Kindergarten spots grow scarce for ‘Year of Pig’ kids
“Newcomer Kindergarten Pupil Lottery” read a sign on a box filled with table tennis balls in a kindergarten located in Songpa District, Seoul, on Saturday. The lottery was for a spot in the incoming 2012 kindergarten class for six-year-olds, and 105 children competed for 16 spots.
As the lottery drawing began, either joy or sorrow rippled through the parents in the room depending on whether or not their children were selected.
The 60-year-old grandmother of a child who was not selected sighed and said, “If I knew this was going to happen, I would have asked my granddaughter who was born in December to be born a month later.”
The reason for this excessive competition is due to a baby boom in 2007. In 2005, the number of births in Korea was 435,031 according to Statistics Korea. The birthrate peaked at 493,189 in 2007 before dropping again for the next two years.
The baby boom in 2007 is on account of it being the “Year of the Golden Pig,” the last of twelve animals to appear in the Chinese zodiac, and is associated with good fortune, especially monetary fortune.
A spike in births could be seen in 1958 and 1972, also years of the pig. Consequently, these babies now face extra competition with their year-mates beginning with entering kindergarten in 2012.
The “Golden Pigs” who entered preschool last year at age five face accelerated competition as each year passes. Statistics from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education show a higher enrollment rate for each rising year in kindergarten divided into children aged five, six and seven (Korean age).
A parent surnamed Lee, 38, stated, “Because kindergartens have good facilities and children are taught by a licensed teacher, many parents try to switch their children from day care to kindergartens before entry into primary school.”
With this influx of applicants, some kindergartens even charge application fees for lotteries. And the application fees increase the more applicants there are. A Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education preschool education commissioner, Lee Sun-i, stated, “There has been an increase in kindergartens receiving application fees as more children of the ‘Year of the Golden Pig’ came up this year.”
One kindergarten in Songpa District charged 60,000 won ($52) for application fees while another kindergarten, also in the district, didn’t charge fees last year but began to charge 20,000 won this year. One 38-year-old mother in the district said, “After applying to two places, the application fee is 130,000 won. If 100 students apply to kindergarten, it will gather millions of won and make profit from the application process just like colleges.”
Yet, despite this, there is a significant scarcity of kindergartens in Seoul. This year, there were 81,237 students admitted to kindergartens in Seoul. The number of students intending to attend kindergarten in Seoul next year may be as high as three times this number. Even day care facilities struggle, with 94,982 children enrolled.
A parent living in Gangnam District expressed, “Because there are no spots in kindergartens, there is no choice but to send children to expensive private English-teaching institutes for kindergartners.”
Seoul National University Professor Cho Young-tae stated, “Kindergarten is just the beginning for the Golden Pigs.
When entering college or finding employment, they will face extremely high competition.” He also claimed that those born in years where there are a higher number of births have a higher rate of depression.
By Kim Min-sang, Jung Jong-hoon [email@example.com]