South Jeolla Province, Feb. 8 (Korea Bizwire) – An increasing number of elementary schools in the South Korean countryside are facing closure, with many temporarily shut down, as young people continue their exodus from farming and fishing communities.
According to education offices across the country, up to 120 elementary schools had no new students this year, and many could be forced to close.
In South Jeolla Province, a total of 42 schools including branch schools saw no new students register this year, which naturally means no entrance ceremony.
At some schools, the issue of a lack of students is even more severe, as some didn’t even have a graduating class.
In Gangwon Province this year, 54 elementary schools didn’t hold a graduation ceremony, while four schools held a ceremony for just one graduate.
Public schools in less developed areas such as farming and fishing communities are seeing their existence threatened as a result of both low birthrates and students leaving for cities, slashing the number of incoming students and graduates.
“Due to low birthrates, the number of students continues to drop, while more students are moving out. The decline in the number of elementary school students is spilling over into middle schools and high schools,” an official at the Gangneung Office of Education said.
Another education official in South Jeolla Province echoes a similar sentiment.
“The rural population is on the decline, and the drop in the number of students, particularly at small schools, is unavoidable. In the long run, more schools will have no students enrolling or graduating,” the official said.
Beolgyo Elementary School’s branch school on Jangdo Island could face closure despite a history of more than 60 years.
A 30-minute ferry ride away from the mainland, the school’s only student will graduate next year, leaving the only teacher at the school without anyone to teach.
“Local residents opposed the branch school being merged with the main school, and the location make it even more difficult. If no student transfers to our school next year, only one teacher will be left at the school,” said Kim Sung-hyeon, a 34-year-old teacher at the Jangdo branch school.
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)