Education universities see fewer students as low birth rate threatens jobs

2023.02.16 13:55:02 | 2023.02.16 13:57:36

Seoul National University of Education [Photo by Kim Ho-young]이미지 확대

Seoul National University of Education [Photo by Kim Ho-young]

Applications to enter the education department at universities have continued to decline in recent years as the drop in South Korea’s birth rate has raised concerns that fewer teachers will be needed at schools.

According to Jongro Academy data on Thursday, the average applicant at 10 national universities of education and three universities’ elementary school education for 2023 was 2.0:1, the lowest for regular admissions in the past five years.

Only two universities saw three times more applicants -- the Korea National University of Education was at 5.0:1, and Ewha Womans University’s Department of Elementary School Education, within the College of Education, was at 3.9:1.

Applicants at six national education universities had slightly more than their caps, including Gyeongin National University of Education at a ratio of 1.4:1, Daegu National University of Education at 1.7:1 and Seoul National University of Education at 1.8:1.

Some of those universities used to have applicants in the ratio of two digits until at least 2019. The downward trend stands out even compared to the year before. For the 2022 admission, the average applicant rate at 13 nationwide institutions for future educators was 2.4:1, with the highest at 7:1. Only one university recorded under 2:1.

The number of spots that were not filled in the early admissions process for 2023 was also the largest over the past five years, seeing an 8 percent increase to 502 places, from 465 a year before. The unfilled cap was open for regular admissions.

The number of students accepted after the regular admission was 305, 14.7 percent higher than a year before, as students accepted during the regular admissions process chose to go to another university.

[Photo by Lee Seung-hwan]이미지 확대

[Photo by Lee Seung-hwan]

The education industry generally regards an applicant to cap ratio of under 3:1 to be practically not meeting the cap, as students are allowed to apply to up to three universities during the regular admissions process.

National education universities and elementary education departments at universities did not really see students under their caps, even when the ratio was under 3:1, as those universities have been fairly popular among students. However, this may change if this trend continues.

“In the past, it was very rare to see those universities open additional admissions due to an unfilled cap, but universities seeing a ratio of under 3:1 may now have to do so,” Jongro Academy said.

The number of freshmen leaving those universities is also growing.

Official public data concerning universities show that, in 2021, 232 first year students at 10 national universities of education dropped out or gave up their degree. That means 6 percent of the new students left their universities, 1.6 percentage points up from a year before.

Among them, Gongju National University of Education lost 12.6 percent of its freshmen and Seoul National University of Education lost 9.4 percent, practically about one out of 10 leaving the university.

This trend is attributed to the decline in the number of new employment opportunities for teachers, mostly driven by the decline in the younger age population.

“The biggest cause seems to be media reports that are saying that education university graduates see lower employment opportunities,” said Professor Park Nam-gi at the Gwangju National University of Education. Park noted the unchanged number of elementary school teachers, due to fewer elementary school students, as another cause. “Job satisfaction among current teachers is going down and their ‘emotional labor,’ having to counter both students and parents, may have also affected them.”

The unpopularity of universities that foster future educators may lead to lower quality of teachers, Park noted. “Professional post-graduate courses may need to be introduced to help future educators build capacity.”

By Pulse

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