Korean Education System

Korean Education System

With the local government act in 1991, laws regarding local educational systems have been established and become effective. Thus, there are little differences in educational system among regions. However, if the federal government sets up certain standards, local school districts can build curriculums and designate teaching materials based on the standards. By giving some rooms for flexibility for each region, the educational system appropriates educational needs for each region.

The Korean educational system allows that all the people evenly get the opportunity to obtain essential and broad knowledge by having 16 straight years of education in the order, 6 years of elementary school, 3 years of middle school, 3 years of high school and 4 years of university. Universities provide further education with 2-3 years of master’s courses and additional 2-3 years of doctorate courses.

Table of Korean Education System

Age Grade Education Category School Sub
General Special
3 Pre School Kindergarten Special School
7 1 Elementary Elementary School Special School 1
8 2 2
9 3 3
10 4 4
11 5 5
12 6 6
13 7 Essential Middle School Special School 1
14 8 Civil Education School 2
15 9 Specialized School 3
16 10 High School Special School 1
17 11 Air & Correspondence School 2
18 12 Polytechnic School
Specialized School
19 13 Specialized University
(Bachelor’s Degree)
Technical College
(2-3 Years)
20 14 Industrial University 2
21 15 University for Teaching Credentials 3
22 16 University for Science and Technology College
Air & Correspondence University
23 17 Graduate School
(Master’s Degree)
24 18 2
25 19 PhD 1
26 20 2
27 21 3

Korean Education Courses


All the schools in Korea start the first semester in March. There are summer vacations in July and August and the 2nd semester starts in September. And, there are winter breaks in December - February.
  • Start of the Year: March
  • 1st Semester: March - August
  • 2nd Semester: September - February

Elementary Schools

The Korean government provides free elementary school education pursuing to educate the public with the essential knowledge. 99.9% of the children in Korea take this elementary education. Thus, it shows the completeness of the Korean elementary education. This result comes out of the cultural pressure for education and the efforts of the government. In general, children go to kindergarten during the ages 3-5. And, it is possible to register for an elementary school at the age of 5 even though most of the children register for elementary schools at the age of 7. The elementary school education takes 6 years and almost all the schools are public. There are some private elementary schools although the differences from public schools are not noticeable.

Middle Schools

The purpose of middle school education is broadening basic knowledge in addition to the elementary education. In 1969, the examination process has been abolished. Thus, any student that wants to have the middle school education can apply for schools near residence, and gets registered for a school by computer generated selection. The courses are in 3 years and this also is free as the elementary school education. Although, the percentage of private schools is higher than elementary schools, private schools also provide free education as public schools. In addition, there are not many differences among national, public and private schools.

High Schools

The purpose of high school education is providing middle to high leveled general education and fundamental specialized education. High schools are classified in general schools, industrial schools and others (foreign language schools, art & music schools and science & technology schools). The courses are in 3 years and it is a paid education. For general schools, a student applies to schools near residence and gets registered for a school by computer generated selection while the other types of schools are chosen by students.
* There are no limitations or special conditions for a foreign student entering any of the elementary, middle and high schools. By the current educational law, the registration process of a foreign student gets in place depending on the individual regulations and policies of each school. Thus, a foreign student needs to choose a school and go to the school to consult to a counselor and follow the schools instructions.

Technical Colleges

Technical colleges provide educational programs in addition to high school education. There are about 150 technical colleges in the country and around 10 of the schools are national/public and the others are private. There are many technical colleges with dorms nowadays and tuitions are relatively inexpensive compare to 4 year universities. The purpose of technical college education is educating students to be skillful engineers by building strong theoretical and technical knowledge. Students acquire knowledge of applicative theories and techniques, so they can find jobs right after graduating or they can transfer to 4 year universities.


There are about 250 universities that provide bachelor’s degrees. Medical schools, schools of oriental medicine and dental schools have 6 year courses including undergraduate studies. Korean universities provide various majors and courses. Each university has its own policies of completing credits to graduate, the maximum number of credits per semester, standard number of credits, ways of obtaining credits and special credits. Universities are classified into national, city and private.
* There are not many differences in admission processes among schools even though there may be minor differences. There are not major problems for a foreign student to get admitted from a university or a college in Korea if the student has such eagerness to study in Korea. Even in colleges, schools provide Korean language courses for foreign students. Thus, lacking Korean language skills is not a serious problem.
* Academic Programs for Foreign Students in Universities
o Programs in Regular Semesters: Regular lectures
o Exchange Student Programs: Visiting students from foreign universities with special relations
o Summer or Winter Programs: Regular lectures, Korean language programs and other lectures during summer and winter breaks.
o English spoken and conducted lectures. With the urgency of internationalization in universities, about 30% of lectures are conducted in English. The percentage is even higher for graduate schools. Some universities have established international departments and conduct all the courses in English in the departments.

Korean Language Programs

Many universities have established Korean language programs for foreign students. Short courses with 3-4 weeks are focused on teaching Korean speaking skills. Long courses with 10-40 weeks concentrate on developing communication skills in Korean and understanding the Korean culture with everyday life related home works and cultural practices.
 Contents Source: National Institute for International Education development (http://www.studyinkorea.go.kr/)