President Lee Myung-bak looks at a machine in a classroom of a vocational high school in southern Seoul, Tuesday. A total of 21 Meister schools opened in accordance with Lee’s pledge to develop more programs aimed at providing vocational education at secondary schools nationwide. / Korea Times
By Na Jeong-ju
President Lee Myung-bak pledged Tuesday that the government will develop more programs aimed at promoting vocational education at secondary schools nationwide in an effort to make Korea a manufacturing powerhouse.
Lee made the remarks during a ceremony to mark the opening of the so-called Meister high schools specializing in vocational training that benchmark job training schools in Germany.
Officials said the 21 Meister schools, which use state subsidies, have chosen a total of 3,600 students for technical education and apprenticeships so that they can develop expertise in fields such as shipbuilding, mechanical engineering, semiconductors and medical equipment.
Students will pay no tuition fees and they will be given the chance to get jobs after graduation. The government plans to increase the number of the schools to 50 in stages by 2011.
Once a school is designated as a Meister school, the government offers a subsidy of up to 10 million won to the school for the reeducation of teachers in the first year of operation. In three years, the school can receive up to 250 million won in subsidies.
"The Meister high school is a fresh challenge for a change in our education system by nurturing new manpower for the 21st century and it is a school that will break new ground for South Korea's future," Lee said.
The creation of the schools is a part of government efforts to diversify education for teenagers. South Korea is known for its educational fever among parents, who spend massive sums of money on private tutoring. The problem is that most of them seek to send their children to just a handful of top-level universities.
"Reckless entrance into college pushes up the people's burden for private education and exacerbates youth unemployment, bringing huge losses to households and the country alike," Lee said.
Lee pledged to provide full support to help graduates of these schools become great contributors to the economy.
"Students (at the vocational schools) don't need private education and can get jobs without difficulty. We have to nurture more of these schools," he said.