Nearly 47,000 children from multicultural families are currently attending Korean schools. The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology on Monday said 46,954 students in 11,390 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide are from international marriages or from foreign parents.
This is an increase of 21 percent or 8,276 from last year's 38,678.
The ministry said over 1,700 children moved back to Korea from abroad compared to a year ago, which partly explains the increase.
Including children who are enrolled in international schools or who do not go to school, the ministry said the number of multicultural children could be well over 50,000.
A ministry official said multicultural students now make up 0.7 percent of the total student population of 6.78 million.
"While the number of students in elementary and secondary schools is declining due to the low birthrate, the number of students from multicultural households is rising. At this rate, the percentage will exceed one percent by 2014," the official added.
◆ Dramatic Rise
Since the government first started compiling statistics on children of multicultural families in 2006, the figure has rapidly increasing. In 2006, there were 9,389 children of them in primary and secondary schools nationwide, but that jumped by more than five times to 46,954 this year. The government estimates that it will go up to 70,000 in 2014.
Among them, the majority or 72 percent (33,792) are in primary school, 20.5 percent (9,647) in middle school and 7.5 percent (3,515) in high school.
The proportion of those with Chinese parents is the biggest with 33.8 percent or 15,882, followed by 12,933 Japanese, 7,553 Filipinos, 3,408 Vietnamese, 1,136 Thai and 1,021 Mongolian parents.
Shin Hyun-ok of the Rainbow Youth Center for migrant youngsters said as these children grow up, they will face growing problems with their education, employment and starting their own families.
◆ High Dropout Rate
There are currently 26 advisors for multicultural students in primary and secondary schools across the country. Preparatory schools and alternative schools are also available to help these children learn Korean and basic academic skills before they enter school here.
But experts point out that both classmates and teachers tend to get impatient when children do not speak the language well.
Korea Multicultural Congress secretary general Chung Myung-hee said, "About 40 percent of multicultural children drop out of schools because of a feeling of isolation. Rather than enforcing programs tailored exclusively to children of multicultural households, we need education programs that promote interaction between them and their non-multicultural peers to enhance mutual understanding."