What is School like for Students in South Korea?

Sneha Sharma

Asia Society 

Every country’s education system is different; South Korea has a unique schooling structure for children that allows students to advance their learning starting at a young age.  Schools in South Korea typically follow a schedule for six years in elementary school, three years of middle school, and three years of high school (Asia Society). According to InterNations, many South Korean high school students who choose to go on to higher education are required to complete the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT). This country-wide test is offered on the second Tuesday of November. The “eight-hour-long” CSAT assesses students’ knowledge of “Korean, English, mathematics, Korean history, a second foreign language or Chinese characters, and two additional subjects” (InterNations).

The Korean Ministry of Education provides a detailed chart of classes typically offered in the South Korean elementary curriculum, including Korean language arts, ethics, social studies, mathematics, science, physical education, music, and arts. Although the Ministry of Education also includes English as a second language normally taught in elementary schools, many elementary schools explain that they begin students’ English learning in middle school so students can learn in a “relaxed atmosphere through conversational exchange, rather than through rote learning of grammatical rules” (Asia Society).

Middle school, or more commonly known as a secondary school in South Korea, offers a wider range of courses. A traditional South Korean secondary school’s curriculum includes 12 required subjects that are similar subjects to the elementary school curriculum. Many schools also offer a variety of electives and extracurricular activities. A lot of South Korean students begin an after-school academy called hagwon in middle school. Learning at hagwons typically have an emphasis on mathematics, Korean, and English but also focuses on the physical and social sciences. InterNations mentions that although hagwons are not free, some schools in South Korea require their students to attend a Hagwon so their students can continue their education outside of school.

The proportion of co-educational high schools in South Korea has increased by 10% since the 5% proportion in 1996. Regardless of these efforts towards surpassing gender division, many co-educational high schools still have classes that are split by gender. South Korea also has a handful of co-educational boarding schools. According to World Schools, some of the most famous co-educational boarding schools include the Taejon Christian International Schools and the North London Collegiate School Jeju. 

NCEE and InterNations explain that, unlike other countries, South Korea does not offer private schools. Families choose which school they attend based on if they are “either co-educational or gender specific” or if they have “a boarding option available” (InterNations). Typically, South Korean students attend public schools and attend the private Hagwon after school. 

South Korea is listed as one of the “top performing countries” by the NCEE. The high-performing results by South Korean students can most likely be derived from the rigorous learning schedule students follow.

Works Cited

“The Best Boarding Schools in South Korea.” World Schools, world-schools.com/the-best-boarding-schools-in-south-korea/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

Diem, Richard, et al. “South Korean Education.” Asia Society, asiasociety.org/education/south-korean-education. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

“Education in South Korea.” InterNations, 28 Oct. 2021, www.internations.org/go/moving-to-south-korea/education. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

“National Basic Curriculum.” Ministry of Education, english.moe.go.kr/sub/info.do?m=020102&s=english. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

“Top Performing Countries: Korea.” NCEE, ncee.org/country/korea/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

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