Education and school systems tend to be different all over the world. While teaching in South Korea, we’ve taken note of some of the differences that we’ve seen in the classroom. Many things are unique compared to what we usually see back home in the United Sates. Look below to get a better understanding of school life in a Korean classroom.
Middle and High School Students Have Very Long Days
This is by far the most shocking difference to me.
Once students get into middle school, school becomes very important. Students often attend regular school classes during the daytime for 8 or 9 hours. Students then eat dinner and work on outside studies such as sports practices or music lessons. Most students also attend evening classes at a hagwon, or a private academy, often until as late as 10 pm.The focus on long school days in Korea is because of the competition to get into a good college. There are so many students fighting to get into colleges in the city, making it so important to succeed in school.
While I think education is very important, it makes me sad to see and hear of students sleeping throughout the day because of their lack of rest time. Many students also have very little time to socialize with their friends and be kids due to education pressures.
Korean Teachers Rotate Through Different Schools
Back home, you’d often hear about a teacher teaching in one district for many years. This can be a great way to get to know a community and its students. In South Korea, teachers aren’t allowed to teach at the same school for too long. Depending on their contract and the grade level that they teach, they must leave the school after 3-6 years.
This system is a way for teachers to get a more equal opportunity to teach at the many schools in South Korea. Teaching at a rural school may be a difficult challenge for a teacher because the students may not be as motivated. The teacher will also have to adapt to living in an area with less comforts that a city would offer. Teachers rotate between rural and city schools throughout teaching years.
Students Clean the Classroom
In South Korea, it’s common for students to clean the classrooms and other areas in the school. This includes cleaning tasks such as taking out the trash, vacuuming, and sweeping. My thoughts are that this is in place to teach students to take responsibility and treat their classrooms and school areas with respect.
Students are assigned certain tasks. Everyday after lunch, students come to our English Town to clean. In the United States, I’ve heard of teachers assigning certain responsibilities such as collecting homework or being a line leader, but I’m not sure I can see as much student cleaning going over as well back home.
Students Wear Uniforms
While this isn’t the case with public elementary school students, most public middle and high school students are required to wear a set uniform to school. This is also the case with private schools. A school uniform usually includes a specific top, jacket, and skirt for female students, and pants, shirt, and tie for male students.
While private schools often have a set uniform in place back home, it’s interesting to me that public schools have this requirement in South Korea.
These are just some of the differences that we’ve noticed while teaching in South Korea.