July 11, 2016 13:25
The low birthrate is emptying kindergartens and primary schools, despite a surge in recent new facilities across the country that are quickly becoming surplus to demand.
Some 1.02 million babies were born in Korea in 1971, but by 2002 the figure had fallen to some 492,100 and now it stands at a mere 430,000.
But politicians' pledges of free education resulted in a surge in the number of nursery schools and kindergartens across the nation.
The number of nursery schools rose from 28,367 in 2005 to a whopping 43,770 in 2013, and many have a tough time filling classrooms.
Last year, nursery schools managed to fill only 75 percent of their quota and kindergartens 85 percent. Some 1,400 nursey schools closed down last year alone.
The low birthrate is also set to affect middle and high schools as well as universities.
Students born in 2002 are currently in eighth grade, and while the present middle and high school education program is designed on the premise of 600,000 students, the reality is that there are only 400,000.
High schools will be hit hard two years from now, when these eighth graders arrive. Already four high schools had no new students this year, and 22.4 percent of the country's 6,218 elementary schools admitted fewer than 10 new children.
Currently 520,000 high-school graduates are competing for 510,000 university or college places for next year. But three years hence there will be fewer students then places.
Choi Jin-ho at Ajou University said, "If we miss the opportunity to adapt, not only kindergarten teachers but university professors could end up on welfare."
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