High-School Classes Dwindle as Low Birthrate Bites

  • By Kim Dong-seop

    March 18, 2017 08:14

    The low birthrate is now starting to shrink high-school classes across the nation and in some cases shutting down some subjects completely.

    Education Ministry data last week show that the number of new students entering high school this year dwindled by around 60,000 or 11 percent. A total of 525,300 students finished middle school last year and are entering senior high school this year, compared to 591,845 last year. And next year, only 460,000 are expected, down another 12.2 percent.

    "We've been reducing classes since 2004 and will have to sharply lower them again this year," a ministry spokesman said.

    The drop has prompted major changes. The same thing happened in middle schools in 2014 and elementary schools in 2008.

    The student-teacher ratio fell to 27.4 last year. The number of teachers allocated to middle schools has dropped since 2014, when it peaked at 113,349, reaching 109,525 last year. Now it is the turn of high school teachers to be weeded out.

    An empty classroom in a high school in Seongju, North Geyongsang Province, which closed down after seniors graduated this year.

    Some experts say the decline in student numbers will have a positive effect on the learning environment by boosting the quality of teaching for each individual child.

    As of 2015, there were still 30 students in each high school class, compared to the OECD average of 24. If numbers decline at the present pace, the ratio will fall to the OECD standard.

    Choi Yoon-hong at the Education Ministry said, "We mustn't see this as a crisis but use it as an opportunity to improve education."

    In 2021, when the current ninth-graders enter university, college entrance quotas will fall below 510,000, resulting in intense competition to attract new students.

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