A Mixed-Methods Study of Early Childhood Education and Care in South Korea: Policies and Practices During COVID-19


This study of South Korea's response to COVID-19 has three purposes. First, it uses document analysis to examine policies, strategies, and resources offered by the South Korean government and public organizations to support young children and families during the first 6 months of the pandemic. Next, it uses open-ended surveys with 30 directors of early childhood institutions to explore institutional-level supports and needs during the pandemic. Finally, it looks at the discrepancies between stated policies outlining the South Korea's response to COVID-19 and the lived experiences of early childhood educators as a route to arriving at recommendations for education policymakers and other stakeholders. To that end, we reviewed government documents (n = 84) containing early childhood education-related responses to Covid-19 established by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and other relevant government sectors. An online survey with 17 kindergarten and 13 child care center directors was also analyzed. Using content analysis, the findings revealed that the government's policies and guidance for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) as well as the institutional supports for children and families were overall comprehensive in its scope. The analysis, based on the five tenets of the Whole Child approach, also indicated that the government's policy responses and services for ECEC focused mainly on the 'Safe' and 'Supported' tenets, while 'Challenged' was given the least amount of consideration. The survey responses demonstrated different measures taken by kindergartens and child care centers highlighting the separate nature of 'education' and 'care' in South Korea, while also indicating limited resources for supporting children's psychological well-being and for children and families in need. This overview provides a foundation for further discussion and research on the impact of Covid-19 on ECEC in South Korea and beyond.


Childhood Education and Family Studies

Document Type





COVID-19, Child care center, Early childhood education and care, Government, Kindergarten, Policy, South Korea, Whole child approach

Publication Date


Journal Title

Early Childhood Education Journal