Education is regarded very highly in Busan. The language of instruction in public schools in South Korea is exclusively Korean. The country also has a reputation for its strict approach to teaching and for pushing children to excel. For these reasons, most expat parents choose to rather send their children to an international school in Busan.

International schools in Busan have an excellent reputation. However, there are heavy school fees that come with this reputation. Expats will also find that, in most cases, school fees don’t cover extra expenses like uniforms or school excursions. Expats should try to negotiate a schooling stipend as part of their employment contract.

Public schools in Busan

Children usually start kindergarten at the age of three or four and then start primary school at the age of six. Students in South Korea finish school after grade 12 at the age of 18. Primary education lasts for six years followed by three years of middle school and three years of high school.

It’s very rare for expat parents in Busan to send their children to a public school. The Korean education system is praised for the results its students consistently produce, but few Westerners would subject their children to the high pressured and singularly focused approach adopted by Korean public schools. Children are taught only in Korean in public schools – another factor that discourages foreign children to attend.

Attending primary and middle school is compulsory, but high school attendance isn’t. For this reason, public schooling up to the end of middle school is free. However, parents must pay for high school.

International schools in Busan

Expats moving to Busan with children will find that international school fees are their greatest expense. Though Busan doesn't have such a variety of schools as Seoul, the schools all have high standards. Most of these schools cater to English-speaking families and follow American or British curricula. Some of these schools do offer ESL classes to students who aren’t English speaking. Busan also has schools following Japanese and Chinese curricula.

Generally, classes are small giving students a better opportunity to learn. However, expat parents should be aware that the South Korean culture of pressuring students to achieve academically does spill over into international schools to some extent. Because of this, expat children might feel more pressure to excel academically than they did in their home countries. 

Expats sending their children to international schools in Busan should research possible schools long before they move. Parents should contact schools as early as possible as schools could have long waiting lists. Expat children might have to be interviewed before they are accepted into an international school.

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