|Jeju Joongang Women's High School teachers make online content, Wednesday, in preparation for offering online classes from April 9. / Yonhap|
By Kim Se-jeong
Many teachers, parents and students have raised concerns that the unprecedented online classes, scheduled to start April 9 for the country's elementary, middle and high schools, will not be ready to offer lectures without a hitch.
Senior students in middle and high schools will start receiving the lectures, followed by freshmen, sophomores and fourth to sixth graders in elementary schools April 16, and first to third graders in elementary schools April 20, according to the Ministry of Education. The high school seniors are probably the most affected group as they will have to take the country's university entrance exam later this year. The ministry said the exam date will be moved back to Dec. 3.
"Even during a face-to-face class, many students have their attention diverted by something else. It will be much worse during online classes," a teacher who teaches Korean language to high school seniors in Daegu told The Korea Times, asking for anonymity. "Only a few will really learn something. I am afraid to say that online classes will simply fail many other students."
"This coronavirus-induced school delay and online lectures will bring more damage to these students because they literally have fewer days to prepare," the teacher added.
The online classes don't necessarily mean live and interactive sessions between teachers and students. According to the ministry, teachers are also free to record lectures in advance and play them during classes or to use other online content generated outside schools, such as Education Broadcast Service (EBS) lectures.
On Wednesday, many schools nationwide started training for online teaching. One big question is whether all students have devices necessary to participate in the online classes.
"I have a student who cannot afford to buy enough data to use Kakao talk freely. Now, you're asking her to watch an online lecture which lasts 50 minutes. Will it work? She's not the only one in this situation," a history teacher at a middle school in Seoul said.
The situation could be impossible in rural areas.
"My school has students who are being raised by their grandparents who have no idea what the internet is. How about students whose mother is from Vietnam and can't really understand Korean?" a male teacher at an elementary school in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, asked.
Speaking in a radio interview Wednesday, however, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said getting students computers and internet connections was the least challenging problem and the authorities were working to resolve it.
The middle school teacher also noted the challenge for students with disabilities. "My school has a student who can't see. What can she do during an online class?"
All teachers who The Korea Times spoke to complained they had no real information about the online classes until the ministry announcement was made Tuesday.
"I can't really tell what to expect. I am going to school tomorrow and will see," the teacher from Daegu said.
Parents are equally puzzled, as they feel equally uncertain about the new system.
A mother in Mapo, Seoul, isn't sure what to expect for her son in second-grade. "He is too young to be taught things online. Also, I've been trying to keep phones and computers away from him all along. What am I supposed to tell him now?"
Another mother wrote on Naver: "I have four children. It looks like each has to stay in their room with a phone and earphones on for hours every day. I don't see how this is going to work."