As the freshmen of middle schools and Grade 5 and 6 students of elementary schools have returned to school on Monday, 5.95 million students across South Korea are all back to schools for the first semester of 2020. The future developments of COVID-19, which sporadically spread in and around Seoul, will determine whether offline classes can be maintained.
With the fourth round of students going back to schools on Monday, most students in the country have attended offline classes at least once this year 98 days after the original school opening date of March 2.
It is rare to find a country in the world whose schools have reopened for students in all grades. According to the South Korean Ministry of Education, France has resumed all elementary and middle schools, as well as high schools in COVID-19-safe areas, from last Tuesday while only some schools are open based on the decisions of local governments in Japan. Schools in other major countries, such as the U.S. and Germany, are only allowed gradual opening or remain closed.
Mass infection at schools, which was the biggest concern, has not occurred since senior high school students began to attend schools from May 20. The Ministry of Education reported that only eight students and four teachers and school staff members have been infected by COVID-19 since May 20, which means there was no secondary infection at school from the confirmed cases. However, a total of 517 schools across the country, including 514 schools in the metropolitan area, remain closed entirely due to COVID-19 infections, etc.
Although there still is a lot of back and forth regarding the ministry’s decision to open schools again, the necessity of offline classes is recognized across the education community. “Going to the school itself is welcoming and fortunate news to students in a challenging situation,” said Shin Hyun-wook, the head of the policy department of the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations. “Schools should be managed to ensure that they don’t become the sources of infection.” Meanwhile, Lee Sang-soo of the Education Ministry in charge of education curriculum and policies said regarding the reasons for opening schools that character education and social relationships, which cannot be provided over online classes, are the essence of school education.
Jae-Myung Park firstname.lastname@example.org · Su-Yeon Kim email@example.com