- Download our Moving to Seoul Guide (PDF)
Education and schools in Seoul are excellent and famed for their academic rigour. Expats looking for a school for their children will have plenty of options in both the public and international school domains.
See Education and Schools in South Korea for more on the national education system.
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 many expat families find it difficult to adapt to the high-pressured and singularly focused approach adopted by Korean public schools. There's also a language barrier to content with, as Korean is the language of instruction in public schools.
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 programme or the American curriculum.
Most expats send their children to international schools to retain some continuity in their lives. It is important for parents to 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 used to 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. Admission to these schools can be competitive, and may include entry tests and interviews.
Learn more about International Schools in Seoul
Special-needs education in Seoul
By law, children in South Korea cannot be refused admission or discriminated against by any school because of disabilities. Public education is also free for children with physical and intellectual disabilities from the ages of five to 18 in South Korea.
There are close to 30 special-needs schools in Seoul, but many children with disabilities attend mainstream schools. Students who spend a lot of time in the hospital can also study online while receiving medical treatment.
For a child to attend a school for special needs, they must first be registered as a child with a disability at their local district office. Parents can then apply to the school of their choice.
Not all international schools in Seoul cater for children with special educational needs, and expat parents should therefore check with the relevant school.
Tutors in Seoul
Tutors can be useful for expat children transitioning into a new school environment. They can be hired for anything from general assistance with school subjects to helping maintain a child's proficiency in their mother tongue or helping them to learn Korean. Differences in education systems may result in expat children being behind in some areas of their new curriculum, and tutors are an excellent way to catch up.
Tutoring in South Korea is big business, so expats will have plenty of choices. Expats should research different options thoroughly before deciding on a tutor. Tutoring can be done one-on-one, through online classes and videos, or by attending a hagwon (private after-school academy). Many schools will have a list of tutors or hagwons they can recommend.
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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