Number of elementary students falls 2.5 percent

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Number of elementary students falls 2.5 percent

The number of elementary and secondary school students in Korea declined 2.5 percent this year from a year ago, government data showed Thursday, amid the country’s falling birth rate.

According to the annual data from the education ministry, the number of students attending kindergarten, elementary, middle and high schools totaled 6.46 million as of April 1 this year, some 167,000 fewer than a year ago.

Middle school students topped the list of decrease rates with 5.2 percent, followed by high school students with 4.7 percent.

But the number of elementary school students rose 0.1 percent, or a gain of 1,384 students.

The ministry attributed the gain to a pickup in the number of this year’s first graders in elementary schools who were born in 2010, the Year of the Tiger on the Chinese zodiac, when many couples tried to have a baby based on a folk belief that babies born in that year will be very smart and powerful.

The number of students from multicultural families gained 10.3 percent from a year ago to 109,387, or 1.9 percent of the entire students.

This marks the first time their number topped the 100,000-line threshold since 2012, when the ministry began to compile the data.

Despite the fall in the number of students, the number of teachers at kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools rose 0.2 percent from a year ago to 492,187.

The decrease in students caused the average number of students per class consequently to fall to 22.3 for elementary schools, 26.4 for middle schools and 28.2 for high schools.

The number of students per teacher slipped 0.1, 0.6 and 0.5, respectively, from a year ago to 14.5 for elementary schools, 12.7 for middle schools and 12.4 for high schools.

The number of students that a teacher takes care of in a class came to 16.4 for elementary schools, 14 for middle schools and 13.2 for high schools.

In comparison, the 2014 average of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development was tallied at 15.1, 13 and 13.3, respectively.

As of April 1, the number of kindergartens, middle schools and high schools increased 0.5 percent from the previous year to 20,938.

The number of students enrolled in university decreased 2.3 percent from a year ago to 3.43 million, marking the sixth yearly fall since 2011.

But the number of foreign students studying at Korean universities gained 18.8 percent from a year ago to 123,858.

Korea’s fertility rate fell to a seven-year low in 2016 despite efforts to tackle the problems of fewer babies being born in the country and the rapid population aging, government data showed.

The total fertility rate, or the average number of babies that a woman is projected to have during her lifetime, reached 1.17 in 2016, down from 1.24 tallied a year earlier, according to the data compiled by Statistics Korea. Yonhap

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