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Seoul to launch long-term survey of gifted students

South Korea’s Ministry of Education will conduct a study of gifted students following their academic and career path for 25 years after their graduation from state-run special education programs, it said Wednesday.

The subjects of the survey -- the first of its kind here -- are 15-year-olds or 16-year-olds who enter eight science high schools here this year. The study will run through 2041 until they reach 40 or 41.

“We have analyzed short-term data on the effect of special education for talented students, but have never conducted a follow-up survey for such a long period,” Cho Eui-jung, an administrative official of the Ministry of Education told The Korea Herald. 

The Ministry of Education building in Sejong City, South Korea
The Ministry of Education building in Sejong City, South Korea

With the envisioned research, the ministry aims to analyze the effectiveness of the country’s specialized education programs and how their beneficiaries contribute to the society, she said.

Korea introduced special education programs for talented students in 2002, amid growing calls to systematically train and nurture them from the early stage of education.

In the first year, the number of students who qualified for special education was about 10,000, 1 percent of all primary, middle and high school students. But the figure had risen tenfold to 109,900 by 2015, according to the ministry data.

The special education programs are also under scrutiny, with some saying it promotes private education spending on children by parents who wish to send their kids to the institutes. Others point out that many of the graduates from the programs end up pursuing lucrative jobs rather than further developing their respective special gifts, with many of them entering medical colleges.

Among the eight schools subject to the government body’s upcoming long-term survey are the Seoul Science High School and Korea Science Academy of KAIST, an affiliate school of the country’s leading science and engineering university, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

The participants of the research will be surveyed for the next 25 years under the consent of their parents, on the development process of their specific talents, external influences that affect the process, their academic achievements in higher education and their careers after college.

By Bak Se-hwan (