Now, in our society, an extremely low birthrate is a serious problem; but this has not always been the case. There have been the times when a very high birthrate was a big issue. And the education sector had to adjust to those changes.
In the hope of explicating forward-looking implications, I would like to recall some population policy slogans that were familiar to me. They reflect changes in our demographic circumstances and government policies to address them. Please note that the translated slogans below may not fully convey the original nuances and connotations, but their basic concepts and meanings have not been altered.
"Childbirth without measures makes you beg!" This unpleasant slogan came up in the 1960s when I attended elementary school. I am a baby boomer born in the late 1950s. South Korea's population was growing so quickly that most families had over five children. The school's existing facilities were unable to accommodate the growing number of students. As a result, some traveled to school and home in the morning and others in the afternoon. This was known as the "dual-time class" system. The population explosion was a major obstacle to economic development. A policy of contraception was unavoidable.
"Whatever the gender, two kids are enough!" This slogan was widely publicized in the 1970s when I was a secondary school student. It may have been due to the political judgment that, although the politics of the 1960s had some effect, the population continued to grow owing to the strong preference for sons. It was reported that the total birthrate was between 2.65 and 4.1 children per family. Yet the school's classrooms were cramped with overflowing students. Each class had over 60 students.
"The parents of a well-raised girl never envy the parents of 10 sons!" Later, in the 1980s, when I started teaching in junior high school as a beginner teacher, the slogan changed to this. The birthrate fell to 1.59 to 2.83. However, the political decision would have been to remove the existing preference for sons, and lower the birthrate approximately to 1. Classrooms remained overcrowded. I was once a home room teacher in a class that had over 90 students. Can you imagine that?
"Breastfeeding, Mom's Promise to the Next Healthy Generation!" The slogan of the 2000s, when I was working as a senior teacher or an executive, was released and the birthrate marked 1.17. Population growth was reduced and the policy of recommending breastfeeding for health was introduced. I clearly remember the supporting projects to set up breastfeeding rooms in institutions.
"Dad, I don't like being alone. Mommy, I' want to have a sibling!"
But shortly after, the rapid decline in the birthrate was seen as a matter of national survival, the above slogan appeared in 2004. It was a dramatic shift. Child grants for population growth have emerged. Then, what is the situation from then to today? I've already described a simple case in the beginning, and other examples of a demographic cliff can also be listed.
Historically, population growth has always occurred after crises such as war, famine, or disasters. Now that we have been enduring a huge disaster called COVID-19, can we expect population growth in the near future? Isn't it necessary to re-create a country populated by loving children? Should not new charming slogans be made, with the support of politics, to encourage marriage and childbirth?
The writer is a retired principal of Gunsan Girls' High School.