Since the 1960s, the Korean Republic has emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, largely thanks to a fierce focus on education. This legacy of hard work and achievement continues to shape education in South Korea, which regularly outperforms Western countries in science and maths.
Expat parents looking to educate their children in Korea should prepare themselves for a society that puts enormous emphasis on academic performance – a culture which even spills into the international schools in South Korea.
South Korean parents treat education as a household's top priority, spending as much as three times on education as their American counterparts. A typical school-going child in South Korea spends eight hours a day in school, and up to six additional hours reviewing school work at cram schools called hagwons.
There are several good international schools, especially American-curriculum schools, due to the presence of the United States Army base and a sizeable expat community.
Kindergarten usually starts at three or four years old. Students start grade 1 at six years old, and complete grade 12 – the final year of schooling – at 18 years old
Public and private schools in South Korea
The public education structure is divided into three parts: six years of primary school, followed by three years of middle school and three years of high school. After completing middle school, pupils are randomly assigned to either a single-gender or co-educational high school in their area. High schools are, furthermore, divided into traditional high schools and vocational high schools.
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