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close this bookThe Transition of Youth from School to Work: Issues and Policies (IIEP, 2000, 188 p.)
close this folderChapter III. Transition from school to work in Korea: reforms to establish a new pathway structure across education and the labour market by Kioh Jeong
View the documentIntroduction
View the document1. Economic adjustment and youth in Korea
View the document2. Roles of institutions in school-to-work transition
View the document3. From school to work: business and industry involvement
View the document4. Ongoing education reform and implications for youth
View the document5. Conclusions: developing pathways

5. Conclusions: developing pathways

The Korean labour market has long been divided into two sectors. Larger employers, such as public employers, and leading universities were major players in the primary sector. They established the practice of recruitment examination, lifelong employment, and human capital formation by on-the-job training. Combined with the other components of the practices, the recruitment examination was the almost exclusive and definite path into the prestigious jobs of the primary sector. It effectively served the organizational needs of large employers in the period of economic expansion. The practices in the primary market, however, have had deteriorating effects on the education system. Schools and students were dependent on the examinations and normal school curricula tended to be replaced by preparation for these examinations at the expense of more critical educational needs. The human capital formation function has been sacrificed by the credentialling function of school diplomas.

The practices in the primary sector could be maintained by expensive organizational costs borne by large organizations. As the Korean economy became fully exposed to the global competition market, however, such a cost cannot be borne any longer by the work organizations. The recent Korean economic crisis has greatly shaken the long-standing practices and patterns of school-to-work transition in the primary labour market. Thus, schools, universities, and enterprises have to newly adjust their interrelation and old practices. Schools and higher education institutions are, however, still gripped by old practices and institutionalized regulations, which forms the rationale for education reform in Korea.

The secondary labour market, it might be said, has long been abandoned as an underdeveloped and amorphous system where such informal networks as friends and family played an important role as work paths. Under the overwhelming influence of the primary sector, this sector has been long overlooked as a deliberate policy concern. Such indifference was possible only during the past 30 years of economic expansion and almost full employment. At present, higher education in Korea, being at the mass higher education stage, has taken over the stand of upper-secondary education of the 1960s. The problem is that the expanded higher education, exceeding the capacity of the traditional primary market, is not accompanied with relevant labour market development for the distribution of upgraded manpower. With the overflowing youth unemployment caused by the industrial adjustment, the rationalization of this huge sector of the labour market has become a pressing policy development task. The focus is on how to implant an effective labour market signalling system and a pathway structure towards work that encourages lifelong learning.

In the process of education and labour reform, the development of networks between educational institutions and industry has become a top priority, which is also the way to transform the segregated opportunity structures into a system of flexible pathway structures leading to lifelong learning. This depends on the success of the ongoing reform. The economic crisis brought a chance to implement the necessary reform as fundamental changes took place in business and labour practices. Many ideas and innovations are being adopted in the area of education. However, not only institutional autonomy, but also careful re-designs of incentives should be assured to make these trials succeed. There are many obstacles, including lack of accumulated knowledge and experience, to overcome in achieving these conditions.

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