Concept and importance of lifelong learning

Section 31. 5 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea declares that the State shall promote lifelong education. According to Article 2 of the Lifelong Education Act, the term ‘lifelong education’ means all types of systematic learning activities other than regular school curricula, which include supplementary education, adult literacy education, competence-based vocational education, humanities education, culture and art education, and citizen involvement education.

In a report titled 'New Perspectives and Prospects for Education in the 21st Century' in 1996, UNESCO's 21st Century Education Committee suggested lifelong learning as the key to transforming the 21st century by putting 'learning to live with,' ‘learning to know,’ ‘learning to do,’ and ‘learning to be’ at the heart of education.

OECD Education Ministers, at their meeting in 1996, agreed to develop strategies for ‘lifelong learning for all.’ Adult education, which had generally been referred to as recurrent education, was extended to lifelong learning and became a matter of urgency or priority at the national level.

In 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 targets to be achieved by countries and the international community until 2030. Ambitions for education are essentially captured in Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.’

In the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a decline in the size of the school-age population and a rising share of adults allow us to reflect the importance of lifelong learning—in 2025, people 25 years and older are projected to make up more than 80% of Korea’s population. Under this circumstance, lifelong learning is viewed as the core domain of national policies. Policies are dedicated to nurturing human resource capabilities, tackling social polarization—caused by income, knowledge, technology, region, and academic background, vitalizing local communities, and cultivating democratic citizenship.

MOE’s vision for lifelong learning

Our vision is to step forward into a lifelong learning society for all, which inspires everyone to continue to improve their own abilities even outside of the formal education system. With the hope that income, regional, and educational disparity might not adversely affect lifelong learning, we consolidate online learning platforms; thus, anyone will be able to easily access lifelong learning opportunities. Not only do we work for a lifelong learning ecosystem tailored to local features together with municipalities and colleges, but we also create diverse content, ranging from new technologies to liberal arts for curated learning by generation or life cycle.

Type of lifelong learning


Autodidacticism is an alternative open higher education system that gives self-learners the chance to acquire a bachelor's degree, aiming to fulfill the principle of lifelong learning and help them attain self-actualization and contribute to community development. If a person completing high school graduation requirements does self-study and passes primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary tests, a bachelor's degree will be conferred in the name of the Minister of Education.

The self-taught higher education examination began in 1990, administered by the Central Education Evaluation Institute. Related duty was handed over to Korea National Open University in 1998 and to the National Institute for Lifelong Education in 2008 with the Lifelong Education Act amended.

Autodidacticism offers 11 majors in 10 degree types, including Bachelors of Arts, Laws, Public Administration, and Engineering.

Credit bank

Credit bank is a system that allows individuals to receive credits for various types of experiences, learning, and qualifications that take place both inside and outside of the classroom. Under Article 9 of the Credit Recognition Act, etc., if a person who holds high school diploma or equivalent or reaches certain criteria by accumulating credits, he or she is able to earn an associate or bachelor’s degree. It is Korea’s representative open lifelong learning system that makes up for the limitations of regular higher education.

The Korean Educational Development Institute was entrusted with the credit bank system in 1997, and in March 1998, it was first implemented. Accordingly with the amendment to the Lifelong Education Act in 2007, the operating entity was changed to the National Institute for Lifelong Education in 2008.

Degrees are granted by the Minister of Education or the head of a higher education institution.

Lifelong learning voucher

The Lifelong Education Voucher Support Project intends to provide economically disadvantaged individuals with the opportunity to take part in lifelong learning and improve their quality of life. Those getting voucher assistance are able to choose a course according to their circumstances and educational level. While an educational welfare system operated with elementary, middle, and high schools at its center, the Lifelong Education Voucher Support Project was undertaken in 2018 to strengthen government accountability related to adult education.

A voucher worth 350,000 won per year is given to a low-income person and a voucher worth 700,000 won per year, to an active user. Voucher recipients take a class they are interested in—at approximately 1,700 institutions that accept vouchers.


Korean Massive Open Online Course is a service that allows anyone to participate in college classes anytime, anywhere, at no charge, starting in 2015 in the midst of a global paradigm shift for tertiary education. At present, about 890,000 members get access to over 1,000 courses of K-MOOC. In preparation for the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, artificial intelligence courses have recently been added.

MOOC, an abbreviation of massive open online course, is a web-based platform that offers courses with configured goals and without limit on class size, which can be taken by anyone. Interactive learning is available through question-and-answer sessions, discussions, quizzes, assignments, and a network of communities between professors and students and among students.

Since the end of August in 2021, in collaboration with EBS, ‘Great Class, Great Minds,’ featuring world famous scholars from humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, has been broadcast, which is slated to continue till first half of 2022.

Short-term vocational certification (Matchup)

Matchup is devoted to building and running 36 online courses, which reflect corporate demands in nine emerging sectors—such as new energy vehicles, smart farms, blockchains, smart cities, and big data.

Learners can take it as an opportunity to deepen skills and receive both a certificate of completion and a certificate of proficiency, which will prove their potential value during the hiring process. Some companies recognize hours of matchup training.

Matchup completion outcomes could be accepted as credits—thanks to the amendment to the Enforcement Decree of the Act on Credit Recognition, etc. in December 2019. We strive for the revitalization and promotion of Matchup.

Support for lifelong learning system at college

The government supports colleges to optimize their environment adequate for adult learners and offer practical classes—which is the College Lifelong Learning System Support Project, launched in 2017. Currently, 30 schools (23 colleges, 7 junior colleges) and 113 departments, which about 4,000 learners attend, are beneficiaries.

Support for local-friendly lifelong learning

For the purpose of helping embrace a culture of lifelong learning and forge a local government initiated-lifelong learning ecosystem, we execute the Regional Lifelong Learning Support Project. Since 2001, we have designated a Lifelong Learning City and have provided financial assistance. Up to now, there are 180 Lifelong Learning Cities.

Adult literacy education

As part of adult literacy policies, we strengthen a curriculum that covers from elementary to middle school education as well as literacy programs for illiterate or poorly educated individuals over the age of 18. September is Korean Literacy Month whilst we celebrate International Literacy Day on September 8. The National Adult Literacy Education Poetry Exhibition is held each year.