Standards and Practice in Korean Physical Education: Six Revisions of the National Physical Education Curriculum Have Brought Greater Autonomy to Schools and Teachers, Yet Better Teacher Practices Are Still Needed
Yoo, Sang Suk, Kim, Ha Young, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Educational development in South Korea ("Korea" hereafter) occurred in response to the country's economic needs and social-political transformation. Since the establishment of the Korean government in 1948, education has expanded and progressed rapidly. Elementary and secondary school are now required for all school-age children in Korea. According to statistics (Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, 2003), over 95 percent of school-age Korean children are enrolled in elementary, middle, and high schools. The average class size for elementary, middle, and high schools is 35.6, 37.3, and 41.6 students respectively. The duration of each class in elementary, middle, and high school is 40, 45, and 50 minutes respectively. Traditionally, the school system in Korea has been controlled bureaucratically through central administrative guidelines and regulations. The centralized system of education as well as strong support from the public are two of the greatest factors that have contributed to the rapid expansion of the Korean economy and educational system.
By the late 1980s, however, concerns began to surface regarding the efficacy of a centralized system, and a strong social movement for democratization brought demands for decentralization. The centralized system of education was successful in expanding the quantity of education, but failed to enhance the overall quality of school education. In spite of a remarkable expansion of education, the Korean perception of the quality of the educational system has been negative. Results of a national survey on Koreans' perceptions of overall education (Kim et al., 1994) indicated that satisfaction rates were just 9.8 percent for students and 29.3 percent for parents. Recent research on school education in Korea (Korean Education Development Institute, 2000) indicated that the rigid and bureaucratic nature of the education system are two of the main causes for the educational crisis in Korea.
A decentralization of the educational system was one of the proposed solutions to the educational crisis. It was argued that if more autonomy were given to schools, teachers, and students, the quality of education would increase, and this would in turn positively affect public satisfaction with education. As a result, physical educators would have more autonomy in the planning and implementation of the curriculum and in the creation of student achievement evaluations.
The Korean National Curriculum of Physical Education
The national physical education curriculum--which is applied to elementary, middle, and high school--has significantly influenced educational practice in Korea. Since the first Korean National Curriculum of Physical Education (KNCPE) was established in 1955, the KNCPE has been revised six times. The seventh version was adopted in 1997. This curriculum was designed to resolve two chronic problems of previous curricula: (1) the traditional top-down structure of the curriculum, and (2) the lack of a well-articulated sequence of the curriculum across school years.
The top-town administrative structure expected full compliance from teachers to reproduce and deliver the content prescribed by the curriculum, regardless of the various needs of the communities, schools, and students. However, the seventh KNCPE represented a departure from this approach by viewing curriculum implementation not only as a replication process, but as an interactive and negotiated process among the stakeholders of the educational system, including the ministry of education, boards of education, and school personnel (principals, teachers, and students). The failure of top-down structures in other countries (Fink & Stoll, 1998), and the trend toward decentralization in Korea, influenced the writing of the seventh KNCPE to become a "bottom-up" or "school-based" educational reform process. The seventh KNCPE adopted a decentralized policy with less control and more flexibility in curriculum implementation. …