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Educational System in Korea

The one tip that you hear expats living in Korea repeatedly sharing with newcomers is not to buy a home when you first move to Korea. Rent for a few months or longer so that you have time to find the right neighborhood. Give yourself time to ensure that Korea is right for you for the long term. If you've already taken time to do those things and are ready to take the plunge and become a property owner, here are tips about buying a home in Korea.
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South Korea is renowned for its rigorous and high-quality education system, which has played a significant role in its rapid economic development over the past few decades. The Korean education system is divided into several stages, each with its unique characteristics and objectives. This guide aims to provide expats with a comprehensive understanding of the Korean education system, including the main stages of education, enrollment procedures, language requirements, availability of bilingual schools, types of private schools, and the possibilities of homeschooling and online schooling.

What are the main stages of education in Korea?

The Korean education system is divided into three main stages: elementary school (Chodeung Hakgyo), middle school (Jung Hakgyo), and high school (Godeung Hakgyo). Each stage has a specific age range and focuses on different aspects of a child’s development.

Elementary School (Chodeung Hakgyo)

Elementary school in Korea, also known as Chodeung Hakgyo, is for children aged 6 to 12. It focuses on basic academic learning and socialization skills. Subjects taught include Korean, mathematics, science, social studies, physical education, and music. English language instruction begins in the third grade.

Middle School (Jung Hakgyo)

Middle school, or Jung Hakgyo, is for students aged 13 to 15. It builds on the foundation laid in elementary school and introduces students to more complex subjects. The curriculum includes Korean, mathematics, English, social studies, science, physical education, music, and art.

High School (Godeung Hakgyo)

High school, known as Godeung Hakgyo, is for students aged 16 to 18. It prepares students for university or vocational training. Students can choose between general academic high schools and specialized high schools, which focus on science, arts, foreign languages, or vocational training.

How does a newcomer from a different country enroll their kids in school?

Expats can enroll their children in Korean public schools by visiting the local education office with necessary documents such as the child’s passport, alien registration card, and proof of residence. Some schools may also require a health checkup report.

Can children still learning Korean enroll in a public school?

Yes, children who are still learning Korean can enroll in public schools. However, they may face language barriers as the medium of instruction is Korean. Some schools offer Korean language support programs for non-native speakers.

Are there public bilingual schools?

There are a few public bilingual schools in Korea, mainly in major cities like Seoul. These schools offer instruction in both Korean and English. Admission for international students usually involves an application process and possibly an entrance exam.

What types of private schools are common in Korea?

Private schools in Korea include international schools, religious schools (mostly Christian), and foreign language high schools. International schools follow foreign curriculums and are popular among expats. Foreign language high schools focus on intensive language learning and preparation for studying abroad.

Do expats typically send their children to public or private school?

Many expats in Korea choose to send their children to international private schools due to the language barrier in public schools and the rigorous nature of the Korean education system. However, some expats prefer public schools for their children to experience the local culture and language.

How expensive are Private schools in Korea?

Private schools in Korea can be quite expensive, with tuition fees ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 per year. International schools tend to be the most expensive.

Are you allowed to homeschool while living in Korea?

Homeschooling is not common in Korea and is generally discouraged by the government. However, it is not illegal, and some expat families do choose this option, especially if they are not planning to stay in Korea long-term.

May kids attend online school instead of a local school while living in Korea?

Online schooling is an option for expat families in Korea, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it’s important to check with the local education office to ensure that the online school’s curriculum is recognized by the Korean education system.

Joshua WoodJoshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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