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Govt. mulls online classes for schools due to COVID-19 uncertainty

Minister of Education Yoo Eun-hae (left) attends an online class demonstration conducted at a ministry building in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Minister of Education Yoo Eun-hae (left) attends an online class demonstration conducted at a ministry building in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The Ministry of Education said Wednesday it is considering introducing online classes for elementary, middle and high schools nationwide, if the ongoing spread of the coronavirus outbreak shows little sign of letting up by April 6, the rescheduled start date of the spring semester.

Elementary and secondary schools were scheduled to begin their school year on March 2, but have delayed the start date three times, to the first Monday of April, due to fears of COVID-19 transmissions in classrooms.

As the daily number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea has hovered around 100 over the past week, however, the possibility of a fourth postponement of the school start date cannot be ruled out. The nation's total confirmed cases rose by 100 to 9,137 as of Wednesday morning.

With another possible postponement in mind, the ministry said it will consider various countermeasures, including online classes, to help the schools meet the statutory yearly school days.

"Both offline and online classes are under consideration, due to the possibility of community and classroom transmissions," the ministry said in a press statement, noting the government will map out guidelines for counting distance learning among the statutory school days.

The current Enforcement Decree of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act stipulates that heads of schools can remotely operate classes using information and communication media.

The online education system usually refers to a form of education in which students ask questions and receive instructions over the internet, while their teachers broadcast a lesson from classrooms.

However, the education authorities do not currently have such a system in place.

In this regard, metropolitan and provincial offices of education plan to test-operate their distance learning systems at selected schools next week.

Local universities have delayed the start of the spring semester, originally scheduled for early this month, by two to four weeks and many of them are now offering online classes to help curb the spread of COVID-19 at the recommendation of the education ministry. (Yonhap)

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