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Number of primary, secondary school students falls 3.6%

The number of South Korea’s primary and secondary school students has fallen 3.6 percent over the past year amid the country’s chronically low birthrate, data showed Wednesday.

According to the data by the education ministry, the number of elementary, middle and high school students combined came to 6.52 million as of April, down 240,000 from a year earlier.

Elementary schools saw the largest decrease of 5.7 percent on-year from 2.95 million to 2.78 million, with the number of middle schoolers declining 2.4 percent and high school students dropping 1.4 percent, the data showed.

The decrease in the number of students was attributable to the chronically low birthrate, according to ministry officials.

The country’s fertility rate, or the number of babies a woman is expected to have during her lifetime, was 1.297 in 2012, substantially lower than the average of 1.74 among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

“The number of students is expected to continue to decline if the current trend of fewer marriages and having fewer children continues,” an education ministry official said.

The number of students at college and graduate schools edged down 0.5 percent on-year to 3.70 million over the cited period, the data showed.

In contrast, the number of preschool children hit an all-time high this year of 658,188, up from 7.2 percent from 2012 due to the government’s introduction of a new education system for 5-year-olds and an expansion of support for child care.

The number of international students studying here fell by 1.1 percent to 85,923, marking the second straight year of decrease, according to the data.

The trend appears to be related to the government’s toughened regulations that aim to reduce side effects caused by heated competition among colleges inviting more students from overseas, according to ministry officials.

Of them, students from China accounted for the largest share with 67.7 percent, followed by Mongolia with 4.4 percent, Vietnam with 3.8 percent, the United States with 3.2 percent and Japan with 2.4 percent, the data showed. (Yonhap News)
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