The dropout rate of North Korean defectors in South Korean schools has gradually declined over the last few years, an education institute said Thursday, a sign that efforts to help support North Korean students paid off.
The dropout rate for North Korean students in primary, middle and high schools stood at 4.7 percent in 2010, down from 6.1 percent in 2008 and 10.8 percent in 2007, according to the Korean Education Development Institute.
North Korean students had high dropout rates in South Korea due mainly to the education vacuum caused by their defection.
Many young North Korean defectors missed regular education opportunities as they crossed the border into China and traveled to Southeast Asian countries before arriving in South Korea, a process that the institute says takes about more than two years.
A total of 1,632 North Korean defectors were enrolled in South Korean schools as of April, up from 1,316 in 2010, according to the institute.
South Korea has undertaken measures to try to reduce the number of North Korean students dropping out in recent years.
“The efforts have paid off, though North Korean students are still facing challenges as they have poor academic performance compared with that of their South Korean counterparts,” said Han Mann-hil, an official of the institute.
North Korean students are struggling to catch up with their South Korean peers in a highly competitive society where education is the key to success. South Korea is famous for its education fervor, which helped transform the country into the world’s 13th-largest economy from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War.
More than half of 520 parents of North Korean defector students surveyed in 2009 said their children attended private cram schools or had tutoring.
Many South Korean middle and high school students attend private cram schools after their regular classes to improve their chances of gaining admission to elite universities.
Top college graduates still have advantages in getting decent jobs in South Korea, where people’s occupations bring them social status.
A total of 84 out of 99 defector high school graduates this year attended two-year or four-year colleges in South Korea, according to the institute. South Korea gives special favors to North Korean defector students when they apply for college.