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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 11)

All News 09:46 April 11, 2020

Start of online schooling
Teachers should focus on quality education

It is unprecedented for South Korea to start a new school year with remote learning. On Thursday, around 850,000 middle and high school seniors began their first day of a spring semester by participating in online classes. Their schools have been closed since March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There arose many problems with the new method of schooling due mainly to a lack of preparations. One of them was the malfunctioning of the EBS Online Class site of the state-run educational TV channel, which delayed the virtual classes for more than an hour.

Most of all, parents and students complained about the quality of online classes. The education authorities have advised schools to provide remote learning by adopting three methods: classes involving real-time interaction, online lectures prerecorded by the EBS, and projects and homework for students. But most online classes were devoid of interaction between teachers and students. Many teachers wasted time checking attendance. Some of them presented prerecorded lectures.

It is apparently hard for the authorities, schools and teachers to make thorough preparations for online classes. In fact, they were given very little time after schools were shut down due to COVID-19. The education ministry has delayed the school opening four times on fears about potential cluster infections in classrooms. The delay is indispensable to the nation's efforts to contain the highly contagious virus.

Yet it is disappointing to see the online classes getting to a rocky start, despite the country's reputation as one of the world's powerhouses of information and communication technology. This means that the authorities have so far neglected utilizing the technology to develop online education platforms. Simply put, the government, schools, teachers and students have only focused on traditional learning methods designed to prepare for college entrance exams.

That's why South Korea is currently at the bottom of the OECD member countries when it comes to the utilization of ICT technology in classrooms. So the problem is not a matter of technology, but a matter of our approach toward how to innovate education in the information age. If it had changed the education system, the country could have set another example in online learning after emerging as a model case in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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