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A Guide for Expat Parents: Enrolling a Child in Korean Public Schools

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Enrolling your child in a Korean public school can be a straightforward process with the right information. We made this guide to help expat parents navigate the Korean education system, including the necessary steps for admission, the types of schools available, important dates, and the support systems in place for both students and parents.


Overview of the Korean Public School Education System


The Korean education system includes kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, and university. The education periods are:

  • Kindergarten: 3 years

  • Elementary School: 6 years

  • Middle School: 3 years

  • High School: 3 years

Each year is divided into two semesters: the first starting in early March and the second in late August or early September. Elementary and middle schools provide compulsory education for free, while private and specialty schools may charge tuition fees.


All children, regardless of their residency status, are entitled to attend elementary and middle schools. The Korean government ensures the right to education without attempting to find illegal immigrants through their children.


Multicultural education policy schools are available to support students from multicultural families. These schools offer Korean language classes to help children adapt to school life and provide basic education.

School System

Period

Age

Tuition

Note

Pre-elementary

Kindergarten

3-5

Yes; varies depending on school

-

Elementary education

Elementary school

6-11

Free (*not including lunch)

Compulsory

Secondary education

Middle school

12-14

Free (*not including lunch, uniform costs)

Compulsory

Secondary education

High school

15-17

Yes; varies depending on school

-

Important Dates


The school year in Korea is divided into two semesters, with the first semester beginning in March. Here are the key dates for kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high schools. Applications should be submitted directly to the school or the with the head of the eup, myeon, and/or dong within the school district.

Level of School

Application Period

Notification & Confirmation

Enrollment

Entry

Kindergarten

October - December (Apply Online)

January - February

January - February

Early March

Elementary

By December 20

January - February

January - February

Early March

Middle School

January - February

January - February

January - February

Early March

High School

Varies by type of school

January - February

January - February

Early March

Vacation Periods (~2 weeks each):

  • Summer Vacation: Late July to August

  • Winter Vacation: December to February

  • Spring Vacation: Mid-February to end of February


Enrollment and Transfer Guide


Required Documents:

Document

Notes

Application form for enrollment or transfer

Provided by each school or regional office of education

Student’s certificate of entry and exit (or foreign national registration)

Obtain from Immigration Office or “Government 24” website (www.gov.kr). If unavailable, a lease agreement or neighborhood guarantee can be used as proof of residence.

Documents that prove foreign academic history

Graduation or enrollment certificate with Apostille or consular confirmation. Accredited foreign schools can provide documents signed by the principal, specifying dates and grades.

Immunization certificate

Obtainable from a public health center or “Government 24” website (www.gov.kr)

Other documents requested by the school or regional office of education

Previous school records in Korea, personal information agreement, passport copy, family certificate, resident registration copy (for Korean citizens), etc.


Registration Steps for Enrollment or Transfer


  1. Prepare the required documents and apply for enrollment or transfer by visiting the school or office of education.

  2. Submit the documents required for enrollment or transfer. The submission of the following documents is generally required:

  • Application form for enrollment or transfer

  • The student’s certificate of entry and exit (or foreign national registration)

  • Documents that prove foreign academic history

  • Immunization certificate

  • Other documents requested by the school or the regional office of education

  1. The school notifies the results of the enrollment or transfer application after considering the following factors according to the results of the document screening or a review performed by the academic review committee:

  • Elementary school: Enrollment in or transfer to a school located in the area of residence

  • Middle school: Enrollment based availability and school capacity

  • High school: Enrollment based on approval from school principal

  1. Once the enrollment or transfer is finally determined, a parent (guardian) should visit the school and carry out the registration for the enrollment or transfer.


For detailed information and forms, visit Ministry of Education.


Support Systems for Multicultural Students


Tuition Support:

  • Available for children aged 3-5, children from low-income families, and others meeting specific criteria.

  • Apply through local community centers or the Bokjiro website (online.bokjiro.go.kr).

Wee Center:

  • The Wee Center counseling and support for students struggling with school adaptation.

  • Services include individual counseling, support groups, and crisis intervention.

Local Boards Against School Violence:

  • Each school has a board to handle school violence prevention and resolution.

  • Parents can report incidents through the child's homeroom teacher or directly to the board.

Mentoring for Multicultural Students:

  • One-to-one mentoring with volunteering university students, arranged by the local office of education and the school.

  • Each student is eligible to receive 20 hours of mentoring per week, with up to 40 hours per week during vacations.

Korean Language Classes: Korean language classes are arranged by the school only if a large number of students from foreign nationalities attend the school--otherwise, Korean classes are arranged through Danuri Multicultural Family Support Center.


  • Kindergarten: Intensive Korean language education focusing on play to help children adapt

  • Elementary and Middle School: Customized Korean language education for students returning from overseas or with foreign nationality, helping them integrate into Korean life and school early.

List of Multicultural Education Support Centers Find a Multicultural Family Support Center near you by calling the help line 1677-1366 or visit their website.

Center

Tel

Seoul Multicultural Education Support Center

02-3999-058

Busan Multicultural Education Support Center

051-819-7062

Daegu Multicultural Education Support Center

053-231-3930-6

Incheon Multicultural Education Support Center

032-420-8265-9

Gwangju Multicultural Education Support Center

062-380-4361

Daejeon Multicultural Education Support Center

042-616-8856

Ulsan Multicultural Education Support Center

052-255-8180

Sejong Multicultural Education Support Center

044-320-2414

Gyeonggi Multicultural Education Support Center

031-249-0452

Gangwon Multicultural Education Support Center

033-258-5524

Chungbuk Multicultural Education Support Center

043-210-2831-4

Chungnam Multicultural Education Support Center

041-640-7542

Jeonbuk Multicultural Education Support Center

063-239-3474-5

Jeonnam Multicultural Education Support Center

061-640-3330

Gyeongbuk Multicultural Education Support Center

054-805-3264

Gyeongnam Multicultural Education Support Center

055-210-5161-2

Jeju Multicultural Education Support Center

064-784-9040

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Can foreign children attend Korean public schools?

Yes, foreign children can attend Korean public schools. It's recommended to consult with your local office of education if you have any questions or concerns before enrolling your child.

Are there any fees for attending public schools in Korea?

What support is available for non-Korean speaking children?

What is an apostille, and how do I get it? 

What is the process for recognizing foreign academic history?

How does the enrollment process work?

When do school semesters start and end in Korea?


Enrolling your child in a Korean public school can be a smooth process with proper guidance. Ensure you gather all necessary documents, adhere to the timelines, and utilize the support systems available to provide a comprehensive and fulfilling educational experience for your child.


Image Source: Korea Bizwire


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