Unprecedented move amid continuing coronavirus outbreak . . .
In an unprecedented move, South Korea’s Ministry of Education announced on Tuesday that the new school year, typically set for March but delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, will begin on April 9 via remote learning. Grade 8 and Grade 12 students, who have entrance exams at the end of the year, will be the first to attend classes online, followed by their younger peers and elementary school students within two weeks. It is uncertain how long the arrangement will last. Despite South Korea’s early success in containing the novel coronavirus, new clusters and imported cases have produced a steady infection rate of around 100 per day, leading to worries that students may be stuck at home for months.
Digital gap sparks concerns . . .
More than 170,000 students in South Korea lack access to smart devices, according to a Ministry of Education survey. Plans to distribute devices to students in need are in the works, but time is running short. Meanwhile, working parents may not be able to provide the supervision that young children learning at home will require, and students with special needs may find themselves stranded without closer interaction with teachers. For now, the government is focused on increasing the capacity of its servers to match the expected increase in internet traffic, while educators scramble to create new educational content and evaluative methods suitable for online use.
‘Uncharted territory’ for Canadian schools . . .
South Korea’s announcement came on the same day that Ontario and Manitoba extended province-wide school closures. Schools in all Canadian provinces and territories now remain closed. B.C. and Nunavut have launched online tools for teachers and students. Saskatchewan began its voluntary remote learning program this week, while Ontario unveiled its learn-at-home program on Tuesday. Like South Korea, these initiatives are ‘uncharted territory’ for teachers and students alike. As educators around Canada work through new pandemic-related challenges, developments in South Korea could provide insights on what to adopt or avoid.