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South Korea

Free Semester Program (FSP) 


To address the identified shortcomings in its education system—namely, academic stress, teacher-centric teaching/learning, learning confined to textbook and class, test-based assessment, and teacher-dominant education manpower (J.Y. Lee, 2015)


  • The FSP’s major features related more to student-centered teaching and learning. Rather than traditional lecture-based classes, students are engaged in solving complex problems through project-based learning and debates. In addition, FSP’s extracurricular activities include field trips to regional career centers that help students navigate their career interests. Such opportunities are tied to other activities as well, such as student club activities, arts, and sports activities. Each school can choose one of four tracks as shown in table below, based on capacity, infrastructure, and needs of students and parents.

  • FSP is not just an innovative education programme; it involves orchestrated efforts among policymakers, teachers, parents, and students. The government provides holistic guidelines, inservice teacher training, and a web-based platform ( to help schools establish FSP and ensure that students, parents, and teachers have access to helpful resources, can monitor their programmes, and can share best practices. 



  • FSP was initiated in 43 schools and continually expanded to all 3204 middle schools (100% of all public middle schools) as its overall positive impact was recognized. It is currently implemented for one semester of Year 1 (Grade 7) in all public middle schools. Students can select a more interactive curriculum and extracurricular programming that cater to their interests and passions (Park, 2016) 

  • 81.1% of students who participated in FSP reported that their capacity for self-expression increased, 74.6% said their relationships with teachers improved, 63.5% said their enjoyment of learning improved, and 50.4% said their stress related to studying decreased. 

  • Park (2016) similarly found that FSP enhanced participants’ social skills and cooperation with others. 

  • FSP has also enhanced students’ cognitive skills in Korean, English, and mathematics. Participating students showed a greater increase in their academic achievements than non participating students after participating in FSP (KEDI, 2018).

SMART Education Initiative 

Self-directed, Motivated, Adaptive, Resource-enriched, and Technology-embedded (SMART) Education initiative 


To customize education systems and bridge the gap between these new and innovative fields and the education sector in a way that fosters learner capacities for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 


The key goal of implementing the SMART Education initiative was to digitalize educational contents by 2015, reflecting modern changes of the 21st century and to utilize ICT as a primary medium of learning. It featured major five tasks (Chun, 2018). 

  • Expanding and developing digital textbooks including based on smart learning model 

  • Facilitating online classes from afterschool programs to university-level programs and building an online assessment system. 

  • Creating a free and safe setting for educational contents through developing legal frameworks, ICT infrastructure and eco-system for sharing contents 

  • Promoting teacher training of the SMART education. 

  • Establishing the infrastructure of the foundation for cloud educational services in schools as well as a platform to share educational contents. 

The SMART Education initiative consists of developing infrastructure, new pedagogies, relevant policy and legal frameworks, and culture to support ICT education. Therefore, it aims to change the meaning of education from in-classroom lectures to more interactive educational contents and pedagogies tailored to each student and teacher. 



  • Evaluations found that the initiative has led to improvements in problem-solving skills, communication skills, creativity and innovation ability, critical thinking, and information utilization ability. Meanwhile, teachers were found to have become increasingly effective in such competencies as learning facilitation, communication skills, and the use of smart devices (Kye et al., 2015, 2016). 

  • Nonetheless, there has been substantial debate on SMART initiatives, especially as it relates to the adverse side effects of overused digital devices. Before the implementation of the SMART initiatives, there had been concerns that it should be delayed, and most teachers resisted adopting the initiative rapidly. They raised voices that exposure to harmful websites and deterioration of physical functions such as eyesight and neck could be by-product. (UNESCO, 2019) 

  • On top of that, many stakeholders raised a question on weakening the relationship and communication between students and teachers. Given the issues are associated with the general aspects of the use of ICT, the Korean government focused on establishing an eco-system to support students, teachers, and parents and promoting partnerships with local government and the private sector.

Research by CoLab; Packaged by CoLab; Used for Punjab education reform

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