January 2, 2024
SEOUL – As South Korea’s school age population continues to drop, 31.3 percent of recently built schools are suffering from a student shortage, a state-issued report showed Monday.
The Korea Educational Development Institute conducted a survey on the number of students attending 214 elementary, middle and high schools across the country that had been built between 2018 and 2020, based on annual reports by the Ministry of Education.
The schools with student numbers below 70 percent of the figure initially expected were classified as under-capacity, while schools with at least 130 percent of expected student numbers were categorized as over-capacity.
Across the nation, 67 schools across were classified as under-capacity, while the number of overcrowded schools stood at 18, just 8.4 percent of the new schools.
Per year, the percentage of schools with an insufficient student population was 25.4 percent in 2018, 28.8 percent in 2019, and 37.8 percent in 2020. In contrast, the percentage of schools that had too many students went from 13.6 percent in 2018 to 12.3 percent, then 1.2 percent in the respective years.
Researchers noted that this was due to regional education officers overestimating the number of students in particular areas, stressing that authorities should monitor the recent trends to reflect the declining population.
The school age population, defined by those aged between six and 21, was 7.25 million in 2023, according to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The figure marked a decrease of 223,000 compared to the year before, a trend that is expected to continue in the coming years.
The government projected that the school age population for 2060 will be 4.17 million, just 9.8 percent of the total population.
South Korea has seen a consistent fall in birth rate and a corresponding decline in the youth population. The country’s total fertility rate, the number of children expected to be born to each woman throughout her life, is already the lowest in the world at 0.78.
But the annual total fertility rate for 2023, expected to be announced early in the year, was projected to be even lower at 0.72, with a further decline to 0.68 projected for 2024.