Educational Structure

School System


The school system follows a 6+3+3 model, divided into six years of primary education (elementary school, ages 6-12), three years of lower secondary education (middle school, ages 12-15) and three years of upper secondary education (high school, ages 15-18). The first nine years of schooling (elementary and lower secondary school) are compulsory and are provided free of charge.

Education is provided by both public and private institutions in the secondary and higher education sectors. Private institutions are a significant and well-established part of the system.

Korea has four types of high schools: general high schools, special purpose high schools, specialized high schools, autonomous high schools. Despite the different school types, all high school graduates receive the same level qualification.

Higher education institutions in Korea are largely divided into junior colleges (2~3-year courses), universities and colleges (4-year courses) and graduate schools. In recent years, with the development of information and communication technologies, cyber colleges that deliver education via of e-learning have also increased in number. Graduate-level courses (master's and doctor‘s degree courses) are generally provided at 4-year universities. Recently, however, graduate school universities or colleges have also been established to exclusively offer graduate programs with no affiliations to universities.

One school year has two semesters. The first semester runs from the beginning of March to the end of August and the second semester runs from the beginning of September until the end of February. There are two vacations. The summer vacation is from July to August and the winter vacation is from December to February.

The medium of instruction is generally Korean. The foreigners’ school and international high school offer school curricula in other languages.

Legal Basis

Overall responsibility for education in the Republic of Korea lies with the Ministry of Education. Korean higher education has its legal basis in the Higher Education Act and other related laws.

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