At the High-Level Forum on aid effectiveness (known as HLF4) a few weeks ago in Busan, South Korea, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel on education and aid. Unlike the HLF4 plenaries, our session didn’t involve Hillary Clinton or Tony Blair or Ban Ki-Moon, nor did we help to hammer out the Busan outcome documents. But what we saw in our panel on aid for education, and in the one-day pre-conference that informed it, was very encouraging: it showed how Korea’s lessons about student learning are influencing international education policy.
The event had been given the title “Dream with Education!” by our hosts in the Korean government. The exclamation point may seem over-exuberant, but in the Korean context, it’s not. Korea’s universal high-quality basic education and high rates of participation in higher education have helped it achieve development that would have exceeded any dreams fifty years ago, when rapid growth started. Between 1960 and 2001, Korea’s economy grew at an average of more than 7% per year. Equally important, Korea has achieved rapid progress in many other areas of life, from technological to social to political. While the country’s success has brought new challenges, as a recent Economist article pointed out, its ascent to this point has been remarkable.