Inclusive Education in South Korea

Equal opportunity for the education of every Korean—with disabilities or none—has been assured in the Article 4 of the Framework Act on Education of the country’s constitution.

Under the Korean Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development are divisions responsible for supporting different children groups: the Special Education Policy Division, which is in charge of the inclusion of children with disabilities and children with learning difficulties; the Educational Welfare Policy Division, which oversees matters related to children from low income families, children from North Korean refugee families and children from multi-cultural families; and the Elementary and Secondary Education Policy Division, which devises and implements policies to support children that have low academic achievement levels.

The ministry has also launched a Five-year Education Welfare Plan for Students with Disabilities in 1994. Then four years after, it provided free education to children from low income families aged five, and free computers to the economically underprivileged. The ministry has also supported adolescents who have not been able to continue studies in 2003.

Inclusive education in South Korea was first stipulated in the Special Education Promotion Law in 1978. Under that law, the ministry has to develop instructional material for students and teachers, provide in-service teacher training programs on curricular revision, and support the placement of teacher aides. Education for all students with disabilities should be free and both elementary and middle courses should be compulsory. Only in 2007 was it renamed into the Special Education Law for the Disabled and those with Special Needs to broaden its scope of free and compulsory education from kindergarten through high school as well as free lifelong education programs for adults with disability.

As such, schools in South Korea have to serve all students, regardless of differences among them. Its goal is to maximize the potential of each and every student so there should be no stigmatization attached to any of the children.

“The inclusive class is not difficult in the preschool stage as the learning level is elementary. Starting from middle school, however, nondisabled students prepare for the college entrance exam under the grade-oriented education system… Unless the whole education system that focuses on exams and grades is changed, there is no way for the disabled to be part of the class. The ultimate goal of inclusive education is to embrace and respect the diversity of students, ranging from race, gender to disability.” ~ Kim Chi-hun

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of the Arirang News

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