Dilemma over schoolsThe Education Ministry put off the opening of schools from March 2 to 9 because of the coronavirus outbreak. Colleges and universities deferred the new semester for one to two weeks. The education authority should get its act together soon as there are few signs of the epidemic dying down.
Education authorities have been dilly-dallying instead of coming up with practical solutions to prevent risks. It allowed universities to decide how to control Chinese students.
Kyunghee University has 3,839 Chinese students and was able to quarantine 480 for two weeks in dorms after they entered the country. Sungkyunkwan University has 3,330 students and was able to quarantine 100. Chung-Ang University quarantined 80 out of 3,199. Many more were told to self-quarantine. Schools routinely checked on them, but whether they really stayed in self-quarantine or not remains questionable. How many were out roaming around cannot be known. According to the university professor council, only two out of 17 universities with the largest numbers of Chinese students had licensed doctors on their campuses. Schools used part-timers to check on the students, but that would have been no more than a formality.
Some 6.1 million people attend school across the country, making them a potential danger zone. Schools are important parts of a community. They are connected to families, shopping and after-school activity centers. One infection can spread fast. Infectious disease can be easily spread in closed classrooms. Given the rapid spread in churches and hospitals, schools have the potential to become hotbeds for the disease.
Schools must not open until the infection dies down. Pushing back the date by a week will only add to confusion and anxiety. The authority must decide on how long this delay should last and let students and parents know. The Education Ministry and universities must make up for the losses in classes for the sake of all students.
Beijing has ordered online classes. Universities started the new semester last week almost entirely online. Tsinghua University’s 3,098 classes in the current semester are all online.
Our universities lack the technology and content to fully go online. The Education Ministry must employ the online model provided by Pohang University of Science and Technology (Postec). Postec offered to share its 57 online classes with other universities and help others open lectures online. The country is full of resources. The government only needs to put them to good use.
JoongAng Sunday, Feb. 29, Page 30.