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Next Year, "Triple Population Cliff" Will Come to Colleges, Elementary Schools, and Kindergartens

The story that "the school-age population is declining severely" is a lot of trouble, but how much are the number of children decreasing?

The number of new births is decreasing rapidly and rapidly. In the early 1970s, one million children were born in one year. As the government implemented an active birth control policy, the number of births continued to decline from the late 700,000s in the late 1970s to the early-to-mid-600,000s in the 1980s. Low births became a social problem in earnest in the 2000s. In 2001, the 600,000 mark was broken, and the following year, in 2002, the 500,000 mark was broken. There are 260,600 births in 2021, according to the latest statistics. It is expected that the number of births in 2022 will be around 250,000, a slight decrease from the previous year. It took only 20 years for the number of births to halve from 500,000 to 250,000 a year.

2024 is expected to be a year of population decline for kindergartens, elementary schools, and colleges. Those born in 2005 who will be new to college next year, those born in 2017 who will enter elementary school, and those born in 2020 who will enter kindergarten all had significantly fewer births than the previous year.

The class of 2021, when the 2002 students went to college, was the first year in history that the number of college applicants outnumbered university applicants. That year, the total number of university entrance examiners was about 530,000, including 130,000 returning students and 403,941 high school students, but the total number of university applicants was 550,000. In the ongoing university enrollment for the 2023 academic year, 541,089 students were recruited from both the university and the vocational college.

Born in 2005, who will take the SAT this year and enter college next year with 24 classes, he was born at a time when there were the fewest births before the 2010s. The number of births plummeted from 477,000 in 2004 to 438,700 in 2005, a drop of 38,300. As a result, the number of high school 3 students this year is 398,271, which is 32,847 fewer than last year (431,118).

Jongno Academy predicts that the number of students taking the 2024 college scholastic proficiency test, which will be held on November 16 this year, will be 415,000~419,000, the smallest ever. It is estimated that even if students who go to university from time to time without taking the SAT are combined, the number of candidates will be about 40,000~50,000 less than the number of students selected for next year's university entrance examination (510,884). In terms of numbers, 25 universities with a capacity of 1,600 students could close.

In this year's on-time recruitment, there were no applicants from 26 departments in 14 provincial universities, and 68 universities nationwide had a competition ratio of less than 3 to 1, which is actually "underachieved," and this phenomenon is likely to become more serious next year. It is said that the prestigious universities in the region and some universities in the metropolitan area are also not reassured.

Elementary schools face a more full-fledged population cliff. This year, students born in 2016 and those born in 2017 will enter elementary school next year. 2016 was the year when the number of births in Korea reached the 400,000 marks, and 2017 was the year when the number of births fell below 400,000 for the first time. According to estimates by the Korea Educational Development Institute, 379,373 first graders are expected to be in the first grade of elementary school this year, and 341,619 first graders are expected to be in the first-grade next year.

Starting this year and next, the number of elementary school students will decline sharply as early 2010s students graduate and later students enroll. The number of primary school students, which was 2,583,732 this year, is expected to fall below 2 million for the first time in 2028 and fall to 1,705,211 in 2029. Based on the average class size (23 students), about 38,000 classes will be reduced over a five-year period.

The kindergartens attended by the youngest children are at the forefront of the population cliff. According to the basic statistics of education last year, 188 kindergartens nationwide were closed in 2021. Considering the sharp decline in the birth rate in the 2020s, the phenomenon of the school-age population cliff in kindergartens will intensify from next year.

Kindergarten is an educational institution attended by children aged 3~5, and next year, those born in 2018 (5 years old) ~ 2020 (3 years old) are eligible for enrollment. In 2020, when COVID-19 hit the country due to low births, 272,300 births hit the 200,000 marks for the first time. Next year, when the 2017 students enter elementary school and the 2020 students enter kindergarten, there will be 85,000 fewer children enrolled in school at once. In some local governments, kindergartens are increasingly closed due to the inability to recruit infants. [KyunghangShinmoon]

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