Home World NewsKorea Over 150 elementary schools have no 1st graders: ministry

Over 150 elementary schools have no 1st graders: ministry

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A total of 157 elementary schools across South Korea do not have any first graders set to enroll in March, the Ministry of Education said Monday, as a record-low number of new students is expected for the upcoming school year.

According to the ministry, nearly every provincial and metropolitan area across South Korea had at least one elementary school that was not expecting new students, except Seoul, Gwangju, Daejeon, Ulsan and Sejong. North Jeolla Province led all regions with 34 schools with no new entering students.

The ministry said that 369,325 children have been confirmed to enroll at elementary school when the school year starts in March, accounting for 99.9 percent of the 369,441 children who were set to start the state-mandated education this year. This figure is smaller than the 396,533 that the government estimated in January.

It will mark the lowest number of new first graders since the government started keeping tally in 1970, the first time the figure fell below 400,000. Last year, 401,752 new students enrolled in elementary schools.

The number of new students starting school was widely expected to drop this year, as only 357,771 babies were born in 2017 — which is when most of the first graders for this year were born. It marked a steep drop from the 406,243 born the year before.

The figure is expected to fall even more as the number of newborns has been on a downward trend in recent years. According to Statistics Korea’s January report, 213,571 babies were born between January and November of last year, and the number of newborns for the entirety of 2023 is expected to be below 230,000. If confirmed, it will be substantially less than 254,628 the year before, and mark the eighth straight year since 2015 the figure has dropped compared to the previous year.

South Korea’s total fertility rate — the average number of children a woman will have throughout her life — recorded an all-time low of 0.72 for last year and is expected to fall further to 0.68 this year, and to 0.65 next year.

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