KDI FOCUS The Significance of Investing in School Facilities and Measures for Reform 2017.10.23
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- How do the environment and facilities in schools affect students? In general, facilities that are old and in disrepair emit hazardous air pollutants, which pose health risks to students. This, in turn, can diminish academic performance, resulting from increased absences and reduced concentration. According to an empirical analysis, doubling the investment in facilities at schools receiving only 15,000 won per student increases the number of students achieving above-average grades in Korean, English, and Math by 1.5 to 2.0%p, respectively. This reveals that for students studying in poor conditions, even a small increase can have a meaningful impact on enhancing the educational environment and academic performance. However, according to recent statistics, the share of aging facilities in Korean schools is still significantly high, with 1 out of every 3 built before 1980. To be more specific, asbestos was found in 2 out of 3 schools and 3 out of 4 lacked seismic resistance. In addition, 2 out of 3 urethane track facilities were confirmed to have high heavy metal concentrations. In terms of ICT, Korea is currently at the low end of the global spectrum, with just 1 computer for every 7 students. Indeed, despite such an inadequate educational environment, investment in school facilities continues to decline, although the eduction budget is expanding. However, a portion of the funds allocated to labor costs, which takes the biggest share of the budget, and is still rising, may be redirected and invested. This would be possible because demand for school faculty is expected to decrease as the number of students per teacher nears the OECD average on contracting birth rates and a school-age population. Consequently, through a readjustment of the budget, more funds should be allocated to school facilities and investments should be made in previously neglected areas such as improving facility safety and teaching conditions and providing software education, among others, to ultimately enhance the impact of education and the safety of students. [Interview] To reform the investment in school facilities, the expenditure structure of the education budget should be readjusted by item in order to raise the necessary funds. In particular, for schools that urgently need assistance in terms of health and safety, measurers to utilize the special grant for schools in underdeveloped regions should be examined. A systematic and comprehensive monitoring process is also needed because, although the government conducts annual full-scale diagnoses of the structural safety of schools, inspections of the learning environment are still sporadic. Lastly, future investments should be made in line with the changes in the educational environment.
□ Voices are being raised over the need to improve Korea’s educational environment for the health and safety of our students. And despite the fact that the educational environment plays a vital role in both learning and teaching, investment in school facilities has been given low priority. In response, the new government has laid out plans to reform neglected and aged school facilities, emphasizing the duty of the nation with respect to education investment. In this context, relevant policies should focus on the importance of investment in school facilities.
- Investment in school facilities has been a low priority due to policy decisions and a shift in the distribution of financial resources.
- Policies for the investment in school facilities should aim to provide safe and positive educational environments for students.
- Evaluation of the educational environment should include not only indicators for teaching conditions but also that for school facilities.
- One out of three elementary and middle school buildings were found to be over 35 years old.
- Aged school facilities pose problems that directly affect students’ health and safety such as asbestos, lack of seismic resistance and hazardous urethane blend tracks.
- Investment in school facilities could be effective not only in achieving its primary goal of improving health and safety but also in inducing secondary effects such as heightened academic performance.
- A quality educational environment can have a positive influence on the attitudes and behaviors of both students and teachers.
- Future investments in school facilities need to enhance quality and reflect the changes in the educational curriculum.
- To raise the needed financial resources for investment, it is necessary to adjust the expenditure structure by item within the total education budget.
- For efficient investment, a systemic and comprehensive system that can assess the educational environment must be formulated.
- Future investment in school facilities should be made in light of the government’s educational policy that fits the changing educational environment.
Ⅱ. School Facilities in Elementary and Secondary Schools: Current Status and Assessment
Ⅲ. Investment in School Facilities: Significance and Direction
Ⅳ. Policy Suggestions
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