|An international student arrives at a dormitory building of Kyung Hee University in Seoul, for 14 days of self-quarantine upon arrival, in this Feb. 24 file photo. Korea Times file|
By Bahk Eun-ji
The Ministry of Education is encouraging foreign students enrolled in colleges here for the fall semester to take online classes from their home countries, as part of efforts to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to ministry officials Thursday.
Currently, foreign students entering the country have to go through special entry procedures pertaining to flight schedules and self-quarantine on arrival. But the education ministry in now planning to actively encourage foreign students to take classes online without leaving their home countries.
To this end, the ministry will introduce operating standards for improving the quality of online classes.
"The education ministry is in talks with universities to advise them to improve the credit system for lectures requiring face-to-face lessons in the first semester of next year," said Ahn Woong-hwan, a deputy head of the ministry's higher education policy. "A detailed plan for the second semester will be announced next month."
Under the current guidelines, if international students don't enter the country, their visa to study abroad is invalidated. But considering the pandemic situation, students will also be exempt from the rule requiring them to enter the country within 15 days of the start of the semester.
For those who enter the country, each university should establish a plan to manage the different timing of their flight schedules, and share the arrival information with local governments in an effort to handle quarantine measures effectively. To this end, the ministry will cooperate with the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to manage the timing of their entry and the schedule for visa screening for foreign students.
Universities should first allow the students self-quarantine for 14 days. School officials are also required to strictly monitor whether the students comply with quarantine rules. The government will provide guidance on penalties for breaking the rules.
The education ministry will also reflect the universities' efforts to protect and manage foreign students in consideration of the virus situation when evaluating the certification of their internationalization competency.
Meanwhile, according to data released by the education ministry, the number of foreign students entering the country since the special entry procedure was implemented in the first half of the year was 37,375. Among them, 25,777 were from China, 8,344 from Vietnam and 59 from the United States.
Of those, 23 were confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19 ― seven of whom were confirmed during screening at the airport while 16 were identified during the self-quarantine period. The ministry said, however, there are no cases of the virus being spread to the local community by those students who tested positive.