South Korea’s Student Population to Fall Below 5 Million by 2026

SEOUL — According to the latest projections from the Korean Education Development Institute, the total number of elementary, middle, and high school students in South Korea is set to decline below 5 million by 2026, continuing a downward trend attributed to the country's persistently low birth rates. Current data indicates a decrease from 5.13 million students in 2023 to an estimated 4.83 million in 2026, with a further reduction to 4.275 million expected by 2029.

According to Yonhap News Agency, This reflects a significant drop of nearly one million students over five years. The number of first graders alone is projected to fall from 347,950 in 2023 to 244,965 by 2029, highlighting the ongoing demographic challenges facing South Korea. The country recorded a historic low total fertility rate of 0.78 in 2022, signaling a profound shift in the population dynamics of this nation of 51 million people.

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