The current education system in Korea consists of six years of elementary school, three years of middle school, three years of high school, and 4 years of college, and in 2002, mandatory education was expanded to middle schools throughout the entire country, including urban areas. Korean schools are divided into public and private schools. Public schools are founded by the state, and private elementary schools, unlike public schools, have the authority to select students, and parents also have right to select schools, in principle.
Daycare centers and Kindergarten
Daycare centers, where preschool children up to 6 years of age can play with peers and learn sociality, can be deemed as the stage before attending kindergarten. Their characteristicsare a focus on play rather than learning and that parents can take children to the school and pick them up at convenient times. Notwithstanding the differences among them, their operating hours are generally from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and some even provide night or 24-hour care for working parents.
In Korea, children enter elementary schools at 7 years of age. Most children attend public elementary schools allocated according to their residences, but those wishing to attend private elementary schools can apply there pursuant to admissions procedures designated by each school. The result of the application is decided by an open lottery. The main characteristic of private elementary schools is their specialized curriculum. As a clear example, while teaching English begins from third grade in public schools, English is included as a regular subject from first grade in most private schools. In terms of art and physical education, a number of schools require learning sports and musical instruments.
As elementary school education is mandatory, public elementary schools charge no tuition, while private elementary schools charge an annual tuition of approximately KRW 3 - 5 million.
* Source: Lee Yu-jong & Lee Hyo-yong, White paper on Korean private schools, Junior Gimmyoung, 2006
After completing six years of elementary school, students enter middle schools. Middle schools are also divided into public and private schools, but except for international middle schools and art middle schools, students enter schools allocated according to their residences. International middle schools specialize in training global talents and art middle schools specialize in art and physical education. Students have to take entrance exam for these specialized schools.
High schools are divided into general and vocational schools based on curriculum. “Integrated high schools” run both general and vocational curriculums.
Also, there are special-purpose high schools (science high schools and foreign language high schools), art high schools, physical education high schools, high schools for technical training, correspondence high schools, etc. General high schools run humanities and social sciences, natural sciences, and general vocational curriculum, and vocational high schools include agricultural, industrial, commercial, and fishery/marine high schools. In addition, there are home economics and vocational programs.