|Empty classroom in a Gangwon Province high school / Yonhap|
By Do Je-hae
Some politicians have come forth with the suggestion that Korea consider starting each school year in the fall, as in many other countries around the world, rather than starting it in March, amid the delayed opening of schools nationwide to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Kyoung-soo recently made the suggestion on his Facebook after the Ministry of Education delayed the opening of the new semester again. Korea's elementary, middle and high schools were initially supposed to start the new school year on March 2, but the start has been delayed three times so far, to March 9, March 23 and now to April 6. Some parents and quarantine officials want an even further delay, as the nation is still seeing a considerable number of confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Proponents of the autumn school year system have pointed out that starting the school year in spring goes against global standards. "Among the member states of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only Korea, Japan and Australia start semesters in March," Kim said on Facebook, March 21. "It is necessary to consider the September school year system if the COVID-19 causes any further delays in starting the school year."
He underlined a long summer vacation and matching the semester with advanced countries as some of the merits that would come with the transition.
Previous administrations have considered adopting the September school year system, but have dropped it due to concerns over massive costs and the potential for causing confusion.
The Moon Jae-in administration is reluctant about a drastic change in the education system. Officials from the Ministry of Education and Cheong Wa Dae have said that the fall semester system was not being considered for review.
There is keen public attention on whether schools will be able to open on April 6 and what will happen if the government announces another delay.
The government is going all out to create conditions for opening the schools on the scheduled date by containing the further spread of COVID-19. In this regard, the government has urged people to stay away from group settings such as church assemblies and sports facilities.
President Moon Jae-in received a special briefing from Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae, Monday, to check on the quarantine situation in schools and care facilities for children whose parents are unable to care for them during the day.