Single Blog Title

This is a single blog caption
30 Nov 2016

Is the Meister Vocational High School More Cost-Effective in South Korea? By Kye Woo LEE and Dae Hong KIM

By Kye Woo LEE and Dae Hong KIM, Korea Development Institute (KDI), South Korea, and Hay Kyeong LEE, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

skoreaWhen the 2008 economic crisis occurred, many European governments, which were hit hardest by the crisis, tried to learn from the dual vocational high school programme of Germany, whose graduates had suffered much less from unemployment. The German government touted that its relatively low unemployment rate was due to dual vocational high school programme, in which students take academic courses in school for about two days a week, and training in practical skills and knowledge on the job in cooperating enterprises for the rest of the week.

In 2008, South Korea also adapted Germany’s model, called the Meister Vocational High School (MHS) Programme, which was a new type of vocational high school in South Korea, and announced some 50 (traditional) regular vocational high schools would become Meister vocational high schools. In addition, 350 regular vocational high schools (RVHS) would be modernized in the direction of the MHS Programme, and about 300 RVHS converted to general high schools (GHS).

In 2010, the Korean government launched 21 Meister Vocational High Schools after two years’ preparation, and by September 2013, their employment rate reached 90% (Kim et al. 2013, 2012). In parallel with the MHS, the RVHS improved their graduates’ employment rate from 22% in 2011 to 41% in 2012 and reduced their graduates’ progression rate to higher education from 56% to 46% during the same years (MOEL, 2012).

The Korean government then faced a critical policy choice: To solve the historically high youth unemployment rates and foster skilled workforce, should the government convert the remaining 350 RVHS to MHS, and 300 RVHS to GHS? Therefore, to answer the policy question, we assessed the economic viability and cost-effectiveness of the MHS and compared them with those of other competing educational investment options such as RVHS or GHS.

The MHS vs. RVHS

To compare the MHS and RVHS, we conducted the cost-benefit and cost effectiveness analyses. The results reveal that both Meister and regular vocational high schools are economically viable. Yet, the Meister vocational high schools are found to be less viable than the regular vocational high schools both before (MHS: 19.3% vs. RVHS: 20.4%) and after (MHS: 23.3% vs. RVHS: 23.9%) the launch of the Meister vocational high school programme.

Therefore, we conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis, which suggests that the Meister vocational high schools are less cost-effective than the regular vocational high schools. First, student recurrent cost per wage rate of the Meister vocational high school remains higher than that of the regular vocational high school both before (MHS:1.48 won vs. RVHS: 1.10 won) and after (MHS: 2.74 won vs. RVHS: 1.64 won), and it gets much higher after the launch of the Meister vocational high school programme.

Second, student recurrent cost per employment rate of the Meister vocational high school was lower than that of the regular vocational high school before (MHS: 652.57 thousand won vs. RVHS: 675.46 thousand won), but became higher after the Meister vocational high school programme implementation (MHS: 515 thousands won vs. RVHS: 503 thousands won).

The RVHS vs. GHS (with higher education)

A student graduating from the middle school has another option besides the regular vocational high school. It is the general high school. Thus, similar economic analyses were conducted between the regular vocational high school (RVHS) or regular vocational high school followed by higher education (RVHS plus) and the general high school, followed by higher education (GHS plus).

The results suggest that the RVHS (or RVHS plus) is consistently more economically viable (RVHS 25%, RVHS plus 22%, and GHS Plus 16%), and is more cost-effective than the general high school followed by higher education option: (i) student cost per wage rate (RVHS: 0.88 won, RVHS plus: 0.67 won, and GHS plus: 1.06 won), (ii) student cost per employment rate (RVHS: 553 thousand won, RVHS Plus: 423 thousand won, and GHS Plus: 664 thousand won).

In sum, the regular vocational high school, or regular vocational high school followed by higher education, is, in fact, more economically viable and cost-effective than both alternatives: the MHS and GHS proceeding with higher education. Therefore, in the future, it would be more efficient and advisable to modernize and expand regular vocational high schools than Meister or general high schools.

Kye Woo LEE is a Professor of Korea Development Institute (KDI) School of Public Policy and Management, Republic of Korea. Email:

Dae Hong KIM is a Research Associate of the Centre for International Development at KDI, Republic of Korea. Email:

Hay Kyeong LEE is a Graduate Student of University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Email:

This blog is based on: Lee, K.W. et al., 2016, Is the Meister Vocational High School More Cost-Effective? International Journal of Educational Development. 51: 84-95; and the same title book published by Lambert Academic Publishing Co. (ISBN 978-3-330-01475-6).

The views expressed here are of authors only and do not officially represent the organizations with which authors are affiliated.


Kim, J.W., Choi, S.J., Hur, Y.J., 2012. Assessment of the Implementation of the Government‘s Meister High School Policy and Future Agenda. KRIVET (In Korean).

Kim, J.W., Kim, H.M., Choi, S.J., Hur, Y.J., 2013. Analysis of Meister High School Graduates’ Labour Market Performance. KRIVET (In Korean).

Ministry of Employment and Labour of the Republic of Korea, 2012. Open Employment Market: Progress and Future Agenda (In Korean).

>> View all NORRAG NEWSBite Blogs on technical and vocational skills development

NORRAG (Network for International Policies and Cooperation in Education and Training) is an internationally recognised, multi-stakeholder network which has been seeking to inform, challenge and influence international education and training policies and cooperation for almost 30 years. NORRAG has more than 4,500 registered members worldwide and is free to join. Not a member? Join free here.

(Visited 1,790 times, 1 visits today)
Sub Menu
Back to top