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Education Ministry sticks to midterm exam plans against protests, presidential transition team

One in three students in Korea have contracted COVID-19 since 2020

Students take the Nationwide Coalition Scholastic Ability Evaluations exam at a high school Suwon, Gyeonggi Province on March 24. (Joint Press Corps)
Students take the Nationwide Coalition Scholastic Ability Evaluations exam at a high school Suwon, Gyeonggi Province on March 24. (Joint Press Corps)

The Ministry of Education will go forward with restricting students confirmed with COVID-19 from taking the upcoming midterm exams, sticking to its original plans despite protests from students and parents.

Students who had been confirmed with COVID-19 amid the pandemic were restricted from taking exams at school and given scores based on the average of their past exam records.

For the upcoming midterm exams slated for the end of this month, it is likely that a significant number of students will be unable to take exams in person due to the omicron wave.

The Education Ministry said it would reevaluate its midterm exam policy after the disease control authorities announced plans to support confirmed students in taking their midterm exams. However, the ministry has decided to continue with its exclusion measure.

“After gathering feedback from schools, we will stick to banning students with COVID-19 from taking midterm exams, to prevent reverse discrimination for students who had already been banned from taking the exams due to COVID-19,” the Education Ministry announced Friday.

The ministry added that school facilities are insufficient for allowing both confirmed and non-confirmed students to take exams separately.

The presidential transition committee, which suggested that the Education Ministry allow confirmed students to take exams, publicly expressed regret about the ministry’s latest decision.

“It is time to prepare post-pandemic measures from a stance of scientific infectious disease control and prevention, but the Education Ministry citing fairness for the exclusion is illogical,” Hong Kyung-hee, deputy spokesperson for the committee, said Monday.

“The ministry’s logic indicates that the ban on confirmed students from taking exams will continue in the future,” Hong said. “The ministry should come up with a future-oriented policy that does not violate the rights of students who are studying hard to go to advanced schools.”

Students who cannot attend school to take midterm exams for coronavirus-related reasons will receive scores based on their past performance. The scores will be converted depending on the level of difficulty of the test and distribution of test scores.

The ministry’s decision leads to concerns that some students may hide their infected status to take their exams and to avoid possible disadvantages.

Meanwhile, one in three students have contracted the virus since the pandemic broke out in 2020.

As of Friday, 2.07 million, or 35.3 percent of kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school students have been confirmed with COVID-19. This is nearly six percentage points higher than the rate of confirmed cases in the general population, which stands at 29 percent.

However, as there are more students who had contracted COVID-19, the number of new confirmed cases in students is on a decline. Last week, 250,000 students were confirmed, marking a 33 percentage point drop from 370,000 confirmed cases the week before.

The education authorities are working on post-omicron measures. It is likely that the self-testing measures for students will be dropped soon.

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