I Live In Korea

My name is Ben Gwynne. I USED to teach English in Incheon, South Korea. Here's some photos, stories, videos, etc.

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.”



Anonymous said...

"speak pretty good English" come on!
Do you "teach pretty good english" too?

Ben Gwynne said...

Sheesh, that's all you got Kush? You can do better than that!

Anonymous said...

"treated like GOD’s on this day"

GOD's??? God's what? do you mean GODS?

Ben Gwynne said...

MUCH better. Thanks, I usually don't proof read anything on my blog. I'm pretty perfect and it's informal writing so it's all good.

The first "correction" was weak.

Anonymous said...

sounds horrible

ellesor said...

Instead of googling and looking for know-more-about-koreans..i just click your blog for more info.and im actually learning a lot, i even suggested it to my sister to read your blog too..were not good in english but were learning.your blog is a good help.

P.s Do you speak korean?

Ben Gwynne said...

i regret to say i don't speak korean..i know some vocabulary (some), but I swear i'm going to try and study more...thanks for reading

Kafka said...

First of all, I'm Korean. BTW, I couldn't agree with you more. Korean government have no attention about this stupid policy. When I was in high school in Korea, I had to stick around at school for about 16 hours. It sounds crazy,isn't it? :-( I bet myself that every elementary school children fed up with so much of assignments.

Ben said...

It's too much schooling. Some people aren't cut out for it to be honest, and a lot of others just get burned out which results in them hating school, getting hooked on video games, losing control in college, etc. There needs to be a little bit more moderation.

Kafka said...

If they entered college, somehow They usually obsesses in drinking parties.
(I had to do attend that even I didn't want to, How compulsive!! Korea has so strong group culture)
I think its reason is so much of pressure when they were young. Many people hardly show their real emotion. They could have said "I don't want to attend drinking party" But the truth, they attended that. You see? Every group culture situation made that. But I'm not sure how different it is now. I hope it will change.

Ben said...

Same thing in the US, everywhere really, peer pressure can be very powerful!

Kafka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kafka said...

But I think the USA more respect other people's decision no offending than here.
(Sorry for my poor English, I hope you got it)

Ben said...

Well we're a bigger country with many different cultures and nationalities. So yeah, I guess you're right.

Anonymous said...

Well, I partially disagree what you've said Ben. The amount of work that a average high school student has is a lot, however, it is necessary for that age and extra work is also required if the student wants to exceed and go over and beyond. Well, I assume you think you know a big part of the korean culture, but you really don't, so just share more of your little known knowledge to your fellow retard friends. Also WTF Kafka. Drinking parties everyday? Screw you. If you do';t want to go to a drinking party and your still forced too, that means your were stupid to demonstrate your clear point of view. The reason why people don't display their real emotion to YOU is probably, because they find you annoying or you have no friends to even share their basic feelings.

Anonymous said...

u mad?

Anonymous said...

What The Fuck

Anonymous said...

thanks for the info on korea i never knew so much about them and i needed to do research for my project at my middle school

Anonymous said...

You have a ton of facts, but you are not putting them together well. You should make into a good report instead of stating random facts. Give more detailed information on your facts so that you won't sound like you got bits and pieces from...somewhere else. All in all, this is a GREAT blog.

Cha Si said...

I live in Malaysia.... for a boarding school students, we take up school up to 16 hours a day.. I'm quite surprised at first... then after that we study by our own in study rooms... last me and my friends study until 3 in the morning cuz we have exams today....

Anonymous said...

In india thr is only 7 hours school..:)

Nurida Novianti said...

HI, may I put your writing on my blog? I really like this post and hope to see it easily through my blog. I'll also write the original source of course. Thanks in advance! :)

Anonymous said...

thank god i dont live in korea i would hate having to do 12 hours a day of school.

Story Twentyfour said...

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Fun Fact for Kids

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Crystal said...

I want to get in touch with someone Korean, I'm from Texas USA and I am really interested in South Korean culture. I'm running a Korean Club at my school and I'd like more Information on how the culture really is. I've seen many post, but I believe they're mostly biased; some claim that it's horrible place while others believe its a good place. Any source of communication would be nice, my email cristalangel1006@gmail.com help will be greatly appreciated

Bao Bao said...

How much time off do you think they get in a year? Is this extreme schooling just for Seoul or does it apply for all of Korea?

Anonymous said...

Hey Bao Bao,

Public school is essentially year round. Just a few weeks during the summer but that was it. Nothing like it is in the US.

Let me know if you have more questions!


Anonymous said...

What type of high school are there in Korea? I was checking up on kim yoo jung n she's in high school now. In 1 night 2 days, there's a group of kids , same age as her n said the subs said they are in university? So I'm unsure if that's because she retained in studies or there's different type of high school, direct path to university etc ?

Anonymous said...

no offense, but I am really unclear on what you are asking

- bg

Anonymous said...

Korean here! Korea has many types of specialized high schools, so that's actually possible.

It depends on what age they were and what branch the kids are majoring, but some kids who major in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) are from a specialized academy called 'Science Academies'(Different from Science High schools).

These academies, while technically not classified as a high school, often have an 'early-graduating' system where the top percentage is allowed to graduate from the academy a year early, hence making them go to universities a year earlier than their peers.

Of course, this isn't the only reason KYJ and the kids from 1N2D could be the same age yet at different stages of school.

Other possibilities might include: KYJ might have been held back a year in school, etc.

Hope this helped!


Anonymous said...

In the USA ,I live Texas,we only have 8 hours of school but my parents make me study and do every extra credit that I can do for my classes. They make me sit down on the table and study a textbook for that class for three hours after school. 😩 Reading this blog got me to say that Korean kids have it so much worse and I'm glad my parents went to America instead of staying in Mexico where they have a even worse education system.( as to say that sometimes you can't afford to go )

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your reply. Schooling definitely isn't easy in Korea, but when you look at their performance on math/reading scores they outperform the US on average. Hard work pays off in the end either way. Thanks for reading!

- Ben

Anonymous said...

hey i would like to know if korean schools teach their kids in korean or in english. thanks

Hiyori Shinju said...

I live in Japan and the things here are crazy, so I am not even surprised that it is the same for Koreans. Our school year is pretty much like theirs, but we have failing grades, unlike them. Our suicide rate is also very high.

Anonymous said...

What day do Korean students enter for another school year in high school? Could you answer as soon as possible?

Devendran Devendran said...

Useful to know about korean schools.... Thank you !

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im cuter when i sleep said...

it's nice to know other countries school system. In malaysia, the average hours of highschool is 5-6 hours, the same hours of elementary and middle school. I'd say middle school days isnt as hectic as highschool eventhough 8th grader will be sitting a test to determine which stream/course they would take in highschool (pure science, accounting, arts, human resources and many) it depends on school sylibus. Highschool is tougher with more extra classes, sometimes students might come home at 6pm, studying from 7.30 am. Thats because 12th grader will be sitting for college entrance exams, so there are lots effort in 2 years before graduating from highschool. Our school system is just like koreans except the god-knows-how-long school hours.

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