November 11, 2019 13:14
Spending on private crammers in Korea has soared to a record high despite government pledges to provide decent public education for all.
According to figures released by the Ministry of Education in March this year, per-capita private education spending in 2018 reached W291,000, the highest since the government began tallying such data in 2007 (US$1=W1,158).
The proportion of children who took classes in private crammers climbed up again to a whopping 72.8 percent, a figure no seen since 2010, while total spending stood at W19.49 trillion, the highest since 2011.
The alarming rise came even though spending on public education has soared. The ministry's budget has increased from W68.23 trillion in 2018 to W75.21 trillion this year and will rise to W77.25 trillion in 2020.
Yet the low birthrate means that the number of schoolkids is dwindling, falling 10 percent from 6.08 million in 2015 to a projected 5.45 million next year.
Free after-school classes take up W2 trillion and free nursery school and kindergartens W4 trillion of the government spending.
Song Ki-chang at Sookmyung Women's University said, "If we count private education expenses as well, the total amount of money we spend on schoolkids stands at W100 trillion annually. That is equivalent to 20 percent of the government's budget, but most of the public money goes into free classes and wages rather than improving the quality of education."
Due to excessive reliance on private crammers among wealthier households, more and more students pay no attention at school, so frustrated teachers slack off as well. That is bad news for kids from lower-income families who cannot afford private tuition and simply fall through the cracks.
The proportion of students who cannot understand 20 percent of their textbook material rose from 4.1 percent in 2016 to 6.6 percent last year.
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