher education, according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The figure is far above the OECD average of 30 percent.
The Paris-based organization also said its 34 member countries (currently 35) posted 40.8 percent in the proportion of adults that had participated in various types of lifelong learning such as not-for-credit courses by universities, lessons at private institutes or community centers and online programs.
But the proportion of Korean adults with a lifelong learning experience -- after graduation -- stood at just 31 percent.
This indicates that Korea falls short of global standards in self-directed learning, despite being famous for brick-and-mortar schooling.
Scholars define lifelong education as the self-motivated pursuit of knowledge or other skills for either private or professional reasons.
They say the effects are enhanced social inclusion, active citizenship and personal fulfillment beyond individual employability and competitiveness.
In the wake of technological innovation, the public’s attitude toward learning has changed much over the past decade.
More and more people recognize that it is not confined to the classroom but goes on throughout life and in diverse circumstances.
Early this month, the World Symposium on Lifelong learning and Sustainable Development held in Malta drew wide attention.
Held after the adoption of a new sustainable development agenda at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015, the symposium explored and presented case studies that illustrated how lifelong learning for sustainable development could be attained.
In Korea, some cases are seen in the regional community, which should be a stimulus to central policymakers.
One of them is an education program entity for adults, run by Dobong-gu in Seoul. It is dubbed the Dobong Liberal Arts University. It invites famous experts from different fields as guest speakers to offer residents opportunities to encounter a wide variety of knowledge and information, and develop their quality of life.
The district’s Lifelong Learning Center runs the Dobong City Agricultural Expert Training Course and the Dobong Residents’ Curator Training Course. It has recently opened a training course for promotion experts on online communities such as Facebook and YouTube.
After the law on lifelong education passed the National Assembly during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, the National Institute for Lifelong Education has been active in spreading the significance of learning after graduation, following its establishment in 2008.
“We live in a time of 100-year lifespans. After completing ordinary school life, we could live for more than 75 years,” said the institute’s chief Ki Young-hwa.
Ki said that “it is time to take pre-emptive measures to effectively brace for the fourth industrial revolution in terms of seeking a higher quality of life and happiness.”
Meanwhile, some skeptics say it is premature for the country to promote lifelong education, as it still faces the issue of reducing unemployment among college graduates in their 20s and 30s.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org