Coronavirus News Asia

In bold move, S Korea phases in cyber schooling


South Korea took a leap into the unknown on Thursday, when it resumed schooling suspended due to the novel coronavirus pandemic – online.

Seoul’s anti-virus campaign is being seen as the gold standard globally because it has flattened the country’s national curve, notably due to its testing regimen and its aggressive contact tracing.

Now the country, well known for its gleaming high-tech infrastructure, its high adoption rate of mobile devices and its minimal digital divide, is resuming schooling with social distancing in an initiative that looks likely to gain considerable global attention.

Due to the pandemic, schools have been suspended since February 23. A handful of exceptions include daycare for children with two working parents. Meanwhile, universities are ahead of schools: They have been holding online classes since the beginning of the spring semester.

The new format has not been welcomed by all. Questions are being raised over the demands placed upon teachers and over whether online education can offer the same value as offline.

Still, as the world looks to a post-pandemic future, remote-learning innovations introduced as crisis-management measures may become a desirable new normal.

No more delays

Though South Korea has locked down no cities, social distancing measures are in place. Sport seasons are indefinitely postponed and countless festivals have not taken place. But in a country whose social culture prizes education above all, schooling could not be delayed indefinitely.

“We don’t know when we can contain the virus,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Yoo Eun-hye at a news briefing on March 31. “[But]we cannot stop educating our students and we should re-start schools any way we can, right now.”


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