Sign of times: 135 schools in S. Korea have no new graduates

January 6, 2016

SEJONG (Yonhap) — A total of 135 schools in South Korea lack students to hold graduation ceremonies, caused by the nation’s low birthrate and the gravitation of the population to big cities, government data showed Tuesday.

As of April last year, 89 elementary schools had no students in the sixth grade, the last grade of elementary school in South Korea, according to data released by the Ministry of Education.

Thirteen middle schools and 33 high schools across the country were in the same situation.

South Jeolla Province had the most schools in such difficulties with 31, followed by Gyeonggi’s 20, North Gyeongsang Province’s 19 and Gangwon Province’s 14.

The ministry said those schools are mostly branch schools located in remote islands, explaining why South Jeolla Province in the coastal area led the list.

As younger generations in rural areas move to the country’s major cities in search of jobs, in addition to the continued low birthrate, the number of students is constantly decreasing.

Schools in Seoul and Daejeon, a major city located 164 kilometers south of the capital, all had graduating students, the ministry said.

According to the ministry, the number of students attending kindergartens, and primary and secondary schools decreased from over 7.18 million in 2013 to 6.98 million in 2014 and 6.81 million last year.

The ministry has been pushing for mergers of these small schools by providing guidelines and giving them incentives.

In small counties, schools with 60 or fewer students are subject to rearrangement. For cities, the measure applies to schools with 200 or fewer students.

The Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association is opposed to the move, saying some 1,750 schools in the country are subject to rearrangement according to the standard, which could lead to discrimination against students in rural areas.