Although Korea is a great success story for economic development, it faces major challenges ahead to sustain growth and social cohesion. It's got a lot to do with demographics and the Global Green Growth Summit held in Seoul last week heard about how early childhood education and care can play a key role.

 

Did you know that Korea’s population will go from one of the youngest populations in OECD today to the second oldest by 2050? And the fertility rate is very low. Why? One factor is the high cost of education and another is the trade-offs that Korean women confront between career and family responsibilities.

 

So making available affordable high-quality early childhood education and care is essential so that women can continue to work, confident that their children are being well looked after in a strong early learning environment.

 

And more family-friendly employment policies would also help. There is a tremendous untapped potential for Korea’s future development by enabling women to play a stronger role in the economy.

 

But of course, access to affordable high-quality early childhood education isn’t just for children of working parents. All children need to have the opportunity to experience a high quality early learning environment, regardless of their family income and circumstances, to foster economic growth and social cohesion.  

 

Korea is working to improve affordability of early childhood education and care by moving towards making it free for five year olds and increasing means-tested subsidies for younger children. And to harmonise quality, it is introducing a common curriculum for all 5 year-olds in kindergarten and in day-care. These are steps in the right direction, but Korea needs to go further still so that all children can attend high-quality early childhood education or childcare services, regardless of their familiy's financial resources.      

 

To learn more about the challenges Korea faces and the OECD’s recommendations, see A framework for growth and social cohesion in Korea.