Education in the Joseon dynasty

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Education in the Joseon Dynasty of Korea was largely aimed at preparing students for government service. The ultimate goal of most students was successful passage of the state examinations, known as gwageo.

Educational institutions were extremely widespread in the country, and can be divided into public and private. The highest public institution was the Seonggyungwan, located in Seoul. Below this were the Sahak (사부학당), four schools providing technical training, and the hyanggyo, schools supported by each of the Eight Provinces. [1] The hyanggyo soon fell into neglect, and for most of the Joseon period education was dominated by two types of private schools, seowon (preparatory schools mostly for the aristocracy) and seodang (private village schools providing elementary education).

Civil service examinations[edit]

The civil service examinations, known as gwageo, assessed subject's ability to interpret the Chinese classics, in terms of official Neo-Confucian ideology. The gwageo were divided into civil and military sections. The gwageo system had been set up in the Goryeo dynasty, but reached its peak in the Joseon period.

State-supported education[edit]


The Seonggyungwan was the highest educational institution in Joseon, and attracted scholars from across the country. It was based on the Goryeo-period Gukjagam.

Confucian curriculum[edit]

The Korean Confucian curriculum was based on the Chinese educational system which had 15 or so primary works, and a large number of exegetical works, along with graded exams that were on set topics. All of these works were written in Chinese, the academic written language of Joseon. A common introductory textbook was the Lesser Learning, an exegetical work by Zhu Xi.


  1. ^ Nahm (1996), p. 110.


  • Nahm, Andrew C. (1996). Korea: A history of the Korean people (2nd ed.). Seoul: Hollym. ISBN 1-56591-070-2.

See also[edit]