Three years of middle school education/lower secondary education

Middle schools are classified as national/public and private middle schools.
As of 2022, there are 2,625 national/public middle schools and 633 private middle schools. The compulsory middle school education was introduced in 1985. It was expanded regionally, starting with remote regions in small and medium-sized cities, then large cities, including Seoul. In 2004, the compulsory middle school education became universal for all three middle school grades. The government abolished the middle school entrance exam in 1971, which has led to a lottery system for school assignments, with preference given to the middle school nearest to the student’s residence. As of 2022, the enrollment rate for middle schools is 98.2%.

Three years of high school/upper secondary education

Individuals who have graduated from middle school or who have passed a qualifying exam and/or an assessment where equivalent credit is granted may enroll in high school. The high school enrollment rate reached 94.5% in 2022, with various types of high schools available, such as regular high schools, vocational high schools, autonomous high schools, special-purpose high schools, and schools for gifted students. Students can select a high school based on their career goals and paths as well as the level of their academic achievement.

The high school curriculum offers a range of elective subjects in addition to common subjects, giving students options to take subjects aligned with their desired career paths and personal interests. High school education is not compulsory, yet Korea introduced free high school education for the third-year high school students in the second semester of 2019, which was expanded to all three high school grades in 2021. As of 2022, the percentage of students who have progressed to study in higher education institutions from high schools stands at 73.3%, which is the highest in the world.

Three years of high school/upper secondary education: type, Characteristics
Type Characteristics
Regular High Schools
  • High schools that offer general education in a wide-range of disciplines
Special-Purpose High Schools
  • High schools that offer specialized and focused education in a specific field (Types) Foreign language high school, International high school, Science high school, Arts high school, Physical education high school, Meister high school (Customized industry high school)
Vocational High Schools
  • High schools that offer education with a goal of fostering talents in a specialized field focusing on practical hands-on training in the field and building experiences (Types) Schools based on occupations, alternative education
High Schools for the Gifted
  • Schools for gifted students who require specialized and customized education that meets their ability and aptitude to develop their potential
  • Education offered at the level equivalent to high school education

Source : 2023 Education in Korea