Schools in Seoul are excellent and famed for their academic rigour. Although the fees are extremely high, most expats choose to send their children to international schools as the language of instruction in public schools is Korean, and because many expats find Korean teaching approaches to be too strict.
Public schools in Seoul
Expats moving to Seoul rarely send their children to public schools. The Korean education system is praised for the results its students consistently produce, but very few Westerners would subject their children the high pressured and singularly focused approach adopted by Korean public schools. Another reason for this is that Korean is the language of instruction in public schools.
Attending primary and middle school is compulsory, but high school attendance is not. In-line with this, public schooling up to the end of middle school is provided for free but parents must pay for high school attendance.
Children usually start kindergarten at the age of three or four and then start primary school at the age of six. Students in South Korea finish school after grade 12 at the age of 18. Primary education lasts for six years followed by three years of middle school and three years of high school.
International schools in Seoul
Expats moving to Seoul with children might find that international school fees are their greatest expense. As a result of Seoul's medium-sized diplomatic community and significant American army population, there is a wide range of international schools to choose from, many of which follow either the International Baccalaureate or the American curriculum. However, French and British international schools also exist.
Most expats send their children to international schools to retain some continuity in their lives. However, expat parents should be aware that the South Korean culture of putting great importance on academic achievement does spill over into Seoul’s international schools to some extent. Because of this, expat children might feel more pressure to excel academically than they did in their home countries. There is also a culture of maintaining the utmost respect towards teachers which might be an adjustment for children from more relaxed teaching environments.
Expats sending their children to international schools in Seoul should explore their options as soon as possible, as schools may have long waiting lists. Expat children might also have to be interviewed before they are accepted into an international school.
Are you an expat living in Seoul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seoul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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