Primary school children decrease below 3 mil.
By Na Jeong-ju
The number of elementary school students fell below 3 million for the first time this year, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said on publication of its annual education statistics Tuesday.
The decrease reflects Korea’s aging population and a chronically low birthrate ― some 471,300 children were born here in 2011, which is one of the lowest birthrates in the world.
The number of primary school students dropped for the 10th consecutive year to 2.95 million as of April 1. That’s a 5.8 percent decrease from a year earlier and nearly half of the 5.65 million students tallied in 1980.
There are fewer students in secondary schools as well.
The number of middle school students fell by 3.2 percent from a year ago, and that of high school students dropped by 1.2 percent.
In contrast, the number of preschool children hit an all-time high of 613,749, up 8.7 percent from 2011, thanks to the introduction of free education for 5-year-olds and increased state subsidies for the parents of preschoolers.
The report showed some 7.38 million students are enrolled in kindergarten, elementary and secondary schools, compared to 7.6 million in 2011, 8.2 million in 2008, 8.38 million in 2005 and 8.55 million in 2000.
The number of students taking undergraduate and graduate courses at colleges also edged down by 0.2 percent from a year ago to 3.73 million. It’s the first time that the figure has fallen since 2006.
The number of foreign students enrolled at local schools also dropped by 3 percent to 86,878 ― the first decrease in a decade ― due mainly to the toughened application process. The figure had grown rapidly over the past few years because of the worldwide popularity of Korean dramas, pop songs and movies.
The ministry has made it compulsory for universities to get government certification first to admit new foreign students in a bid to enhance the quality of education services for those who want to study in Korea. It also banned poorly-managed colleges from accepting new foreign students for a limited period.
The moves reflected concerns that some unpopular private colleges admitted almost any foreign applicant in order to increase enrollment and boost profits.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has released its 2012 edition of Education at a Glance, a comprehensive report on educational statistics from its member nations.
The report said the country spent 8 percent of GDP on public education ― 4.9 percent by the government and 3.1 percent by the private sector ― in 2010, much higher than the OECD average of 6.3 percent. Spending by the private sector on public education was the highest among OECD countries for the 12th consecutive year, indicating that Korean parents rely heavily on private tutoring for their children’s education.