The role of Confucian cultural values and politics in planning educational programs for adults in Korea
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The purpose of this study was to understand how cultural values influence educational planning in Korea. Specifically, the study was to examine how Confucian values play out in educational planning in terms of negotiating power and interests. The following research questions guided the study: First, what Confucian values influence program planning processes and outcomes? And second, in what ways did social and political relationships intersect with Confucian values to enable or constrain planners’ actions? A qualitative study was conducted of thirteen program planners in Korea. Six women and seven men ranging in age from twenty-six to forty-nine were interviewed using an in-depth and semi-structured format. The participants were from nine different geographic locations representing the diverse areas of Korea in a variety of educational settings. Data analysis revealed that: first, Confucian values such as group harmony, respect of hierarchy, propriety, face, bond of affection, and distinctive gender roles, were deeply rooted in the program planners. Second, the influence of Confucian values and existing social and political relationships that structure planning tables enabled and constrained their actions. Under the second finding, four main themes were constructed: (a) the hierarchical human relationships based on Confucian values determine inequalities among people and the pre-existing capacity to act at the planning table; (b) the hierarchy-conscious mindset of Korean people defines who sits at the planning table, where decisions are made, and how interests are achieved by exercising of power; (c) Confucian values are integrated into the planners’ complex sets of interests including educational and political objectives for educational programs; and (d) Confucian values influence negotiation behaviors and outcomes. Four conclusions can be drawn from the findings of this study. First, Confucian values that are embedded in organizational culture manifest in Korean program planners’ attitudes and behavior. Second, group orientation and the value placed upon the maintenance of harmony are emphasized and shape the way in which Korean program planners construct educational programs. Third, Korean program planners construct educational programs by negotiating personal, social, and organizational interests in socially and culturally structured power relations marked by the Confucian traditions of hierarchical human relationships. Fourth and finally, the interwoven values of the Confucian traditions of hierarchical human relationships and maintenance of group harmony shape negotiation behaviors of Korean planners.