South Korea goes online to resume public education amid pandemic

A teacher demonstrates an online lecture in a classroom at Gosaek High School in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, Tuesday, as schools will begin their spring semester with online classes April 9 following repeated delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. /Yonhap

State college entrance exam is rescheduled for Dec. 3

By Bahk Eun-ji

Elementary, middle and high schools will begin their spring semester April 9 through online classes, meaning schools nationwide will remain physically closed for the foreseeable future, the Ministry of Education said Tuesday. It added that the state college entrance exam set for Nov. 19 will be delayed by two weeks, following the rescheduling of the new school year.

Kindergartens, and elementary, and secondary schools were originally set to open March 2, but due to the possibility of cluster infections in classrooms filled with students, the ministry postponed the start of the spring semester on three separate occasions before opting for April 6.

The decision comes amid concerns over the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 among young children especially in schools where they are in close contact with each other.

The ministry decided it had no choice but to start the spring semester given the need to meet the basic legal requirements of the academic year.

It consulted with the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters led by the prime minister before making the decision.

"The government has overseen the disinfection of schools to lower the risk of infection in order to open them, but we judged it was not the proper time for children to go back to school," Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said during a pan-government meeting on responses to the pandemic at the Government Complex in Seoul.

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun speaks during a pan-government meeting at Government Complex in Seoul, Tuesday, on responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. /Yonhap
The education ministry said the spring semester will be composed of online classes and will be conducted step by step, considering the preparations and time required for students to adapt. On April 9, seniors in middle and high schools will begin classes first, followed by freshmen, sophomores and fourth to six graders in elementary schools on April 16. First to third graders in primary schools will start their classes April 20.

The prime minister called for thorough preparations, saying it should be ensured that all students have access to computers and connections to the internet.

The ministry also announced that the College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT), set for Nov. 19, will be postponed by two weeks following the repeated delays in starting the new school year. The CSAT is now scheduled for Dec. 3.

"It was an inevitable decision to alleviate the difficulties in education due to the unprecedented postponement of the new school year and the ensuing changes to the academic calendar. With the delay of the CSAT schedule, students are expected to have enough preparation time," Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said during a press briefing at the Government Complex in Sejong.

Bahk Eun-ji

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