kindergarten students-increase

SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- The number of South Korea's kindergarten students has increased while that of students from primary and secondary schools decreased over the past three years, a government tally showed Friday.

According to the statistics announced by the state-run Korean Educational Development Institute, the number of children attending preschools across the country totaled 613,749 last year, or a 14.2 percent jump from 537,361 tallied in 2009.

Meanwhile, the overall number of students from elementary to high schools decreased from 7.44 million to 6.72 million in the same period, the statistics showed.

"A sudden increase in the number of kindergarten students is attributable to the increased number of marriages in 2006 and childbirths in 2007," according to Oh Jong-woon, a local education scholar.

In 2006, the number of marriages hit a 10-year high, according to separate statistics, on the back of a widely-known belief that the year was auspicious in accordance with the lunar calendar.

According to the 24 traditional divisions of the season by the lunar calendar, spring started twice in 2006, prompting many couples to tie the knot. It was widely believed that those who married in such a year would live happily.

Also, the year 2007 saw a steep increase in childbirths as would-be parents were encouraged by the belief that babies born during the "year of the golden pig" would enjoy prosperity. The pig is the 12th and final animal in the Asian zodiac, and many here see the animal as a symbol of wealth.

However, Oh noted that the number of overall kindergarteners is forecast to fall starting from next year as the number of childbirths decreased in 2008.

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