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Exclusion of COVID-hit students from midterms draws backlash

Students study before taking an exam at a high school in Seoul on March 24. (Yonhap)
Students study before taking an exam at a high school in Seoul on March 24. (Yonhap)
The Education Ministry’s decision to maintain a ban on students with COVID-19 from taking midterm exams has drawn backlash, with students and parents voicing concerns that missing out on the exams could put them at a disadvantage.

“It is rather fortunate that our whole family already had COVID-19,” a high school student who attends a school in northern Seoul said.

“It would be frustrating to miss the midterms as I had messed up on the previous one,” said the high schooler who requested anonymity.

As part of COVID precautions, students who test positive are restricted from attending schools in person and there are no online exams.

Instead, schools have been giving out average scores based on each student’s past exam records, converting the scores depending on the level of difficulty of the test and distribution of test scores.

Unlike last year, when most classes were held online and the number of infected students remained low, it is likely a significant number of students will be unable to take the exams in person due to the omicron wave.

With the ministry announcing on Monday it would continue with the measure for the upcoming midterm exam season, an online petition updated on the Cheong Wa Dae website on March 14 has come under the limelight.

The post, written by an alleged parent of a high school student, is titled “Please allow high school students to take the test though they are confirmed (of COVID-19).” It has garnered over 13,000 signatures as of midafternoon Wednesday.

“Students confirmed of COVID-19 cannot take exams, but high school transcripts are significant in life,” the petition read. “Some students may have to give up on early admission for colleges due to a single exam. There could be students who do not test themselves for COVID-19 during the exam period.”

“Though many schools are giving out scores based on past exam records for COVID-19-confirmed students who cannot take the exam, it results in a drop in school grades,” the post continued.

The Education Ministry has doubled down on the ban and said that it has consulted education sector stakeholders on the matter.

“School exams take place across three to five days, having students move around all at once. (If confirmed students) were to take the test, they would have to take it simultaneously with nonconfirmed students,” Lee Ji-hyun from the ministry’s Teaching-Learning & Assessment Division said during a briefing held Monday.

“Students are perhaps anxious, thinking that they lost the chance to perform better,” Lee said. “We came to the decision of maintaining the current measure for midterm exams after having discussions with education offices.”

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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