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Half of prestigious high school students come from districts where quarter of Seoulites live

June 4, 2023 - 15:54 By Son Ji-hyoung
This photo shows students taking mock tests of Suneung at a private "hagwon" institution on Thursday. Suneung is a standardized test designed to measure the readiness of a student to study in college. (Yonhap, photo provided by Joint Press Corps.)

Nearly half of students attending prestigious high schools came from five districts in Seoul which are believed to have a higher fervor for education compared to the city's other 20 districts, data showed Sunday.

Of the total 7,895 students who in 2022 advanced to prestigious high schools -- science high schools, foreign language high schools, international high schools and autonomous private high schools -- 3,671, or 46.5 percent, were those who graduated from middle schools in five districts -- Gangnam-gu, Seocho-gu, Songpa-gu, Yangcheon-gu and Nowon-gu, according to data disclosed by the Ministry of Education.

In the five districts -- where more children tend to have better access to private education services and are pressured for higher achievements at school – there were 24,050 ninth grade graduates in 2022, making up a 35.7 percent of the total such population in Seoul.

Meanwhile, the districts overall accounted for 26.9 percent of the total population of Seoul as of end-2022.

The apparent education gap within Seoul stems from the fact that students of these types of special high schools -- where students undergo a competitive process in regular admission -- are more likely to advance to prestigious universities, which again guarantees quality jobs once they graduate there.

More than a fourth of about 12,000 students who were admitted to three of the most prestigious universities -- Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University -- came from one of the four types of high schools in 2022, showed data from education consulting firm Haneul Education. The figures are contrasted with the fact that about half of students accepted at these universities come from general high schools across the nation.

Meanwhile, data also showed 14.6 percent of those who sought higher education at a special high school were accepted to one of the three prestigious universities.

Separately, over 30 percent of those graduating from science high schools were admitted to prestigious universities specializing in scientific research, such as the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and Pohang University of Science and Technology.