The South Korean government has unveiled a plan to make its national college entrance exam easier to help address private education spending and the country’s declining fertility rate.
Key details: The plan, announced on June 26, came after South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol criticized “killer questions” — complex questions that are usually not part of the country’s public school curriculum –contained in the country’s eight-hour College Scholastic Ability Test, also known as Suneung.
“We will cut the vicious cycle of killer questions in exams, which leads to excessive competition among students and parents in private education,” Lee Ju-ho, South Korea’s education minister, said at a briefing last week.
About the “killer questions”: Some of the notoriously difficult exam’s past questions have required a deep understanding of math and science and knowledge about monetary and macroeconomic policy. One such example reportedly mentions the Bretton Woods Agreement, a 20th-century collective international currency exchange regime.
Expensive fees: To give their children a better chance at doing well on the college entrance exam, countless South Korean parents have resorted to private academies or cram schools known as “hagwons.”
In 2022, parents spent around 26 trillion won (approximately $19.88 billion) on private education, which includes hagwons. Each month, they spend an average of 410,000 won (approximately $314) per child on private education.
Declining fertility rate: Some researchers and policymakers have blamed education costs for South Korea’s declining fertility rate, among other issues, since many couples would rather not pay millions of won for their children’s education.
South Korea currently has one of the world’s highest costs
for raising a child.
The country’s fertility rate fell to 0.78 in 2022, but a rate of 2.1 is needed for a stable population.