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We hear a lot about how much Koreans spend on education. How much is spent on public education in Korea?

Based upon data collected in 2009 and reported in the OECD's 2011 edition of Education at a Glance, Korea ranks second (of the 34 OECD member countries) in terms of the ratio of spending on public education per GDP.  South Korea spent 7.6% of its GDP on public education -4.7% by the government and 2.8% by the private sector.  The OECD average was 5.9% and Iceland came first at 7.9%.

In particular, Korea’s private sector spending on public education was the highest among all OECD nations for the 11th consecutive year.  The heavy reliance of Korean parents upon private tutoring for their children has been cited as the main reason for this.  Within classrooms, the student-teacher ratios were higher than OECD averages within elementary (22.5), middle (19.9) & high schools (16.7).

In the area of higher education, Korea ranked second in terms of per capita tuition at public universities with yearly tuition averaging $5,315 (the USA was first at $6,312).  In terms of private university tuition rates no ranking was provided, however, the collected data indicated that the per capita average was $9,586 in Korean private universities, which seems to be higher than the estimated average.  These figures were based upon purchasing power parity (PPP) index conversions.

With respect to the number of foreign students enrolled at Korean universities accounting for only 1.6% of the total student body, Korea is far below the OECD average of 8.5%.  The report also indicated that Korea ranked far below the OECD average (11%) in terms of the ratio of scholarships to tuition at Korean universities, with 6%.  This means that while tuition fees are higher, financial support in the form of scholarships is less than in most other OECD nations.

In terms of the percentage of the total population that had finished high school, Korea was again above the OECD average of 73%, at 80%.   Amongst the 25-34 year-old demographic, 98 % had graduated from high school and 63% went on to university.  In both of these categories, Korea ranked first.



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