Gov’t statistics on education costs were distorted

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Gov’t statistics on education costs were distorted

Although the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has said that its policies have helped lower the cost of private education, the Joong-Ang Ilbo has found that those claims were based on inaccurate statistics.

“The average expenses for private education increased by only 3.9 percent in 2009, which is much lower than the 5 percent increase in 2008,” the new education minister, Lee Ju-ho, who was vice minister when making the comment, said in February. “That is the slowest growth since the ministry conducted research on private education expenses. The ministry’s policies to lower private education expenses produced actual results,” he said.

But, according to the JoongAng Ilbo, the average figures Lee used combined private education expenses for elementary, middle and high school students to paint a rosier picture.

In fact, figures from JoongAng Ilbo indicate that private education expenses for middle school students increased by 7.9 percent in 2009 compared with 3 percent in 2008. Those for high school students increased by 5.3 percent in 2009 compared with 4.6 percent in 2008.

However, private education expenses for elementary school students increased by only 1.2 percent in 2009, while they rose by 6.6 percent in 2008. Students attending job training high schools spent 13 percent less on private education in 2009 as compared with the year before.

The slower growth in private education expenses for elementary school students and for students at job training high schools drove the overall average to increase more slowly in 2009 even though there was a steep increase in private education expenses for both middle and high school students,

“If we look at the increase rates closely, it is evident that expenses for English and math classes increased more rapidly, and those taking lessons from private tutors increased, while those attending private institutions decreased,” said Park Yu-seong, a professor of statistics at Korea University. “Ignoring all these specifics and just emphasizing the overall average figure is an act of skewing statistics.”

And Lee’s statement in February was not the last time the ministry would make use of distorted statistics, the JoongAng Ilbo found. On Aug. 13, the ministry announced, “For the first time since 2007, average private education expenses per month in the second quarter decreased by 0.3 percent, compared with [a year ago].”

However, the JoongAng Ilbo found that the 0.3 percent decrease was due to a decrease in private education expenses for adults, such as for language and computer training. Costs for secondary school students still increased. During this year’s second quarter, adults’ private education expenses decreased by 6.7 percent, but expenses for those in secondary schools increased by 0.05 percent.

The ministry has said its goal has been to see a decrease in private education expenses for secondary schools, not for adults taking classes, so the ministry’s claims are not on solid ground, the research shows.

By Park Su-ryon []
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