The South Korean Education System: An Overview (2023)

An important decision when moving to South Korea with your family is how to ensure that your children receive the best possible education. Fortunately, South Korea has a remarkably strong education system and has ranked well above the OECD average in math, science and reading for more than a decade.

The educational offer for older children and young people is demanding, with high-pressure exams for students who want to enter university. However, academic results are undeniably good, and these days the South Korean government focuses on encouraging students to be more creative, recognizing strengths beyond traditional exam subjects.

When considering your options, you can compare the pattern ofEducation in South Koreawith that available in their country of origin, with the PISA evaluation framework of the OECD.

(Video) I'll tell you all about the entire Korean School System!

Whether you already have your South Korean work visa and are fully planning your move, or are just starting to think about life abroad, it helps to know a little about your educational opportunities in South Korea.

Here's a quick guide to get you started.

South Korea's education system

Preschool (optional) is offered in South Korea starting at age three, with compulsory schooling starting at age five or six. After elementary school, children move on to middle school, known as Jung Haggyo, and then to middle school (Godeung Haggyo). Different areas of the country have slightly different systems, including procedures for assigning places, which may be by lottery (particularly in large, densely populated cities) or through selective testing.

preschoolFees are optional for children ages 3-6, but there is government support for parents from low-income families.
Chodeung Haggyo (Elementary School)Compulsory from 6 to 12 years old for all children. In some cases, children are admitted from the age of 5. Tuition in primary school is free.
Young Haggyo (high school)Compulsory for children from 12 to 15 years old. Free
Godeung Haggyo (High School)Non-required (but very popular) age groups 15-18 in technical or vocational schools Fees apply, but generally cover lunch and tuition


Preschool in South Koreait is not required, so if you want your child to attend school, you must register directly with the school of your choice. Places are reserved for children from 3 to 5 years old upon payment of a fee. Preschool costs vary widely, and the best schools are full. There are government and private options, with many private schools teaching in English for families who want their children to get a head start on the language.

Elementary School (Chodeung Haggyo)

Attendance is compulsory from the age of five or six (depending on the space available and the resilience of the child).elementary school in south korea🇧🇷 This school level is free. If you have registered a child of this age with the authorities, you will automatically receive a letter telling you which school your child should attend. You will also receive this letter if you study at home or have your child in a private school and you should contact the authorities to explain the situation if you do not wish to take the offered place.

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The primary school has 6 classes and the curriculum is broad and includes basic skills, physical education and languages. Beginning in third grade, all students are taught English for one to two hours a week. In order to attend school, your child must have received several vaccinations, which are offered free of charge at health centers. Teachers can check medical records online to make sure this happened.

As a general rule, there is dedicated attention from early in the morning until late at night. Additional care before and after school is paid, although some families are entitled to free support if they earn less and both parents work.

High School (Young Haggyo)

Middle school starts around age 12 and lasts three years. High school is free in South Korea and includes compulsory and elective subjects.

The curriculum at this stage is still broad and includes math, Korean and English, social studies, science, arts, and physical education. There are also "moral education" classes.

At this stage, schooling begins to intensify, putting more pressure on children to get good grades. In areas where high school admission is based on academic criteria, there is pressure to ensure that they can be admitted to one of the most respected schools. Students are streamed based on ability in many subjects, and competition can be fierce.

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In the selection procedures for admission to upper secondary education, the entire school career of the student is taken into account. This eases final exams a bit, but still requires consistent good grades from the kids. Therefore, it is not surprising that many students are beginning to take additional classes outside of the classroom at this point.

High School (Godeung Haggyo)

There are different possibilities for thishigh school in south korea🇧🇷 Students can choose to attend a specialized school for foreign languages, art or music, for example, although they face stiff competition and have to take tests to enroll. Otherwise, there are also general education schools where admission is regulated by residential address.

At this stage, parents have to pay for education, although there are some concessions for low-income families. School meals are included in the tuition fees. This level of education between the ages of 15 and 18 is not considered compulsory in South Korea, although compliance is high.

If students want to go to college, they must take the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), which is notoriously difficult. It is common to take additional courses or a "college course" to get good grades at this stage.

What is the typical school schedule and calendar?

The school year in the Korean state system is divided into semesters, although the exact dates vary slightly depending on school preferences. The first semester usually lasts from March to mid-July, followed by the summer holidays. Then you have the second semester from the end of August, which lasts until a break in mid-February. Schools are closed on holidays and generally have a "part-time" break in the middle of each semester.

