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Falling birthrate drives education spending down

The nation’s educational expenditure fell by the most in six years, mainly due to the declining number of students brought on by the country’s low birthrate, a state-run agency said Monday.

The Statistics Korea said households with two persons or more spent 292,357 won ($269) monthly in education costs per child on average in the first quarter, down 14,434 won or 4.7 percent from same time last year.

The sharpest drop since 2005 was helped by a 4.6 percent decline in private education spending, which makes up 44.3 percent of the total education expenditure in the country.

The agency reported there were 7,061,000 students in primary and high schools, down 267,000 from last year’s 7,328,000. The number for this year marks about 1 million less school pupils than a decade ago.

The drop in education spending is also attributed to the government’s support on management of public primary and high schools.

“Starting this year, local governments of Gwangju, Gyeonggi, Gangwon, North Jeolla and South Gyeongsang stopped management fees they used to collect from private schools,” an official at the statistics agency said.

The Lee Myung-bak administration has been stepping up efforts to cut education costs that have caused disparity between the rich and poor. Residents of Seoul spent more on educating their children.

A poll by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education from a pool of 1,427 parents in Seoul said education costs increased as children moved up from primary school to middle and high schools. Each family spent an average of 428,000 won and 568,200 won for primary and middle school students per month, respectively. The expenditure rises to 659,500 won per child for high schools.

By Cynthia J. Kim (cynthiak@heraldcorp.com)
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