School life is very much like life in any western culture except for the food.
In almost every school (public pr private) your child will wear a school uniform, provided by the school. They will also were a uniform when they play sports after school. ” Transformer”, or other popular animated character backpacks, pencil cases, markers, crayons, all of these things are standard in Korea. In fact, school supplies are maybe a bit more emphasized in Korea. There is a stationary store on every corner in Seoul, and at any given time you can find it jam-packed with students loading up on the latest “Hello Kitty” erasers.
Now for the best part: the food. Korean lunches are typically a daily variation of: meat, rice, kimchi, and soup. There is no exception to this. If your child is a picky eater, or does not like spicy food then you should pack a lunch. Although it should be noted that packing a lunch is not something that Korean children normally do, so this may cause some unwanted attention in your child’s direction. This of course will not be the case in a foreign school, as they will have a different style of lunch each day (check with your schools cafeteria for the monthly school menu). If your child is attending a pre-school or kindergarten, then there will be a snack time at around 10 a.m. (sometimes cereal with milk, sometimes fruit or a salad), and then a lunch served at around 12 p.m. The lunch is the same as at the higher-level schools, but the portion sizes will be smaller. It is always best to ask about the food served at any school that your child might attend. This will help eliminate any surprises.
Just like in most western schools there is a recess just after lunchtime for all elementary aged children. It generally lasts from thirty minutes to forty-five minutes. Most schools have a large outdoor playground for the spring/summer, or an indoor gymnasium for the winter. After your child passes in to the 8th grade in a Korean school you can expect that all of their time will be devoted to studying, up until the time that they graduate from university. So, there aren’t any break times for them.
You can read further in the ” Parents Participation” section regarding transportation, but you can rest assured that almost every school or academy has a bus for the students.
Teacher student relationships are quite special in Korea. Since children generally spend 80% of their time at a school or an academy, and also due to the Confucianism in Korea (which places teachers on a very high level), children and teachers become very close. There are little to no behavior problems among children in Korea, and most children are extremely respectful to their teachers. There are also two holidays in Korea, Children’s Day, and Teacher’s Day, where teachers and their students exchange gifts in celebration of each other.
Korean children go to school everyday, without exception (even Saturdays). In Korea, if you are sick, rather than stay home, you just send your child to school with a medical mask to cover their nose and mouth. It is a rare occasion for a child to miss school for any reason. Some ESL teachers have mentioned that children have been sent to school after just being released from the hospital, which should emphasize just how important education is to the Korean parents.
As in any other western school, each Korean school comes equipped with a “school nurse”. Korea has some of the most advanced medical care in the world, and the school system is no exception. Rest assured that no matter what school your child attends in Seoul, he or she would have the utmost medical care should something happen while at school.