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It should be noted that this calendar only applies to public schools: private and international schools tend to adopt the standard Western calendar with long summer vacations and several weeks of vacation at Christmas.

What is the cost of education?

The state system charges fees for preschool and secondary education, as well as additional costs for uniforms, transportation, and school supplies. If you do not go for the state system and go for a private international school, the costs will also be high.

There are about 45 international schools in South Korea, most in major cities, that teach in English and other major world languages, often using the International Baccalaureate curriculum or a variant of the standard US curriculum. International schools are generally of a high standard and are therefore often competitive, with tests and interviews to guarantee admission. You can expect fees to vary widely depending on the school and the program offered. Fees of $15,000 to $30,000 per year are not uncommon.

Whichever route is best for your family, there are costs involved, and you don't want to pay more than you already have. If you use your personal account to finance your child's education, useform of transferto get the real exchange rate and reduce expensive international bank transfer fees.


How is the education system in South Korea? ›

The Korean education is a single-track system, which operates on 6-3-3-4 basis, with six years of elementary school, three years of middle school, three years of high school, and four years at the undergraduate university level .

Why South Korea education system is the best? ›

South Korea is one of the top-performing OECD countries in reading, literacy, mathematics and sciences with the average student scoring about 519, compared with the OECD average of 493, which ranks Korean education at ninth place in the world.

Is the Korean education system strict? ›

Well-known for its high-achieving students, South Korea's education system is quite demanding. Students spend much of their time, often between 12 to 16 hours per day, at school or at a special after-school academy called a hagwon.

Is the Korean school system good? ›

The education system of South Korea is considered one of the best in the world, standing out in the field of science. South Korea's government has a strong focus on its education system, as it accounts for a large part of its country's economy.

Why is Korean education system hard? ›

Due to tight-knit families and the hard-working nature of the people of South Korea, expectations of the students are consistently above the bar from a very early age. There everyone is hardworking. Every student is required to spend 2/3 of their day in the school system.

Who has the best education system in the world? ›

1. The United States of America. The American education system is known for its practical learning and offers a wide array of educational choices to international students.

Which country has the best education system and why? ›

Top 5 Countries With The Best Education System In The World; See List
  • United States Of America (USA) The US is a priority for students who want to study aboard. ...
  • United Knigdom (UK) The UK is one of the leading competitors on this list, with best education system in the world. ...
  • Australia. ...
  • Germany. ...
  • Canada.
Nov 21, 2022

What is not allowed in Korean schools? ›

But if you attend co-schools, you'll need to be extra careful not to get caught. 81% of middle and high schools don't allow students to date anyone in South Korea. Unfortunately, dating in school is perceived as unethical behavior. Schools even reward students who report other students dating their schoolmate secretly.

Is Korean education stressful? ›

In intense academic environments such as in South Korea, students experience extreme levels of academic stress. This stress peaks as students prepare for the college entrance exam in the final year of high school.

What is the failing grade in Korea? ›

In South Korea, depending on each school, the perfect score is represented as either 4.0, 4.3, or 4.5. The latter is the most commonly used system in the country.
High school.
D−0.7 (lowest passing grade)
F0.0 (No Credit)
SSatisfactory (credit is awarded, but no grade is given)
10 more rows

Do students in Korea get homework? ›

South Korea leads the world in education, and on average, students receive less than 3 hours of homework per week.

How is Korean school different from American school? ›

Fundamental Differences

South Korean students are subject to higher expectations, resulting in better behavior and academic performance (but lots of pressure). South Korean curriculum focuses on memorization and high test scores while American curriculum focuses on critical thinking and individuality.

What are the punishment at Korean schools? ›

The most common punishment. Either you have to certain number of push ups or maintain push up position. You have to do it with either fists, palms, head, one leg, only three fingers, two hands put together, or a combination of one or more of the above.

What is the most difficult education system in the world? ›

Ans. The countries with the hardest and most difficult education systems include South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, etc.

How do South Korean students study? ›

Teachers typically move from room to room, while students stay in one place. Students return to the school library to study or attend private schools or tutoring sessions until between 10:00 P.M. and midnight. They return home where they may have a snack, listen to music, or watch television before going to bed.

Which education system is the toughest? ›

The United Kingdom, The United States of America, etc are the countries having one of the best education systems. But when it comes to having the hardest math, China and South Korea top the list.

What country is #1 in education? ›

United States

Is the US education system the best? ›

The education system in US is considered the superior system in the world. This is because they offer a rich and wide range of choices for international students. The most enticing attribute of the US education system is its versatility.

