Analysis of Policy Measures to Address Low Fertility Rates Ⅵ [Education]
December 30, 2016
This report analyzes education reform policies taken by the government's Third Basic Plan to Address the Low Fertility Rate and the Aging Population (2016-2020). The policies include reduced private education burden, stronger public education, aptitude and ability-centered education and employment, and less college tuition fees. In 2016, a total of 4.2 trillion won was allocated to these education reform tasks, accounting for 19.6% of the total budget designated for the issue of low fertility rates (21.417 trillion won).
A high private education burden, education not serving as a socioeconomic ladder, and school-aged children's low satisfaction with life, as already displayed by numerous statistics, all point to the fact that the nation's educational environment has a significant impact on fertility rates.
Of course, to address the declining birth rate, any education policy should start from eliminating the current culture of excessive competition in the education sector. However, the education reform policies adopted by the Third Basic Plan largely focus on short-term measures, such as banning advanced learning, introducing a new education curriculum, and simplifying the college admissions system, based on the framework of the current education system. Due to their short-term nature, these measures are not expected to bring about a fundamental change, such as easing competition or helping boost fertility rates.
In order to ease the financial burden of raising and educating a child, a more fundamental approach is necessary. Today's excessive and wasteful competition leads to educational inequality, declining social mobility, and weakening public education. To prevent such dire consequences, the current culture of academic cliques, the fixed hierarchical ranking of universities, and the college admissions system should be overhauled or reformed. The government has insisted that improved public education can solve the private education problem, but the validity of the argument cannot be verified. This is because public education does not substitute or compete with private education. The intrinsic function of education, which is nurturing a healthy, whole person and the nation's competitive human resources, should be restored. Given that less social mobility adversely affects fertility rates, the overall focus of public education policies should be placed on revitalizing social mobility, and detailed policy measures should be drafted to ensure that education provides a level playing field and a socioeconomic ladder.
Education policies need to pursue mid- to long-term, fundamental goals rather than short-term ones. In addition, in the process of policy formation, efforts should be made to persuade differing interested parties and build public consensus, raising public trust in the policies, raising expectations for the future, and thereby resolving the declining fertility rates.