How to spend the childcare budget
The government provides more than 2 trillion won ($1.81 billion) every year in early childhood education. Sixty-five percent of the budget goes to the state-run and public kindergartens and 35 percent goes to private kindergartens. For “guaranteed childcare” beyond “free childcare” and efficient spending of the insufficient education budget, the current budget allocation needs to be revised and improved.
First of all, instead of spending 2 trillion won on simply taking care of children, various specialized education for the future of the children needs to be focused on in order to enhance parents’ satisfaction.
Secondly, early childhood education should be reinforced at a national level. Studies have proven that qualitative improvement in early childhood education is more effective than youth education. Therefore, by guaranteeing the opportunity for education for children, the social polarization issues can be substantially addressed.
Thirdly, the existing private kindergartens should be well utilized and balanced financial subsidies should be provided for public and private institutions to use the budget more efficiently.
The Nuri program, which the government has been implementing since 2012, can be a transition of the early childhood education and an opportunity for a leap in our educational system. Public and private kindergartens should be compete against one another and all relevant information, including the subsidies from the national education budget, needs to be disclosed and evaluated.
Moreover, the Nuri program is a trial of improved social services and a voucher system, and should reflect the characteristics and will of the service providers. Balanced financial support for public and private kindergartens and aggressive solicitation of private investment are necessary. Early childhood education is a very important element in creating the civil society of the future through creativity and diversity education. Therefore, various entities should be able to participate in the early childhood education facilities and programs. Then the parents should be able to choose the kindergartens that best fit the characteristics of their children.
by Kim Won-shik, Professor of economics at Konkuk University