One of the biggest differences between the public high schools in S. Korea and USA are the school hours. I will say that even in America, school hours vary between states, districts, and even schools within the districts. So, I’ll just give a sampling of what I’ve found when I was trying to explain it to my Korean co-workers. (Disclaimer: I have not done a survey of ALL public schools in both countries: these are my observations at two different public high schools, input from my non-Korean friends working in the public high schools in Korea, and some light internet research.)
Start and Finish Times
- In the United States, schools start at different times (a lot of it has to do with bus availability within the district). For example, when I went to high school, classes started around 7:30am and ended around 2:30pm. However, the school I taught at, started around 9am and ended at 4pm. I did some internet research of different schools and found something similar across the board: classes start around 8am and end around 3pm. Students average a seven hour school day.
- In Korea, students have to be at school at 8am. Normal classes finish at either 4pm or 5pm (depending on the school). Therefore, students average an eight or nine hour school day.
Classes after School
- For Korean students, there are mandatory classes to take after the normal day. If they are not enrolled in another private after school academy, then they have to remain on campus: in class. There are classes available until 6pm. After 6pm, they must attend a mandatory study hall until 9pm or 10pm.
- For American students, electives, tutoring, and detention are held after school; basically they are not ‘obligatory’. For electives, there is a time restriction on how long students can be held mandatory at school (usually less than 10 hours/week). Most American students, however, get to leave school as soon as the last bell rings and they don’t come back until the next school day.
Length of Classes (and Lunch)
- For schools not on a block schedule, classes run 45-60 minutes with 5-10 minute passing periods. Depending on the school, there are 6-7 instructional classes per day. Block scheduling, for those that are unfamiliar with the term, is the division of the courses into alternating days with only 4 subjects per day. They typically have 90 minute classes. Lunch periods in America range from 30 minutes to 60 minutes (although I think 30 minute lunches are the most popular choice).
- High schools in Korea have 50 minute classes (this is pretty much straight across the board) with 10-15 minute passing periods. Lunch periods in Korea last a full 60 minutes.
A note on passing periods
- American schools keep their passing periods as short as possible, factoring in campus size (usually multiple buildings) and student population. Most administrators don’t want students to loiter in the hallways; they want students to quickly move from class to class.
- Korean schools, on the other hand, are typically made of one building and students only have a few classes outside of their home room. The passing period in Korea is primarily for the teachers to switch classrooms and for students to use the restrooms at their leisure.