Korea’s strange school year

Perhaps it is very Western of me but I find our September to June academic calendar logical and straightforward.  By contrast, the Korean school year is a little odd.

March 1st is the official start of the new academic year.  However, March 1st is a national holiday so technically, March 2nd is the first day of school.

School then proceeds without a holiday until May when hopefully Children’s Day and Buddha’s birthday will fall on weekdays.  If not, the Spring semester will finish towards the end of July.  Plenty of time for a holiday then, once the English Camps are done!

There is a holiday for 3-4 weeks before school resumes at the end of August.  The Fall semester putters along merrily until the end of December when hopefully, Christmas will fall on a weekday.

Winter vacation is usually 4-5 weeks long (more English Camps!) with school beginning sometime at the beginning of February.  There are then two weeks of classes, and then holidays for another two weeks before the whole cycle begins again.

This system is decidedly odd.  When I asked, I was told that the school system was like this because of the Japanese Occupation.  I’m not entirely convinced.  I lived in Japan for 4 years and their school year isn’t like this.

Classes right now are mayhem.  The students have been on holiday for 4 weeks and know they will get 2 more weeks very soon.  Tests are done, marks are in… why study? Most teachers cleverly finished the curriculum in December and are just showing movies and playing games.

My co-teachers are a mixed bag – some are showing movies, some are playing games and some doggedly continue to teach.  Teaching right now is a bit like herding cats – chaos.

Speaking of cats, in one class we’re watching Puss In Boots, which I’m pretty sure is still in the theatres here.  I am not going to question the legality of this.

Another interesting fact about Korean schools: nobody can go home until it is time to leave.  For example, teachers at my school are supposed to be at school between 8:50am and 5pm.  Normally there is lots to do, and 5pm rolls around too quickly.  This time of year there is nothing to do.

This is partly because of the aforementioned movie watching (no lesson planning needed!).  It is also partly due to the fact that Korean teachers won’t know until next week what subject and grade they will be teaching.  There’s no point in planning if you don’t know what to plan for!

But we are not allowed to go home once classes are over.  And so my staffroom looks a little like this:  3 teachers are sleeping, 2 are on the phone with their mothers, 1 is knitting a sweater, 1 is making a quilt, 4 are on Facebook and 2 are reading novels.   I am alternating between uploading holiday pictures and writing postcards.

All this sitting around seems like a waste of time to me but I guess at least here I don’t have to pay for the heat! 😀


About Carrie K

Teacher, writer, traveller. Slightly neurotic. Overly talkative. Loving life. You can also follow me on Twitter: kimchigirl72
This entry was posted in Education, Korea, Korean schools, Taehwa, Teachers, teaching in Korea, Travel, Ulsan. Bookmark the permalink.

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