Public vs. Private Schools in South Korea

South Korea, Asia’s best well-kept secret. A progressive democracy filled with modern cities, ancient Buddhist temples and jaw dropping landscapes.

TEFL Opportunities in South Korea

As South Korea’s economy has grown, largely thanks its manufacturing industry, the country has developed closer ties with the English speaking world. Public schools now have English embedded in the curriculum, and it’s becoming increasingly popular with kindergartens to teach English. Children from the most affluent backgrounds attend private schools (Hagwons).

If you have your heart set on teaching in South Korea, or are maybe just curious, it’s worth knowing the differences you’ll face teaching at private vs. public school.



Hiring Period

Korean public schools generally tend to hire during the start of the school year, so around August and September. Public schools face a lot of applicants every year so competition for places is tough. Make sure you have all your required documents and qualifications in time for applying as you may struggle to find a job.

Salary and Hours

£1,200 to £2,000 per month.
Working for a public school, you can expect slightly lower pay than you typically would in a private school, but still a very high wage by TEFL standards. Teaching in public schools requires slightly fewer working hours a day, giving you more free time to explore your new home. Another benefit of choosing this option is that pay increases with experience and qualifications of the applicant – those with English or teaching related degrees and experience will be at an advantage here.

Also, the number of days for paid vacation tends to lie at 18, plus all of the country’s national holidays, which is pretty good.

Other Teachers

Unfortunately, you may feel a tad lonely as a foreign teacher at a public school, unless you’re in a large city centre school, as there’s less chance there’ll be someone from your own country teaching too.

Class Size

Class sizes are often fairly large, ranging from 25 to mid-30s.



Hiring Period

Unlike their public counterparts, private schools (or Hagwons) hire all year round. This is due to the fact that there are far more TEFL teaching positions in each school. Keep in mind that requirements will be just as stringent in these schools, so make sure you have all the required qualifications.

Salary and Hours

£1,500- £2,500 per month.
Similar to public schools, wages can depend on the experience and qualifications of the teacher. As there is no set standard for Hagwons to meet, working hours can vary from school to school which can make it tricky to make future plans whilst working.

Other Teachers

One of the biggest benefits of working in Hagwons is the fact that you will most certainly not be the only foreign teacher working there. English teachers are in big demand so there’s a very strong likelihood you’ll be working with fellow expats.

Class Size

The number of pupils in each class can vary but will almost always smaller than in public schools. Generally speaking, around 15 pupils is the average class size. This helps teachers to focus on individual pupils and control the class.


For more details on working in South Korea, click here. And, for exclusive access to our Jobs Centre, book a TEFL course with us.

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