Are you planning on studying abroad in Korea, or are you interested in being a teacher for Korean students? Whether you’re in Korea to pursue higher education or to teach middle school students, you should try to learn Korean and familiarize yourself with the education system in Korea.
Learning Korean, along with the history and structure of the Korean school system, is essential. While it might be complicated or confusing at first, it takes a little time and effort, and you’ll soon be an expert in all things Korean!
History Of The Education System In Korea
According to the 2022 education rankings, Korea ranks #19 globally. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) even states that 70% of 24-35-year-olds in Korea have completed some form of higher education, such as either private or public universities, technical training institutions, or vocational education programs. Given that this is the highest percentage worldwide, what’s the history of the Korean school system? How are they ranking so high? Let’s answer all that in the sections below!
First Ever Korean Schools
The history of Korean education can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea (57 BC-668AD). It’s even said that Korean public education was established as early as 372 AD! For your reference, here is a list of some of the first schools to have ever existed in Korea:
- Wonsanhaksa (원산학사): Said to be the first ever school established in 1883
- Baejaehakdang (배재학당): Established in 1885
- Ewhahakdang (이화학당): Established in 1886, the first women-only educational institute
- Gyungshin (경신학교): Established in 1886, it developed into the famous Yonsei University
- Heungha (흥화학교): Established in 1895, known for teaching English and Japanese
If you are a student or educator, you might want to check out some of these historical landmarks around Korea!
Modern School System In Korea
Nowadays, Korea provides high-quality education, often measurable by standardized tests. In other words, Korean society places a high value on academic performance, especially in secondary schools.
Together with the Korean government, the Ministry of Education dictates the national curriculum for public schools, including primary and secondary schools. This curriculum is then revised every 5-10 years. Further education opportunities and attending Korean universities are highly expected of Korean students.
Fact #1: Teachers In Korea Are Highly Respected
Among the 21 countries ranked by the OECD, South Korea came #4 in the level of respect teachers receive. The country ranked behind China, Greece, and Turkey, before New Zealand, Singapore, and the United States.
This is great news for those wanting to be primary school teachers or middle school teachers in Korea! Of course, you can always do your research about what it’s like being a teacher in Korea.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the Korean school calendar, vacation times, important Korean holidays, and designated school days.
Fact #2: The Use Of the 6-3-3-4 System
The Korean education system uses a 6-3-3-4 system. In other words, six years in elementary school, three years of middle school education, three years in high school, and four years in university.
The school calendar in Korea is divided up into two semesters. The first semester takes place from March through July, while the second semester runs from September through February.
Fact #3: Vacation Schedule
There are winter and summer breaks for Korean students. The regular winter break lasts from mid-December to early January, while summer break takes from mid-June to mid-August.
Fact #4: Numerous Korean Holidays
If you’re going to Korea, you should know the most important Korean holidays. To help you out, we’ve made a handy list for you:
- Korean New Year: February 1
- Independence Movement Day: March 1
- Children’s Day: May 5
- Buddha’s Birthday: May 8
- Memorial Day: June 6
- National Liberation Day of Korea: August 15
- Harvest Festival (Chuseok): September 9 – September 12
- National Foundation Day: October 3
- Hangul Day: October 9
Keep in mind that these dates are subject to change each year, but, in general, the holiday will fall around the date provided above. It’s similar to how Thanksgiving (US) is celebrated on different dates every year, yet it still takes place around the same time.
Fact #5: Regular Saturday Classes
Most Korean students go to school 5.5 days per week. This might sound strange, so let us explain! Students attend classes from Monday to Saturday two weeks out of the month, and they also attend classes Monday to Friday for the other two weeks. So, that’s where we got 5.5 days!
Typical Korean schools begin at 8:00 AM with morning classes of 50 minutes each. Then, there is a 50-minute lunch period followed by afternoon classes starting at 1:00 PM. Also, instead of students moving to different classrooms to study certain subjects, teachers move from room to room. Classes usually end around 4:00 – 4:30 PM, and then students are expected to help clean the classroom. What happens next depends on the individual student.
Most students can choose whether they will go back home to eat or stay and eat at school. Oftentimes, there are tutoring and study group sessions in the school library from 10:00 PM to midnight. At this point, students will return home and go to bed.
The schedule is quite similar for elementary school students and students in middle schools, except for shorter class times and more recreational activities, such as physical education.
Education Terms In Korean
Here are some essential education terms to know in Korean if you’re going to study or teach there.
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Start using Ling to see what we’re talking about! 행복한 배움 (haengboghan baeum – happy learning in Korean)!