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[What’s your say] Purpose of education?


In a Cabinet meeting on June 7, President Yoon Suk-yeol redefined the purpose of education in his attempt to call for drastic educational reforms.

Stressing that the keyword is “human capital,” he said the Education Ministry should consider itself “as one of the economy-related ministries.”

“The first mission of the Education Ministry is to provide human capital needed for development of industries.”

He went on to say that if the ministry fails to do its job of supporting core industries, the fate of which the country’s future hinges on, “such a ministry should be abolished.”

He then directed Education Ministry officials to work with the Trade and Science ministries in order to identify areas where there is, or is expected to be, a shortage of human resources and map out ways to nurture talent.

The remarks, expectedly, sparked backlash from education experts and educators.

What Yoon said reveals a complete lack of thought on how this country should prepare young people for the future, not to mention the important roles education plays in weaving the fabric of the society, they claimed.

Since 2014, the education minister has doubled as the deputy prime minister for social affairs in South Korea, which shows the emphasis previous governments have placed on the ministry.

Yoon has nominated Park Soon-ae, a professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Administration, as education minister. The appointment is pending parliamentary approval.

Vice Education Minister Jang Sang-yoon, a career bureaucrat with no experience in school affairs appointed by Yoon, was present at the aforementioned Cabinet meeting as the acting education minister.

Like in many other economies, a mismatch between skills and jobs is a chronic problem in South Korea. It is considered one of the factors that drag down on the advancement of the country’s “future growth engine” industries such as semiconductors, IT and artificial intelligence.

So, what do you think the role of the Education Ministry is? Should it align itself with the country’s economic and industrial goals to fix the skills mismatch as much as possible? Or is that a short-sighted approach to education?

By Korea Herald (
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