Back to School

In Canada, we get a version of this commercial every single summer as parents, teachers, and children, prepare to head back to school.

In South Korea, the new school year starts today, at the beginning of March. Aside from when the start of the year happens, there are many differences between education in Canada, and education here in South Korea.

First of all, the breakdown of the year. In Canada, the school year is from the first day after labour day (a Tuesday in September) and goes until the end of June. Canadian children get the months of July and August off, as well as 2 weeks covering Christmas and New Years, and a week off in March for March Break. Of course spread out in the middle are various single day holidays (Easter, Family Day in Ontario, May long weekend, Thanksgiving etc.) and a few PD days where the teachers go to school but the students get the day off.

In Korea, it’s a little different. Now I don’t work in a public school so I could be wrong about this, but I live right across from a public school. This year, there have been no regular classes for all of January and February. It’s a little strange. But when I was in Osan, school holidays were a month in February (before the grades switch) and then a month in the summer. Christmas and Western New Years only have one day off (December 25th and January 1st), however Lunar New Year will have about half the week off – at least for hogwan teachers. Then of course other holidays such as March 1st (Independence movement day) will be a break from hogwan classes as well.

Next, activities that students engage in are completely different. In Canada, students go to school all day, then after school they might be in one sport at a time, possibly two. Maybe they will take a music lesson or a swimming lesson once a week. If they are having problems in school, maybe they will spend an hour a week with a tutor.

In Korea, the students barely have any free time. The munchkins that I teach are in elementary school, so they will have less time constraints than those in middle school and high school. The elementary school across the street from my apartment goes from 9am-2pm I think. Students start classes at my hogwan at 2:30, and stay for 2 hours before leaving. Most will be coming from swimming, or going to taekwondo after. They come 3 times a week to English, then of course will have sports and music and math hogwans as well. While making charts of how our days are broken up, students as young as 9 will be up until 11 or 12 at night, wake up at 6 or 7 and have a day jam packed full of activities. Of course if they have English hogwans on M/W/F then on T/TH they will be in different ones. I see some of the students at my hogwan every single day. English with me M/W/F, Math and Chinese on T/TH, plus extra time in the computer lab to practice speaking.

Changing levels of education is also a different task than in Canada. In Canada, you go to the elementary school closest to your house, you funnel into the closest middle school, then high school. In high school, you apply to the universities or colleges of your choice and they look at grades and extra curricular activities to see if you would be a “right fit”. Leveling up happens in September.

In Korea, the application process starts in middle school (or so I’ve been told). You apply to high schools, and if you get into a really good high school, sometimes families will move in order for you to go there. Once in high school. you then have to apply to universities as well. Your grades and English scores are what get you into better schools (again, what I’ve been told). Leveling up happens in March.

In Korea, the best university in the country is a free university. Only the top of the top get admitted there, however the school also has the highest suicide rate as well – but maybe we can save that topic for another post.

I’m sure I have missed some major differences between the two systems. But these are the ones that really stand out to me on a daily basis. In the spirit ofย Moving Media March, have another youtube video to look at. I was first shown this video on my first day of teacher’s college in Ontario. It is seriously one of the cutest things ever! Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

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