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|Ministry of Education (South Korea)|
|National education budget|
|Post secondary||3.6 million|
Education in South Korea is provided by both public schools and private schools. Both types of schools receive funding from the government, although the amount that the private schools receive is less than the amount of the state schools.
Higher education is an overwhelmingly serious matter in South Korea, where it is viewed as one of the fundamental values of South Korean life. There, academic success is often a source of pride for families and within South Korean society at large. South Koreans view education as the main propeller of social mobility for themselves and their family as a gateway to the South Korean middle class. Graduating from a top university is the ultimate marker of high status, future socioeconomic status, marriage prospects, and prestige and respectable employment prospects. Pressure to succeed academically is deeply ingrained in South Korean children from an early age.
In 2010, the country spent 7.6% of its GDP on all levels of education – significantly more than the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 6.3%. The country has fostered an education system that helped transform the country and rapidly grow its economy over the past 60 years. South Korea’s zeal for education and its students’ desires to get into a prestigious university is one of the highest in the world, as the entrance into a top tier higher educational institution leads to a prestigious, secure and well-paid job with the government, banks, a major South Korean business conglomerate such as Samsung or LG Electronics. With incredible pressure on high school students to secure places at the nation’s best universities, its institutional reputation and alumni networks are strong predictors of future job and career prospects. The top three universities in South Korea, often referred to as "SKY", are Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. Competition for top marks and studying hard to be the top student is deeply ingrained in the psyche of South Korean students at a young age.
International reception for South Korean education has been divided. It has been praised for various reasons, including its comparatively high results and its major role in ushering South Korea's economic development. Many political leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, have praised the country's rigorous school system, from which over 85 percent of South Korean high school graduates go on to college. In addition, bachelor's degrees are held by 65 percent of South Koreans aged 25–34, the most in the OECD (whose global average is 39 percent).
Its rigid and hierarchical structure, however, has been criticized for stifling creativity and innovation; described as intensely and "brutally" competitive, the system is often blamed for the high suicide rate in South Korea, and particularly the growing rates among those aged 10–19. Various outlets have reported on the nationwide anxiety around the country's college entrance exams, which determine the trajectory of students' entire lives and careers. The country has also produced an oversupply of university graduates in South Korea; in the first quarter of 2013 alone, nearly 3.3 million South Korean university graduates were jobless, leading many graduates overqualified for jobs requiring less education. Further criticism has been stemmed for causing labor shortages in vocational occupations where many of which go unfilled.