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Kindergarten costs surge

Private kindergarten costs surged by an average of 32.6 percent over the last five years, exceeding the average private university tuition rise of 19.4 percent.

According to Statistics Korea on Tuesday, the rate of increase for private kindergarten fees is almost double the country’s combined inflation rate of 18.2 percent between 2006 and 2011, and is higher than the average rate increase of public university fees of 20.7 percent and after-school private lessons of 28.2 percent during the same period.

The costs varied by region, but usually ranged from 200,000 won ($180) to 300,000 won, depending on facilities and curricula. Parents pay other expenses for kindergarten activities, uniforms, food and snacks per semester, which usually cost more than the monthly tuition.

The kindergarten fee increase adds to the burden for parents already struggling with rent or a mortgage, but some parents say they have no choice but to send their children to kindergarten while they work.

“It costs me about 1.5 million won to send my daughter to a kindergarten specializing in English education,” said a mother living in Gangnam, a relatively wealthy area of Seoul.

“But it becomes a great burden to send another child to a kindergarten.”

Another parent in Incheon posted on a preschool website that she pays about 290,000 won ($270) in monthly tuition and another 630,000 won ($590) per semester for activities, study materials and food.

“If you send two children to a preschool, you will have financial trouble,” she wrote.

The increase in kindergarten costs seems to far outstrip the government subsidy for 5-year-old preschoolers.

The government plans to provide 200,000 won per five-year-old in preschool subsidy per month next year.

“Not only the tuition increase but also the recent skyrocketing food prices seem to have contributed to the surge in kindergarten costs,” said a statistics official.

By Lee Woo-young  (wylee@heraldcorp.com)
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