The reform of national geography standards in South Korea - Trends, challenges and responses

Jongwon Lee, Graham Butt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The purpose of this article is to examine recent changes in the geography national curriculum in South Korea through the lenses of three curriculum components that often find themselves in competition - subject content, educational processes and national/social purposes. In recent years, the prevailing national and social aims outlined for the school curriculum, coupled with newly introduced educational processes, have dominated debate about curriculum development in South Korea. These trends have created an essentially unhealthy environment for geography education - the number of students opting for geography courses has declined; the geography curriculum is in danger of being restructured around new axes of competency; and only certain aspects of geographical subject content (such as territorial issues) are selectively promoted. We conclude that with South Korean education policies being strongly influenced by neoliberal and market forces, geography teachers may need to adopt a more proactive stance with regard to curriculum change. The grassroots reform movement Sipsiilban, initiated by a handful of Korean geography teachers, has recently taken geography curriculum matters into their own hands and developed alternative geography curricula and textbooks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-24
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Research in Geographical and Environmental Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2014


  • creativity
  • curriculum revision
  • geography national curriculum
  • national identity
  • social needs
  • standards
  • steam


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