Since entering the 21st century, curbing the declining fertility rate and allowing people to have more children has become the most concern of the whole country. However, contrary to expectations, South Koreans’ willingness to give birth has continued to decline year after year. In 2020, South Korea’s comprehensive fertility rate has dropped to 0.84, which is almost the lowest in the world.
A very important reason for the low willingness to bear children in South Korea is the chronic disease that is hard to return-private education is expensive and rising year by year, and even South Korea cannot afford to have children.
In Korea, private education can generally be simply understood as supplementary education in addition to public education (national compulsory education). For example, we often talk about all kinds of "extracurricular tutoring" and some talent education in arts and sports. Organizations engaged in private education are generally extracurricular tutoring classes, which are called "academies" in South Korea, and the teachers of the colleges are all called lecturers.
Private education has been developed in Korea for a long time. In 2003, the private education expenses of Korean families for their children accounted for 2.73% of the gross domestic product (GDP), the highest among OECD countries. It is higher than the United States (1.63%), Australia (1.36%), and Japan (1.14%), while the OECD average is only 0.64%.
According to reports, in 2019, 74.8% of South Korean primary and secondary school students participated in extracurricular tutoring classes, and each student’s monthly private education expenditure was 321,000 won (approximately RMB 1,875). In 2020, the average monthly expenditure of Korean families on their children's extracurricular tutoring accounted for about 36% of the monthly expenditure.
There are many reasons why private education is popular in Korea. Korean parents cannot tolerate that their children are worse than others, and even if it is difficult, they must let their children participate in private education. Korean parents believe that even if they pay a lot of tuition, it is essential to send them to cram schools for their children's education and future. This investment is also worthwhile, because they can't let their children lose on the starting line. In South Korea, education is a passport to gaining social status, class mobility, and good employment. Education is the battlefield where parents turn their children into "bosses" and executives instead of "workers", so that their children can lead a decent life in the world. In other words, education is politics.
However, high private education fees have caused many families to be overwhelmed. Students from good backgrounds can afford cram school, and their grades are often better than those from poor backgrounds, which in turn leads to the phenomenon of class division caused by unequal education. Therefore, successive Korean governments have taken as important national policies to reduce private education fees and reduce social divisions caused by unequal educational opportunities. As early as 1974, South Korea implemented a policy of equalizing education, with the slogan "Normalize public education and reduce private education fees." The original intention was to "educate to satisfy most people." Since then, successive governments have introduced a variety of corresponding tactics.
During the Roh Moo-hyun government, the tuition limit of the cram school was limited, and it was stipulated that the cram school should not exceed 6 hours a day. But soon the college moved from the ground to the underground, and the class organized by the institution became a one-on-one family tutoring.
The Li Mingbo government organized free lectures on the college entrance examination by excellent high school teachers on the National Educational Television Station (EBS). The content of the lectures and the questions in the college entrance examination are highly compatible. However, free online teaching cannot solve the high-end courses that some tutoring classes can provide with more targeted and better effects. Candidates who go to online classes outside of online classes often have to apply for tutoring classes.
The local government has also accepted tutoring classes. The newly appointed Mayor of Seoul, Oh Se-hoon, said frankly, “Since the development of extracurricular tutoring cannot be curbed, everyone should share the benefits of high-quality tutoring classes.” He launched a "Seoul Learn" project. Gangnam College, located in the wealthy area of Seoul, has the highest quality tutoring classes. The mayor advocated that the municipal government should finance the purchase of courses from well-known lecturers at Jiangnan College and provide them to students from low-income families for free, so as to narrow the education gap between Jiangnan and Jiangnan.
Although successive governments have been determined to reduce private education fees, the measures and efforts to suppress various college make-up behaviors are not insignificant. Private education fees in South Korea are still rising, and the number of tutoring classes is increasing. South Korean media stated that as long as there is competition to enter prestigious universities, these phenomena cannot be avoided.