Which US states have the best education? ›

Public School Ranking by State
Overall RankStateTotal Score
3New Jersey64.05
47 more rows
Jul 25, 2022

Which country is not good for education? ›

The Central African Republic has one of the worst education systems in the world. Its education system is low quality and has a high school dropout rate, second only to Somalia. In 2000, only 43% of the country's primary school-aged population (ages 6-11) was enrolled in school.

How does US education rank in the world? ›

The U.S. ranks 14th in the world in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds with higher education (42%).

Is dating allowed in Korean schools? ›

81% of middle and high schools don't allow students to date anyone in South Korea. Unfortunately, dating in school is perceived as unethical behavior. Schools sometimes survey students to report students who are dating in school secretly, and they will be rewarded.

What grade would a 14 year old be in Korea? ›

School Grades in South Korea
Infant School
8th Grade13-14 (14-15)
9th Grade14-15 (15-16)
High School
10th Grade15-16 (16-17)
17 more rows

Can Korean girls wear pants in school? ›

Generally, no. If there is a specific reason for that, each case should be discussed within the school though. Recently, more and more schools have started to offer options to wear a skirt or pants to female students. By this, girls have got to be able to be dressed in almost the same way as boys are.

What are the disadvantages of studying in South Korea? ›

Another challenge that international students face is the importance of class attendance in South Korea. Generally, students with 10% (or two sessions) unexcused absence automatically fail the course. Also, in some universities in Seoul, students lose some points for each time they miss the lectures.

What are Korean schools like? ›

The standard of Korean schools is really high and private and public schools both provide a great quality of teaching. The basic construction of Korea's education system is as follows: Compulsory education is composed of six years in elementary, three years in middle school, and three years in high school.

Can teachers beat students in South Korea? ›

Republic of Korea prohibits all corporal punishment of children | End Violence.

What is an A+ in Korea? ›

Letter Grade
GradeScaleUS Grade
A+95.00 - 100.00A+
A90.00 - 94.99A
B+85.00 - 89.99AB
B80.00 - 84.99B
5 more rows

What percent of Koreans go to college? ›

Now, its literacy rate sits at 97.9% and over 70% of high school graduates in South Korea go on to attend university. Once a beneficiary of American aid, South Korea now eclipses the U.S. in spending per capita on research and development, much of which is done at the university level.

Can you skip a grade in South Korea? ›

Primary education in South Korea is compulsory and free. At the age of six, children start primary school near their residence, with automatic progression to the next grade each year. An accelerated grade advancement system was introduced and allows gifted and talented children to skip grades.

What grade is 17 years old in Korea? ›

School Grades in South Korea
Infant School
11th Grade16-17 (17-18)
12th Grade17-18 (18-19)
Post-secondary education
Tertiary education (College or University)Ages vary (usually four years, referred to as Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years)
17 more rows

What is a 7 in Korean grades? ›

Secondary (October 2004–Present)
ScaleGrade DescriptionUS Grade
6.00 - 6.99Rank 6C
7.00 - 7.99Rank 7D+
8.00 - 8.99Rank 8D
9.00 - 9.99Rank 9F
5 more rows

Which country has the hardest education system? ›

Ans. The countries with the hardest and most difficult education systems include South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland, etc.

Where does US rank in world education? ›

U.K. students had above-average scores in math, reading and science on the OECD's 2018 Program for International Student Assessment. The United Kingdom also is home to two of the top 10 Best Global Universities. Learn more about the United Kingdom. The U.S. repeats as the No. 1 best country for education in 2022.

How does the United States rank in education? ›

The U.S. ranks 14th in the world in the percentage of 25-34 year-olds with higher education (42%).

What is GPA in Korea? ›

In South Korea, depending on each school, the perfect score is represented as either 4.0, 4.3, or 4.5. The latter is the most commonly used system in the country.

What is a good girl Korean name? ›

Popular Korean Girl Names
  • I-Jun 이준 This common Korean girl name means ruler, talented, handsome in Korean.
  • Seo-Jun 서준 This name means “auspicious” and “handsome” in Korean.
  • Su-Ho 수호 This name in Korean means guardian.
  • Yu-Jun 유준 ...
  • Ye-jun 예준 ...
  • Ji-Ho 지호 ...
  • Eun-U 은우 ...
  • Si-U 시우
Aug 15, 2022

What time do Korean schools start? ›

A typical day finds high schoolers studying before school begins at about 8:00 A.M. Classes run for 50 minutes each, with a morning break and a 50-minute lunch period. The afternoon session resumes at about 1:00 P.M., and classes continue until about 4:00 or 4:30, followed by the cleaning of the classroom.


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