Read our complete guide to education in South Korea for expats who have school-age children
29 March 2018| Last updated on 13 November 2018
South Koreas fast-growing economy over the past five decades is largely owed to the fierce focus the country has had on education and its educational systems.
The country’s legacy of hard work and achievement continues to help shape the education in South Korea, which regularly outperforms Western countries in subjects like Science and Maths.
Because of this, expatriate parents looking to send their children to school in South Korea should be prepared for a society and system that puts enormous emphasis on academic performance. This ethic spills into the country’s international schools, too.
For local South Korean parents, education is a family’s top priority – so much so, that a typical student in South Korea will spend 8 hours a day in school, and can spend an additional 6 hours reviewing their school work at ‘cram schools’, called ‘hagwons’.
What are the ages of school children in South Korea?
Kindergarten or nursery typically begins at 3 or 4 years old, and then students start Grade 1 at 6 years old. They will then complete Grade 12, which is the final year of schooling, at 18 years old.
International Schools in South Korea
There are several good international schools across the country and in Seoul, there is a lot of American-curriculum schools. This is owed to the presence of the United States Army base, and the sizeable English-speaking expatriate community in South Korea.
There are also many international schools that follow the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, while retaining an American focus. You’ll find French and British curriculum schools in South Korea, also.
Here are some international schools that expatriates opt for when it comes to their child’s education:
Asia Pacific International School
Asia Pacific International School is a K-12 private, non-profit college preparatory school fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Contact: You may telephone the school by ringing +82-(0)2-907-2747 or by visiting their website at www.apis.seoul.kr.
Seoul Foreign School
Seoul Foreign School is a non-profit, K-12 IB World School, founded in 1912.
Seoul International School
Seoul International School is a K-12 private academic institution. Admission to SIS is a selective process based on a variety of criteria, including, but not limited to, academic achievement and commitment to personal growth.
Public and Private Schools in South Korea
The public education structure in South Korea is divided into three parts: six years of primary school, followed by three years of middle school, and then three years of high school.
After completing middle school, pupils are randomly assigned to either a single-gender or co-educational high school in their area. High schools are also split into traditional high schools, and vocational high schools.
Schools in South Korea mainly focus on academics, and many public schools don’t have sports facilities that some expats may wish to seek. The majority of attention is given to
Science, Maths, Korean and English as academic subjects.
On the other hand – there is a large percentage of private schools available in South Korea. In fact, they make up a fifth of all schools in the country, and almost half of all high schools.
How long is a school year in South Korea?
In Korean state and private schools, the academic year is divided into two semesters; the first runs from March to July, and the second begins in August and ends in February. The exact dates can vary from district to district.
International schools typically follow the school year of their affiliated country.
Homeschooling in South Korea
Due to the country’s stern stance on a child’s academic education in the country, it comes as no surprise then that homeschooling is in fact illegal in South Korea for locals only. Although despite this, the law is rarely enforced and some families do homeschool their children.
Expats on the other hand are able to homeschool, and it is completely legal for them to do so.