Devising teacher plans for low birthrate

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Devising teacher plans for low birthrate

The Ministry of Education will cut the quota for public school teachers for next year for the first time in history. The quota will be reduced by 2,982 to 344,906. The first-ever cut in teaching staff owes much to the worsening birthrate in Korea. According to Statistics Korea, elementary school students are expected to shrink by 41.5 percent to 1.59 million in 2030 from 2.72 million in 2020. First-graders numbered 440,000 this year, but the count will stop at 270,000 in five years time.

A reduced quota for public school teachers will translate into smaller recruitment. Instead of streamlining, the quota will be adjusted by not filling vacancy after retiring teachers. Graduates from education universities for elementary schools may not be able to find a teaching job.

According to next year’s recruitment plans for primary school teachers, which were announced by individual education offices across the country, Seoul will hire just 115, nearly halved from this year’s 216. In 2016, the number was 960. In Daegu, new hiring will fall by 40 percent to 30 and Gwangju will hire just six for the second straight year. The waiting list after passing the state teacher exam is piling up. In Seoul, 86 percent who had passed the test in February had not received a teaching position.

Education universities for elementary schools offer courses on child psychology and development as well as learning. Graduates of the universities can hardly dream of finding a different career due to their specialty. Therefore, the government has been cutting the quota for education universities. Still, the quota has stayed the same at 3,847 over the last 10 years. It has neglected the mismatch in teaching staff and students due to the ultra-low birthrate. If the government had adjusted the quota more realistically, the recruitment cliff could have been avoided.

The student count per a teacher in Korea is smaller than the average of the OECD member countries. The OECD average student count per teacher is 14.5 at primary schools, 13.1 at middle schools, and 13 at high schools, according to a 2019 data. Currently, Korea’s is 13.7 at elementary schools, 11.7 at middle schools, and 9.6 at high schools.

The government must adjust the enrollment quota at education universities based on of supply and demand. Mergers of education universities or into national universities should be considered. Education is one of three reform agendas of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration. But the direction and details of reform are still blurry. Timely adjustments and changes like teaching staff should be the start of the reform.
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