Lee Dae-hyeon, director-general for lifelong learning at the Seoul Metropolitan Government, speaks during a press briefing Wednesday. (Screen Capture)
Seoul will provide free online lectures to 110,000 underprivileged students and young people as a means to bridge the growing achievement gap among students from different socioeconomic backgrounds.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Wednesday that the free academic package will be provided to elementary, middle and high school students from low-income families, starting Friday, as well as to adolescents who are not in school and those from multicultural families.
The online courses will be available at Seoul Learn, a website that the city government will launch on the same date, which requires verification and registration. Users can choose from online lectures donated by eight major online private institutes in South Korea.
Adolescents not attending school and those from multicultural families are required to submit additional forms to gain access to the lectures from the eight providers.
Two of the providers cater to elementary school students, and two others focus on middle school courses. High school-level learners can choose from three providers, and an additional provider specializes in lifelong learning courses.
The program is part of Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s campaign promise to improve the city government’s educational services for students in need.
The city government said the Seoul Learn system would also provide a one-on-one mentoring service for users who request it. Mentees can sign up for 16 half-hour videoconference meetings with assigned mentors over eight weeks, which can be extended upon request.
Seoul plans to select 500 undergraduate and graduate students to serve as mentors. They will provide college and career counseling services and guide Seoul Learn users to hone their academic proficiency.
Out of concern for those within the target group who might not have access to digital devices, the city government said it would work with the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education and individual municipal districts to distribute laptops.
Together they had already distributed more than 60,000 digital devices to students from low-income families since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
The city government envisions Seoul Learn ultimately expanding its user base and becoming a public online learning system for all Seoul residents as early as next year. Officials hope to make Seoul Learn an officially recognized lifelong learning platform by 2023.
“We will do our best to settle Seoul Learn as a means for students to have greater access to an online learning environment and as a good precedent in resolving the achievement gap among students, which has grown due to COVID-19,” said Lee Dae-hyeon, head of the city government’s lifelong learning department.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org