Work and Study

Korea’s Elementary School Curriculum

Considering that the new semester just started, it is the perfect time to share some facts regarding the elementary school curriculum in Korea.

Importance of Education

In old days, South Korea placed immense importance on education as a means for self-fulfillment as well as for social advancement. Today, Korea boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world. It is also a well-known truth that Korea’s highly educated nation has been one of the dominant sources of the country’s explosive economic growth during the past 60 years.

Korea’s Education Structure

Additionally, the Korean education system follows a 6-3-3-4 single ladder system. It denotes six years of elementary school, three years of middle school, three years of high school, and four years of college or university.

All citizens have equal education opportunities based on their abilities regardless of their social status or position. Additionally, all students must complete nine years of elementary and middle school education.  Nevertheless, they can choose their own education path.

In high school, education becomes specialized based on subject area focus. There are high schools that focus on subjects such as science, sports, and performing arts.

Elementary School Curriculum: The Basics

Beginning at the age of 6, primary school attendance in South Korea is free as part of the nation’s public education system. It is free to ease the financial burden on parents.  There are two semesters in each school year, the first one running from March to July, and the second one from September to February.


The primary curriculum is focused on nine subjects including Korean language, mathematics, moral education, social studies, English, science, arts, music, and physical education. 

Likewise, the program is made up of compulsory subjects, elective subjects, along with extracurricular activities. For instance, elective subjects offered include Chinese characters and classics, computer science, as well as environmental studies.

Testing & Assessments

Although there has been some push for change over the years, the Korean school system is highly test-driven. In recent years, several initiatives have led to changes in primary schools.

Recently there has been a drive to switch multiple-choice question-only exams to ones that include essay writing and creative thinking. In an effort to expand foreign language education, English has also been taught as a part of the regular curriculum since 1997. Normally there is one hour per week for third and fourth-graders. Two hours per week for fifth and sixth-grade students.

Elementary School Curriculum: Structure

In general, Korean students, regardless of their educational level, enroll in private schools and/or seek tutoring outside of regular school hours.

As the competition to get into prestigious schools is quite high, every student does their best to get the perfect score and secure a promising future. In comparison to high schools, the number of classes attended in primary and secondary education is often less and not as structured.

What’s more, the timetables of primary and middle students include more extracurricular activities and classes. Students can explore subjects such as karate, piano, cuisine, and baking more than high schoolers.

Overall, Korea’s education system is recognized as one of the most rigorous around the globe, with its goal to efficiently equip students for their future careers. These are the essentials of the Korean educational system and elementary schools in South Korea!