Introduction to Korean Public Schools
 

Seoul_Chunil_Elementary_School.jpg

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Introduction

South Korean children are required to complete schooling through middle school (Korean: 중학교 3학년). This is similar to completing US grade 9 or until ages 14-15. High school attendance is not required (Korean: 고등학교 1-3학년). While there are a variety of private schools within Korea offering instruction in languages besides Korean, the cost to attend these schools is generally quite expensive. Private school tuition often reaches 20 million KRW per year or higher.

Korean Language Requirement

There is no Korean language requirement for children enrolled into public school, however, bear in mind that the language of instruction will be Korean for all subjects (foreign language classes are an exception but will most likely still be taught by Korean teachers). Communication between the school and parents/guardians will also be in Korean.

The Seoul Global Center offers a mother and child storytelling class twice a year.
 

Enrollment Process

Korean citizens receive notices in the mail when their children become school age. As a foreigner, you will most likely not receive such a notice unless you are married to a Korean citizen. In order to inform your local neighborhood that you need to enroll a child in school, you need to submit the following to your local community center (주민센터/동사무소).
 

Required Documentation

  • Alien Registration Card (ARC): your own + your child's (외국국적동포 국내거소신고증)

  • Certificate of Residency (출입국사실증명서)

After submitting your documentation, you should receive a notice from the different schools that your child is eligible for enrollment at. There is no enrollment fee, however, schools do have a series of fees regarding meals, supplies, and field trips. These are normally paid monthly or once a semester. Once you enroll your child in a school, the school will directly communicate with you regarding fees, academic schedule, and any other necessary information.

Vaccinations

Below are the required vaccinations for enrolling children in primary school in Korea:

Uniforms

Public elementary school students do not have uniforms (교복/학생복). Starting from middle school, uniforms are required at both public and private schools. Uniforms are sold by major uniform brands (IVY CLUB, SMART, SCHOOL LOOKS, ELITE) and can run anywhere from KRW 150,000-250,000 for the summer uniform and KRW 250,000-500,000 for the winter uniform. Physical education uniforms (체육복) are also required and cost around KRW 40,000. You can also find used uniforms at select second-hard shops (아름다운 가게 is a popular second-hand shop in Korea).

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Photo of the fall/spring season uniforms of Bundang High School students. The emblem and button design are copyright Bundang High School, Bundang, Korea.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license versions 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0.

Bdhs_boys_girls_winter.jpg

Photo of the fall/spring season uniforms of Bundang High School students. The emblem and button design are copyright Bundang High School, Bundang, Korea.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license versions 3.0, 2.5, 2.0, and 1.0.

Sample Schedule of School Fees

  • Meals (급식 초등학생 기준): KRW 40,000-60,000 per month

  • Milk (우유): KRW 10,000 per month

  • Textbooks (교과서): KRW 20,000-30,000 once per semester (one book is KRW 500-2,000) 

  • Day trip (체험학습): KRW 10,000-60,000, usually one day, twice per year

  • Field trip (수학여행): KRW 200,000-500,000, usually takes place in grade 5 or grade 6. 3 nights or 4 nights in duration depending on the school. Elementary students will travel domestically and middle school students may travel abroad

  • After school activity (방과 후 학습): KRW 40,000-100,000 - Can include activities such as English, arts & crafts, writing, etc. Fee is usually paid twice per semester.

Semester Structure

Korean public schools utilize a semester system with the first term of the year starting at the beginning of March.

The spring semester normally runs from March to July while the fall semester runs from August to February. Summer break is approximately one month starting from the middle of July, and winter break starts during December and ends in January. Schools observe all Korean national holidays and may have other short breaks during the semester such as spring break. During the summer and winter breaks, schools often run academic camps.

Grade Progression

Students progress from grade to grade regardless of academic achievement. Grade progression is generally based on attendance, however, certain high schools may require an entrance exam if the school has a specialization (art, foreign language, etc). Even though academic achievement does not determine if students progress from grade to grade, class rankings are still documented. The school may recommend children to redo a grade but has no authority to force a child to do so.

Public School Daily Life

Students attend school Monday through Friday. Up until recently, students also went to school for a half day every other Saturday.

Students usually do not change classrooms during the school day. Instead, teachers will rotate through classrooms to teach subjects.

Students are in charge of keeping their classroom and school grounds clean and tidy. This means emptying the garbage, cleaning desks, sweeping, etc.

Students and teachers are usually given rice, soup, banchan (side dishes like kimchi), and maybe some protein or fruit during meal times. Many students and teachers keep toothbrushes at school so they can brush after meals.

Shoes worn outdoors are not worn inside the school. Indoor slippers/sandals are worn.

Extracurricular Activities

As mentioned previously, after school programs can provide some extracurricular activities. Students may also participate in other after school activities at private academies (학원) or places like Taekwondo (태권도) schools, music schools, etc. Public school extracurricular activities vary. Check with your specific local public schools for the provided activities.

Transportation

Public school students usually attend schools that are close enough to their homes that they are able to walk, ride a bike, or take public transportation to and from school. Transportation provided by public schools is rare. Crossing guards assist students at major intersections near schools.

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