Educational System

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The school system in Korea follows a 6-3-3-4 ladder pattern which consists of elementary school (6 yrs./1st to 6th grades), middle school (3 yrs./7th to 9th grades), high school (3 yrs./10th to 12th grades) and university (4 yrs.) or college (2-3 yrs.).

Universities have courses for masters (2-3 yrs.) and doctorate (2-3 yrs.) degree programs

Education track in Korea
Age Grade Level Name of Course
General Education Course Special Education Course
3 Pre-schools Kindergarten Special Schools
7 1 Elementary Education Elementary Schools Special Schools
8 2
9 3
10 4
11 5
12 6
13 7 Secondary Education Middle Schools Special Schools, Civic Schools and
Other Schools
14 8
15 9
16 10 High Schools Special Schools, Air & Correspondence High Schools, Technical Schools and Other Schools
17 11
18 12
19 13 Post-secondary Education Universities offering Bachelor Degrees Colleges, Industry Universities, Universities of Education, Technical Schools, Distance Education Schools Air and Correspondence Colleges
20 14
21 15
22 16
23 17 Graduate Schools offering Master Degrees
24 18
25 19 Doctorate Degrees
26 20
27 21

Education System

In Korea, the school year begins in March with summer vacation during July through August, and the second semester beginning in September. The long winter vacation lasts from December to February.
  • Start of Year : March
  • First Semester : From March to August
  • Second Semester : From September to February
Elementary Schools
Korea’s elementary education is free and compulsory and provides a basic education for living. The enrollment rate for elementary education reaches 99 percent. This high enrollment is attributable to the great Korean zeal for education and the government’s policies in the support of education. Generally, children aged 3 to 5 attend kindergarten and children begin at 7 years old with grade one. Elementary schools consist of grade one to six. They are mostly public schools. The education programs of public and private schools are almost the same.
Middle Schools
Korea’s middle schools provide students with a secondary education based on their educational foundation from elementary schools. Competitive entrance examinations at the middle-school level were abolished in 1968. Since then, students have been assigned to secondary institutions by computer in accordance with locations within the boundaries of the school district. Middle school is free and compulsory, with 3 years of education. The number of private schools are more than that of public schools. Their education programs are almost the same.
High Schools
High school education provides students with a basic professional education based on the educational foundation from middle school. Korean high schools are divided into general schools, vocational schools, other schools (foreign language and art specialty high schools, and science high schools). High school education lasts 3 years and is not mandatory. Students may choose vocational schools or others but they are typically assigned to a school by computer in the same way as for middle school.

※ There is no limitation for foreign students in attending schools (elementary, middle and high school) in Korea. Under the Education Act, the admission of foreign students depends on school regulations. For those who want to attend a Korean school, they may visit the school and follow the regulations on foreign students.

College provides an education after the completion of secondary education. There are about 150 colleges nationwide, about 10 of which are public. Many of them provide boarding houses within their campus and their tuition fees are cheaper than universities. A college education nurtures students as medium skilled technicians equipped with solid technological skill and knowledge. Those who graduate from college can get jobs or enter into university.
In Korea, there are about 250 universities, whose 4-year courses provide graduates with bachelor degrees. Universities for medical, oriental medicine and dentistry are 6-year courses. Korean universities have various courses and their own regulations on credits, prerequisite credits for graduation, maximum credits per semester and how to acquire credits and special credits. Universities are divided into national, public and private. Most universities are private.

※ Universities have their own conditions for admission but there are little differences among them. For those entering into universities and colleges, language will not be a barrier as they offer Korean language courses for foreign students.

  • Program for full time semester : Full-time program
  • Programs for exchange students : Exchange students according to an exchange agreement with the foreign universities with which they set up a sister school relationship
  • Programs for season session : Basic educational programs during vacations, Korean language courses, and others
  • Universities that are interested in the globalization of educatoinal issues have 30 percent of all lectures taught in English. As for lectures delivered in English, the rate is much higher in graduate schools than universities. Some universities have established international departments where all lectures are delivered in English.
Korean Language Courses
Many universities operate a Korean language Institute for foreigners. Short-term (3 to 4 weeks) courses are aimed at intensively improving communication skills. Long-term Korean language courses (10 to 40 weeks) are to improve on the theoretical studying of the Korean language through real-life activities, along with the operation of a culture class for fostering Korean cultural understanding.
Master or Doctorate Degrees
University graduate schools have courses for students desiring to obtain their Master’s Degrees (2 to 3 years) and Doctorate Degrees (2 to 3 years). Graduate schools are divided into a graduate school for basic theory and academy research, a professional graduate school for adaptation of practical theory and research and development, along with a special graduate school that provides education to business people through night classes.