Difference in Education Systems Between Countries

Have you ever been curious of other country’s educational system? But are you having troubles to find any good website that tells you that information correctly? I’m here to answer any questions that you may have. I will describe each characteristic of elementary, middle, and high schools found in France, America, and Korea.

1. Elementary School

프랑스 초등학교

The picture above shows the classroom in a French elementary school. Under the French school system, it is composed of six years of elementary school, which is the same as the Korean one. In general, it is up to his or her parents to decide which elementary school to go. They usually choose the nearest school to their home because of the geological convenience.

한국 초등학교

Next, the picture above describes the situation that Korean elementary students aged 9 are listening to the teacher. The size of classroom in Korea looks bigger than that of French one. But they have so many features in common. They have their own partner sitting right next to themselves. It helps them to raise the skills of how to get along with friends without quarreling and disputing over trivial things. And the way to hang their bags on the rack is similar and the style of clothes differs from person to person in both countries.

In the United States of America, everyone attends elementary school from kindergarten to 5th grade and it is mandatory to pass each grade before entering middle school. Students in public school are assigned to designated middle or high schools based on their parents’ home address. This is done geographically so there is an even distribution of students at each school in the city.


2. Middle School & High School

In France, there are four years of middle school and three years of high school. Although they have several options to choose from the list of middle schools, they are most likely to decide to get into the one which is linked with elementary school that they have already been to. However, each high school has been assigned its own ranking based on the level of education. So it is natural phenomenon that most of the students try hard to get a high grade, which leads to having a chance to apply to the better school.

French students work on the test of philosophy as they take the baccalaureat exam (high school graduation exam) on June 16, 2014 at the Jacques Decour high school in Paris.  AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR

French students work on the test of philosophy as they take the baccalaureat exam (high school graduation exam) on June 16, 2014 at the Jacques Decour high school in Paris. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR

For high school students, they are obliged to make a decision on what subject they will take for the big test at the end of the third grade, which is called “Baccalauréat”. They can choose only one subject among science, literature, or economy. That’s how they enter the university using the score of the test. On that point, it is similar to CSAT (“College Scholastic Ability Test”) held in Korea.



In the United States, students are required to attend middle school for grade years 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. Following middle school, they attend high school for grade years 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade. High school students begin preparing for the SAT almost immediately after entering High school. And most schools also have various sports teams such as football, soccer, and basketball and various academic clubs in which students practice and compete against other schools in their respected cities.

When applying to a university, they are required to submit an official high school transcript that proves their grade point average (GPA) score, multiple standardized test scored such as SAT and ACT, a resume that shows all the extracurricular activities they took part in, and a required essay of the university one has chosen.

As for the education system in Korea, students have to attend middle school for 3 years and high school for 3 years, for a combined 6 years. They participate in club activities similar to the United States, but the difference of sports clubs between these two nations is that Korean sports team normally do not compete against other schools and does not include American football due to the low popularity among students.

Korea is famous for its obsession with education, so most of the students do their very best to get a high CAST score at the end of high school. The College Scholastic Ability (CSAT) is held annually, just once, in contrary to the SAT in the U.S. in which one may take the test various times,  on November to evaluate whether students are fully equipped with suitable skills to solve questions, analyze respected subjects, and think logically in the subjects that the students choose. The required subjects are Reading comprehension, Math, and English, while students may choose to take either Natural Science (as much as four subjects; Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science, Life Science) or Social Science (History, Sociology and Culture, etc.).


Source: Yonhap News

There are two ways to get into the university. First, there are various early admission categories for students to choose from. Students select a category to apply for based on their activities performed in high school. Anyone is given the opportunity to hand in cover letters and essays containing contents designated by the specific university. An official high school transcript is also a requirement. Second, they can apply to at maximum three universities based on their CSAT scores. It is common that the higher score they get from CSAT, the better school they can apply for and the higher probability they will be admitted.


Article by Soojung from Korea, a Junior in Business Administration

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