1. Kindergarten is not mandatory, therefore if a student goes to one they are private schools
2. Kindergarten is for kids aged 5-7
3. Elementary school students go to school for only about 5 hours a day
4. Although elementary school doesn’t have long hours, a high number of students go to “academies” after school (like the one I teach at). There are Math, English, Science academies, but if a student goes to piano lessons daily they call that an academy as well.
5. Some parents (like my principal) send their kids to a number of “academies.” My prinicipal’s son goes to SEVEN: English, Math, Science, Essay Writing, Piano, ‘All Subjects,’ and Chinese Calligraphy. The total cost for this is $1,700 per month. His hours are generally 7:30am-10pm and on Saturdays he has about 5 hours worth of school. I’m not kidding. What a tough life.
6. English is required to be taught in elementary schools from the age of 10
7. It’s not out of the ordinary for students to be physically punished if they act up or don’t do homework.
8. Students go to their public schools on the weekends too. However, they only have it on Saturdays every other week, and it’s only half of a day.
9. The majority of middle schools (for students age 13-15) have strict uniform and hair cutting policies
10. Elementary schools have about 30 kids in each class
11. Middle schools have about 40 kids in each class. That’s a lot of students.
12. The students do not go from class to class, they stay in the same class in their seats and the teachers switch rooms
13. There’s a breast pocket on the middle school students’ uniforms where they put a flap which has their name on it. Yes, there are basically nametags for each student in school. (“NAME TAGS JERRY!”)
14. The school year begins in March, not September like we’re used to in the U.S.
15. Since school is year round, they don’t have a big break before they enter their new grade, but they do have a summer, winter and spring break. Spring vacation happens about 3-4 weeks after Winter vacation ends which is weird.
16. A standard day for elementary school kids is about 5 hours long
17. A standard day for middle school kids is about 8 hours long
18. A standard day for the majority of High Schools is about 12 hours. Sometimes longer. I’m not kidding.
19. In Middle School and High School, the students often take a high number of classes, up to 11 subjects.
20. As if High School wasn’t demanding enough, the Korean version of the SATs is apparently one of the most difficult standardized tests in the world. Here’s a bunch of facts on that test alone…
a. Some parents make their kids start studying for it before they even get to middle school.
b. The test takes place on the same day every year, the second Thursday of November
c. All students take the exam the same day
d. The exam lasts about 9 and a half hours. No kidding.
e. Because everyone of the same age is doing the same thing at the same time on the same day. Traffic problems occur which lead to
i. Extra buses/trains running during those hours before/after the exam
ii. Workers allowed to show up an hour later to limit traffic
f. Having a quiet and peaceful atmosphere is essential as well, which leads to
i. A ban on honking horns near schools
ii. Flight schedules are changed
iii. Protests of any kind should not happen
g.Students get treated like GODS on this day
i. Parents will usually bring their kids to school, and there will be loads of people outside CHEERING kids on as they enter the school. “COME ON BEN, ACE THAT EXAM!!!”
ii. Underclassmen and past graduates might show up as well to show support.
iii. People will be handing out candy, tea, coffee, etc. to people as they walk in, to give them a little energy before the stressful day starts
iv. Taxi’s might give students free taxi rides
h. The test isn’t the be all and end all of your success, but if you get into a top University, you’re on cruise control from there on out. Just like they can be obsessed with personal appearance, the name of the school on your diploma carries a lot of weight from what I’ve read, more so than it does back in the US.
Although I’m envious that many of my students speak pretty good English AND can play an instrument or two, I’m certainly put off a little bit by what it takes for them to get there.
What does all this stress lead to? Well, here’s a direct quote from a website I found…
“Suicide and the CSAT - Because everything rides on this one exam, this one day, it is not surprising that there are suicides before and after the test, or when the results are published. Some students, convinced they will not do well, chose to die rather than take the exam. Although the highest number of suicides use to happen in December, these days they happen earlier since the answers are posted on-line hours after the test is over.”