For many international families coming to Korea, the school schedule is one of the biggest adjustments. If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: Most Korean students start school between 8-9 AM and finish between 4-5 PM. But start and end times vary by grade level and school type.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the typical daily schedule for Korean students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. We’ll look at the influence of the hagwon (private academy) system and how it extends the study day.

We’ll also explore cultural factors that shape early start times and long school days in Korea.


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Standard Start and End Times by Grade

Elementary School Hours

Elementary school students in Korea typically start their school day around 8:30 am and end around 2:30 pm. This schedule allows them to have a full day of learning while also leaving time for extracurricular activities and family time in the evenings.

However, it’s important to note that specific start and end times may vary slightly between schools.

Middle School Hours

Middle school students usually start their day a bit earlier than elementary school students, with classes beginning around 8:00 am. They typically finish school around 3:30 pm. Middle school is a crucial time for students as they transition to more complex subjects and prepare for high school.

The longer school day allows for a more comprehensive curriculum and additional time for studying.

High School Hours

High school students in Korea have the longest school day, typically starting around 7:30 am and ending around 4-5:00 pm. This longer schedule reflects the increased academic demands of high school, including more advanced coursework and exam preparation.

High school students often have extracurricular activities or additional classes after regular school hours, making for a busy and challenging schedule.

Breakdown of the School Day

The Korean school day is structured with several breaks throughout the day to ensure students have time to rest and recharge. Students have a morning break, a lunch break, and an afternoon break, which allows them to socialize, eat, and engage in physical activities.

These breaks are important for both physical and mental well-being, as they provide opportunities for students to relax and rejuvenate before continuing with their studies.

It’s worth mentioning that while the standard start and end times may give us a general idea of when Korean students go to school, there can be variations depending on individual schools, regions, and specific circumstances.

Therefore, it is always recommended to check with the specific school or educational institution for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Variation Between Public and Private Schools

Public School Schedules

Public schools in Korea generally have standardized schedules that are set by the Ministry of Education. These schedules typically start around 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning and end around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon.

However, there can be some variation between different regions and individual schools. Some public schools may start earlier or end later to accommodate extracurricular activities or additional classes.

It’s important to note that public schools in Korea follow a strict curriculum and have a set number of hours dedicated to each subject. This means that students have a structured day with specific class periods for subjects like math, science, language, and physical education.


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Private School Schedules

Private schools in Korea, on the other hand, have more flexibility in setting their schedules. While some private schools may follow a similar schedule as public schools, others may have different start and end times.

Private schools often have a reputation for offering a more rigorous curriculum and may have longer school days or additional classes to provide students with a competitive edge.

Private schools also have the autonomy to design their own curriculum, which means they can allocate more time to certain subjects or offer specialized programs. This can lead to variations in the overall schedule, with some private schools starting earlier or ending later than public schools to accommodate these additional academic offerings.

Boarding Schools

In addition to public and private schools, there are also boarding schools in Korea. Boarding schools provide accommodation and education for students, typically from middle school to high school. The schedules in boarding schools can be quite different from those of public and private schools.

Boarding schools often have a structured daily routine that includes designated study times, extracurricular activities, and leisure time. Students live on campus and have access to various facilities and resources, creating a unique educational experience.

The schedules in boarding schools are designed to provide a well-rounded education and foster personal growth and development.

It’s worth mentioning that the information provided here is a general overview, and there may be additional variations between individual schools or regions in Korea. To get the most accurate and up-to-date information on specific school schedules, it’s always best to consult the official websites or contact the schools directly.

Impact of After-School Academies (Hagwons)

After-school academies, also known as hagwons, play a significant role in the lives of Korean students. These academies are privately-run educational institutions that offer additional instruction to students outside of their regular school hours.

The impact of hagwons on the education system in South Korea is undeniable, as they have become deeply ingrained in the culture and have a profound influence on the academic journey of students.

Typical Hagwon Hours

Hagwons typically operate in the afternoon and evening hours, after regular school hours. While the exact hours may vary, it is not uncommon for hagwons to start around 3 or 4 p.m. and continue until 10 p.m. or even later.

This means that students can spend several hours at these academies, depending on their individual schedules and the subjects they are studying.

Time Spent at Hagwons

Korean students often spend a substantial amount of time at hagwons. It is not unusual for students to attend multiple hagwons, each focusing on a different subject such as math, science, English, or music.

This can result in students spending several hours at multiple academies each day, leaving them with little free time for other activities or personal pursuits.

According to a study from the International Journal of Educational Development, around 75.5% of Korean elementary through high school students attend hagwons. On average, they spend about 7 to 10.7 hours per week at these academies.

This statistic illustrates the significant investment of time and effort that Korean students put into their academic pursuits outside of regular school hours.


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Overlap With School Schedules

One of the challenges posed by hagwons is the potential overlap with school schedules. With hagwons operating in the afternoon and evening, students may find themselves attending these academies late into the night, only to return to school early the next morning.

This can lead to long and exhausting days for students, with little time for rest or relaxation.

The pressure to excel academically in South Korea is high, and the prevalence of hagwons reflects the emphasis placed on education. While hagwons provide additional academic support, it is essential to strike a balance between academic pursuits and the overall well-being of students.

The Korean government has recognized this issue and has taken steps to regulate hagwons and reduce their influence on students’ lives.

Cultural Factors Influencing Long School Days

South Korea is well-known for its rigorous education system, characterized by long school days and intense academic pressure. Several cultural factors contribute to this phenomenon, including:

Academic Achievement Pressure

One of the main reasons for the long school days in South Korea is the intense pressure to excel academically. Students face high expectations from their parents, teachers, and society as a whole. The emphasis on academic achievement is deeply ingrained in Korean culture, and students are pushed to study long hours to secure a spot at prestigious universities.

Evidence shows that South Korean students spend an average of 6.7 hours per week on extracurricular education, which includes private tutoring (known as “hagwons”). This additional study time allows students to gain a competitive edge and perform well on exams.

Teacher Authority

In South Korean classrooms, teachers hold a position of authority and are highly respected. This cultural emphasis on hierarchy and respect for authority contributes to longer school days. Students are expected to follow instructions and complete assignments diligently, often leading to extended hours in the classroom.

The respect for teachers can be seen in the Korean language itself, where different honorifics are used to address teachers and elders. This cultural value reinforces the importance of education and the role of teachers in shaping students’ futures.

Group Conformity

Another cultural factor that influences the long school days in South Korea is the emphasis on group conformity. Korean society places great importance on collective harmony and fitting into societal norms.

This mindset extends to the education system, where students are expected to conform to a standardized curriculum and study schedule.

Group study sessions, known as “hakwon,” are common among Korean students. These sessions allow students to work together, share knowledge, and maintain a sense of collective progress. The focus on group conformity reinforces the need for longer school days to ensure that all students are on the same page academically.


Korean students at all grade levels have long, intensive study days, starting school between 8-9 AM and finishing regular classes by 4 PM. Staying late at hagwons until evening is also common. These demanding schedules are driven by cultural factors like importance placed on education, respect for teachers, and collective conformity.

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