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South Korea – Education and Schools

South Korea is widely known for its excellent education system, which has helped the country become one of the most advanced and economically successful nations in the world. In this article, we will explore the quality of education in South Korea, the ages at which education is compulsory, the types of schools available, the syllabus and qualifications offered, typical school hours and holidays, enrollment requirements, competition for enrollment, and options for higher education.

Quality of Education in South Korea

South Korea has a reputation for being an education-obsessed society, and for good reason. Its education system is highly competitive and emphasizes academic achievement, which has helped the country produce a highly educated workforce. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Korea has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, with almost 100% of the population being able to read and write.

Compulsory Education in South Korea

Education is compulsory in South Korea for children between the ages of 6 and 15. This means that all children must attend school for at least nine years, from elementary school to middle school. After that, students can choose to continue their education at a high school or vocational school, but it is not compulsory.

Types of Schools in South Korea

Elementary Schools

Elementary schools in South Korea are for students in grades 1 to 6, and the curriculum focuses on basic skills such as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Students also study subjects such as social studies, science, and English. Elementary school is compulsory for all students, and it is free.

Middle Schools


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Middle schools in South Korea are for students in grades 7 to 9, and the curriculum is more focused on academic subjects. Students study subjects such as Korean language and literature, mathematics, science, social studies, and English. Middle school is also compulsory for all students, and it is free.

High Schools

High schools in South Korea are divided into academic high schools and vocational high schools. Academic high schools are for students who want to continue their education at a university, while vocational high schools are for students who want to learn a specific trade or skill. Both types of high schools are three years long, and students must take an entrance exam to be admitted. High schools are not compulsory, and students must pay tuition fees.

Syllabus and Qualifications in South Korean Schools

The syllabus in South Korean schools is set by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, and it is standardized across the country. The curriculum is based on a broad range of subjects, including mathematics, science, social studies, Korean language and literature, and English. In addition, students also take courses in ethics, physical education, music, and fine arts.

Qualifications offered by South Korean schools include the Certificate of Graduation from Elementary School, the Certificate of Completion from Middle School, and the High School Diploma. Students who wish to attend university must take the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), which is a standardized test that measures their academic ability. The results of the CSAT are used by universities to determine which students they will admit.

School Hours and Holidays in South Korea

School hours in South Korea vary depending on the level of education. Elementary schools typically start at 9 am and finish at 3 pm, while middle schools start at 8:30 am and finish at 4 pm. High schools generally start at 8 am and finish at 5 pm. However, many schools also offer after-school programs and study sessions, which can extend the school day.

The academic year in South Korea starts in March and ends in February of the following year. There are two semesters, with a summer break of six weeks and a winter break of four weeks. In addition to these breaks, there are also national holidays and a few other breaks throughout the year, such as Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) and Lunar New Year.

Enrollment Requirements and Competition

To enroll in a school in South Korea, students must provide documentation such as a birth certificate and proof of residency. For international students, a passport and visa are also required. In addition, students must take an entrance exam to be admitted to a high school or vocational school.

Competition for enrollment in South Korean schools can be intense, especially at the high school level. Many high schools are highly selective and require students to score well on the entrance exam. Some schools also require students to submit letters of recommendation or participate in an interview process.

International Schools in South Korea

For students who are not native Korean speakers or who wish to receive an international education, there are also many international schools in South Korea. These schools offer an education in English and follow a different curriculum than traditional Korean schools. Some popular international schools in South Korea include:

International schools in South Korea can be quite expensive, and admission is often competitive. However, they offer a unique opportunity for students to receive an education that is not available in traditional Korean schools.

Higher Education in South Korea

South Korea is home to many excellent universities, both public and private. The most prestigious universities are known as the “SKY” universities, which include Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University. Other top universities in South Korea include KAIST (Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) and POSTECH (Pohang University of Science and Technology).

To be admitted to a university in South Korea, students must take the CSAT and receive a high score. The competition for admission to top universities can be fierce, and students often spend years preparing for the test.

In addition to traditional universities, South Korea also has many vocational schools and community colleges that offer technical training and education. These schools are a good option for students who want to learn a specific trade or skill.

In conclusion, education in South Korea is highly competitive and focused on academic achievement. Students are required to attend school from elementary school to middle school, and they can choose to continue their education at a high school or vocational school. The curriculum is standardized across the country and includes a broad range of subjects, including mathematics, science, and English. International schools and universities also offer unique opportunities for students who want an education in English or a different curriculum. Overall, the education system in South Korea has helped the country become one of the most advanced and successful nations in the world.


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