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Student population on steady decline in South Korea

All News 17:03 August 26, 2021

SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- The total number of students in kindergartens and elementary, middle and high schools in South Korea has fallen below 6 million for the first time, government data showed Thursday, amid the nation's declining birthrate.

According to data from the Ministry of Education, there were 5,957,087 students enrolled in kindergartens and elementary, middle and high schools nationwide as of April 1, marking a decline of 0.9 percent from a year earlier.

Students of a middle school in the central city of Sejong enter a school building in this file photo taken on Aug. 17, 2021. (Yonhap)

Students of a middle school in the central city of Sejong enter a school building in this file photo taken on Aug. 17, 2021. (Yonhap)

Student population decreased on all levels of schools, excluding middle schools, which increased 2.7 percent to 1.35 million. The number of students dropped 4.9 percent to 582,572 at kindergartens, 0.8 percent to 2,672,340 at elementary schools and 2.8 percent to 1,299,965 at high schools.

South Korea has been struggling with a steady decline in childbirths. Last year, the number of newborns hit a record low of 272,300, down 30,300, or 10 percent, from the previous year, according to separate government data.

Notably, the number of elementary and secondary school students from multicultural families rose 8.6 percent on-year to 160,056 this year, the data found, marking a continuous annual increase since 2012.

As a result, the ratio of multicultural students in all enrollments at elementary and secondary schools edged up 0.2 percentage point to 3 percent.

Meanwhile, the number of students enrolled in higher education institutions in South Korea decreased 2.3 percent to 3.2 million this year.

The number of students decreased 2.2 percent to 1.94 million at general universities and colleges, 1.4 percent to 15,409 at teachers colleges and 7.4 percent to 576,041 at junior colleges. But the number of graduate students increased by 2.1 percent from last year to 327,415.

Foreign students attending South Korean universities wait to take COVID-19 tests in western Seoul on Aug. 11, 2021. (Yonhap)

Foreign students attending South Korean universities wait to take COVID-19 tests in western Seoul on Aug. 11, 2021. (Yonhap)

The number of foreign students registered in higher education institutions here fell 0.9 percent to 152,281. The number of international students in degree programs increased by 6.2 percent to 120,018 but the number in non-degree programs decreased by 20.7 percent to 32,263.

Among all international students, Chinese students accounted for the largest share at 44.2 percent, or 67,348, which marked an increase of 0.6 percentage point from last year. Then Vietnamese students accounted for 23.5 percent of the total, or 35,843.

ycm@yna.co.kr
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