January 12, 2019 08:33
One out of every five elementary schools in Korea has not enough pupils to stay open. The main reason is the low birthrate and the hollowing out of rural areas.
According to analysis by the Korean Educational Development Institute published Monday, out of 6,285 elementary schools nationwide, some 1,437 or 20 percent have fewer than 60 students. In South Jeolla Province the proportion is a whopping 49 percent, in Gangwon Province 48 percent, in North Gyeongsang Province 44 percent and in North Jeolla Province 43 percent.
The Education Ministry sees 60 students as the minimum a school needs to stay open. Any fewer than that and it recommends either closing the school or merging it with another one nearby.
Only if these minuscule schools happen to be the only one left in the region does the ministry allow them to stay open.
But their number is expected to grow. Statistics Korea forecasts the number of children aged six to 17 to fall to just two-thirds of the present level two generations from now, from 12 percent of the total population in 2017 to just eight percent in 2065. That means many children in villages or small towns will have to go to school more than 10 km from their homes and classrooms consist of different graders, making teachers' jobs more difficult.
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