Cultural Differences in Korean Schools

Teaching in Korea: Cultural Differences in Korean Schools

For anyone who wants to give teaching English in South Korea a try, it’s important to be aware that some daily aspects of life are different when teaching in another country.  If you’ve ever taught in your home country, you may have a certain idea as to how school life goes. However, there are cultural differences in Korean schools and in the workplace, and it is good to know some of these before your first class in Korea. Keep reading to learn more about what to expect if you take this opportunity.

Teaching in Korea: 5 Cultural Differences in Korean Schools

Students Have Long Days

In Korea, constant studying is a normal part of life. Most students go to school during the daytime hours and then go to a private academy throughout most of the evening hours. Most middle and high school students will be at their evening classes until 10pm at night. Depending on what country you’re from, you may be used to seeing students spend their free time working on extra curricular activities or hanging out with friends, instead of attending class. This is a rarity in Korea.

This is important to remember when you see your students sleeping in class or having difficulty concentrating.

Students Aim to Be the Best

It’s extremely important to do well in school in Korea.  Since so many students are fighting to attend the top universities in Korea, they are constantly working hard to get the best possible grades and test scores. The college entrance exam can only be taken one time per year and students work to do their very best so that they pass the test with a high score.

Parents Play a Big Part

In Korea, parents often play a big part in school life. This is especially true when it comes to private academies. Parents pay a lot of money to send their children to these schools, so they want to make sure their children are getting the very best. This may result in schools frequently trying to impress the parents and making changes to meet the needs of the parents. This is something to consider, especially if you’re taking a private school position.

Koreans Can Be Very Blunt

Both in the classroom and in everyday life, Koreans are known to be very blunt and honest. When you’re first getting settled into your position, you may find that your co-workers and students make comments to you that may seem inappropriate. This may be that you’re too fat, or that you’re beautiful, or that you look better with makeup on. While it may be strange at first – don’t let these comments get to you! This is normal in Korean society.

Teachers Are Addressed by Their First Name

When teaching in Korea, it’s likely that you will be referred to as “teacher” or your first name. This is not meant to be disrespectful, but is how teachers are approached in Korea. You may be used to a more formal approach back home – but you will get more used to this with time. I find that it makes things a bit more relaxed when dealing with students.

Cultural Differences in Korean Schools

These are just some of the common cultural differences in Korean schools. While life in the classroom and workplace are different, it’s possible to adapt. With hard work and a positive attitude, you can have a great experience teaching in South Korea.

WE TEACH KOREA: Teaching English in South Korea

We Teach Korea is the best site for TEFL jobs in South Korea. English teaching jobs are posted daily, as well as blog posts about living and teaching English in South Korea.

Written By Natasha Gabrielle

Natasha is a travel blogger, ESL teacher, adventurer, and sometimes runner—currently living abroad and teaching English in South Korea. She blogs about living and teaching ESL in South Korea as well as her travel adventures. Find out more about her and her travels at

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