Information on Education in Korea

The Academic Credit Bank System

The Academic Credit Bank system (ACBS) is an open educational system which recognizes diverse learning experiences gained not only in-school but also out-of school. When the learner accumulates the necessary ACBS-approved credits, he/she can be awarded a degree.

Credits are acquired primarily through education and job training institutes, part-time enrollment, certificate acquisition, and passing the Bachelor’s Degree Examination program for self-education. The ACBS also grants recognition to a learner’s diverse learning experiences, including prior course credits and various forms of learning.

Educational institutes are formally evaluated to be an ACBS-accredited institute offering courses which can be counted as university or college equivalent credits.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST), the National Institute for Lifelong Education (NILE), and Provincial Offices of Education are involved in the administration of the Credit Bank.

For further information: 

Korean High School ’s Grading System

Until 2005, Korean high schools used the Su, Wu, Mi, Yang, Ga system utilizing a raw score scale of 0-100 as follows;

Raw score










59 or below


From 2005, the evaluation system was changed to a grading system utilizing 9 levels or ranks. There is a level indicated in each subject. In the transcript, you might see students’ achievement in the following form or something very similar.

Spring Semester



Raw Score/Average Score (SD)




95/70 (10)

1 (532)



85/73 (11)

3 (532)

Units : credit units or credit hours per week.
Score : raw score of the student on a scale of 0-100.
Average : school wide average score of the subject in the given semester.
S D: S tandard Deviation .
Rank : student's level of standing on a scale of 1 to 9: with 1, the highest and 9 the lowest. 

Enrollment : total number of students who completed the subject/course in the given semester

The percentage of students in each level may be presented as follows;





















This new system uses a relative evaluation where we can find a student’s achievement compared to other students within the school. While this ranking system helps to compare a students standing with others within the same school, we should keep in mind that there are some schools which enroll only the top 5-10% of Korea ’s best students. Students in those top schools with levels of 8 or 9 can be better than students from other schools with levels of 1 or 2. In fact, to ensure a better evaluation of their high school records, some students in top-ranked high schools actually drop out of school and take Korean GED.

Information on Su, Wu, Mi, Yang, Ga System

Occasionally we receive inquiries from U.S. schools about the grading system used in Korean secondary schools. We hope to answer some of those questions here.

Korean high schools use a system with five different grades (Su, Wu, Mi, Yang, and Ga, with Su being the highest and Ga being the lowest). Schools designate numeric score ranges to each of these grades, but the ranges may differ from school to school. For example, one school might use 90-100 with a maximum of 100 as ‘Su’, but another school might use 93-100 for ‘Su’.

Although these grades may seem similar to the U.S. grading system of A, B, C, D, and F, they are not entirely the same. You should particularly note that there is no failing grade in the Korean system. The lowest grade 'Ga' means 'your work is unsatisfactory but we pass you anyway.'?

As a result, we believe it is better for Korean schools to provide the literal translation of these original Korean grades to admissions offices of U.S. schools, instead of simply interpreting them as A, B, and so on.

If the school provides numeric scores, U.S. admissions offices can easily convert them to a U.S. score system, A, B, C, D or some score/4.0 scale.

High School Entrance and Graduating Certificate Test for Self-Study Students
(Korean GED)

In Korea, the High School Entrance and Graduating Certificate Test for Self-Study Students is administered as a national level test by municipal or provincial education offices. Most colleges and universities accept the certificate for an acceptable qualification for college entrance.

The test administering offices issue a certificate and a transcript with scores of each subject with maximum score of 100. However, a transcript has no percentage or percentile ranks of the scores. Each school might set the minimum necessary score for admission to the school.

For further questions, ask the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) that is responsible for the development of the test. 

Tel: 82-2-3704-3704

Fax: 82-2-730-7487

The Korean Education Market

Size of the Market

Korea spends more on education than any other member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 2003 expenditures on public education amounted to 7.1 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). This figure includes spending on hardware infrastructure such as school buildings and computers, as well as spending on teachers' salaries and facilities management. During the same year, spending on private education totaled 9.4 trillion won (US$8.11 billion). This includes spending on after-school tutoring of core curriculum subjects required for academic advancement as well as classes in extracurricular activities such as music and the arts. The following table shows per-student expenditures on public education and private institutes or tutoring for different education levels.

Public School
Private Tutoring
Primary: $2,740
Primary: $2,106
Middle: $3,429
Middle: $2,789
High School: $4,280
High School: $3,008

Private Institutes and Study Abroad Agencies


Both the study-abroad and language learning markets in South Korea are dominated by the private sector. There are more than 3,000 private English institutes in the country, and possibly as many as 60,000 if all of the small language institutes are included in the total. A third or more are concentrated in and around the city of Seoul.


The U.S. Education Center and U.S. Embassy


Some schools in the United States have policies that forbid the payment of commissions or do not permit them to retain a private study-abroad agency to assist in the recruitment of students. For these schools there are resources such as the Fulbright Commission's U.S. Education Center and the Commercial Service, US Embassy Seoul. The U.S. Education Center is one of more than 400 U.S. State Department-affiliated centers worldwide, with a mission to promote education in the U.S. and to provide educational advising in line with NAFSA OSEAS ethical principles in educational advising (State Dept. mission statement ) ( OSEAS ethical principles statement ) Such advising services, many of which are offered as web-based information services, are generally offered free of charge to students, parents and others interested in study in the United States.

The Commercial Service, U.S. Embassy, also offers services for U.S. Schools who are interested in the Korean market. These include customized market research, assistance in finding potential overseas agents or partners through one-on-one Gold Key Matching Service meetings and seminars, as well as individual consultations on market entry and strategy.