Education in South Korea is viewed crucial for success and competition is consequently very neatly heated and fierce.] A centralized administration oversees the process for the education of children from kindergarten to the third and final year of high school. Mathematics, science, Korean, social studies, and English are generally considered to be the most important subjects. Sometimes physical education is not considered important as it is not regarded to be education and therefore many schools lack high-quality gymnasiums and varsity athletics. South Korea was the first country in the world to provide high-speed internet access from every primary, junior, and high school.
The school year is divided into two semesters. The first begins in the beginning of March and ends in mid-July; the second begins in late August and ends in mid-February. They have summer vacation from mid-July to late August, and winter vacation from late-December to early February, and also take a short vacation from mid-February to March 1. The schedules are generally standardized, however it can vary slightly from region to region.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (often abbreviated into "the Ministry of Education") is responsible for South Korean education. The former body, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, was named by the former Minister of Education, who enhanced its function in 2001 because the administration of Kim Dae-jung considered education and human resources development as a matter of the highest priority. As a result of the reform, it began to cover the whole field of human resource development and the minister of education was appointed to the Vice Prime Minister. In 2008, the name was changed into the present one after the Lee Myeong Bak administration annexed the former Ministry of Science and Technology to the Education ministry. Like other ministers, the Minister of Education, Science and Technology is appointed by the president. They are mainly chosen from candidates who have an academic background and often resign in a fairly short term (around one year).
Elementary school consists of grades one to six (age 8 to age 14 in Korean years—6 to 12 or 7 to 13 in western years). Students learn subjects including, but not limited to, Korean, mathematics, science, social studies, fine arts, English, P.E., moral education, practical arts, and music. Usually, the class teacher covers most of the subjects; however, there are some specialized teachers in professions such as physical education and foreign languages, including English. About 20 years ago, English used to be taught first in middle school, but nowadays, students begin learning English in the third year of elementary school. Korean language has a very different grammatical structure from English, and English education in Korea is more or less inefficient, so this is a frequent source of concern to parents. Many choose to send their children to additional private educational institutions called hagwon after school. More schools in the country are recruiting native English speakers to facilitate learning English.
Alongside public elementary schools there are a number of private elementary schools in Korea, usually distinguishable by the uniforms their students wear (public elementary school students do not wear uniforms apart from PE kit). These schools follow a similar curriculum as public elementary schools, but often offer superior facilities, a higher teacher-to-student ratio, and extra programs. They also usually offer a higher standard of learning. Though highly desirable, they are prohibitively expensive for many Korean parents.
Elementary schools are called chodeung-hakgyo, meaning elementary school. The South Korean government changed its name to the current form from gukmin hakgyo meaning citizens' school in 1996. This was done as a gesture of restoring national pride. The word, abbreviated from, means "school for the subjects of the imperial state" carried over from Japanese colonial rule.
To say that the people of South Korea take education seriously would be a severe understatement. They take education extremely serious and their society in general regards academics very high.
According to Kim Kyong-Dong, from the Korea Development Institute, �Education is a channel for social mobility.� In other words, education is seen as a way of achieving individual and national success. The country places a high value on education and, as such, has become one of the top performing countries in the world, in terms of academics. Recent studies have shown they are second world wide in reading, and fourth overall in math, among fifteen year olds. (This is higher than countries such as England, Canada, and the United States). The government dedicates a great deal of money to educational programming and schools � almost five percent of its gross national product. A high emphasis is placed on technology.
In Korea, the Basic Education Law of 1949 provides the main structure of Korean education. There are six years of compulsory, free education, followed by three years of tuitioned, non-compulsory middle school education. Following this is three years of tuitioned, non-compulsory high school education and then four years of tuitioned college. Though schooling past the primary level costs a great deal of money, most families invest in their child�s education. The best jobs in the nation go to university graduates so there is a hyper-competitive education system and job market. There are entrance exams for high school and yebi kosa (exams) to qualify for even applying to college.