Back to college with glee and trepidation
Universities in Korea will resume in-person classes from the upcoming fall semester, starting with small classes, laboratory courses and other kinds of instruction requiring hands-on teaching.
Education Minister Yoo Eun-hye announced Thursday a phased plan to enable college students to return to classrooms full-time from the fall semester of the 2021 school year. This comes after the Education Ministry’s recent announcement of the reopening of kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools in the fall semester.
But some returns to class will depend on the country’s progress in vaccinations and gaining of herd immunity. A great many college students won't have gotten vaccinations by the start of the semester.
The first classes to resume will be small ones and subjects with a greater need for in-person teaching. Each university can decide which of those courses will be face-to-face.
Vocational colleges, where students need to attend classes to earn a license or certificate for jobs after graduation, will also be a top priority.
Alternative remote classes should be available for students in quarantine or foreign students who cannot enter the country.
Under the new plan, college students will have to sit one seat apart from each other under the new Level 1 and 2 social distancing regulations, or when average daily Covid-19 cases nationwide are fewer than 1,000 for a week.
Under Level 3 and the final Level 4, when the virus caseload spikes up to more than 1,000, students should sit two seats apart.
For music courses, students should perform behind a physical barrier such as a partition under all social distancing levels.
Reopening will include large lecture classes when 70 percent of the population receives at least one dose of a vaccine, hopefully by the end of September. Restrictions on school activities, such as student council meetings and clubs, will also be eased.
College festivals will finally return to campuses after being put off for months amid the pandemic, based on the premise that they abide by social distancing guidelines.
University festivals are the biggest social events on Korean campus calendars, providing an opportunity for students to become involved in extracurricular activities after seeing performances or playing games in booths.
Students, however, expressed mixed opinions about returning to campus — some happy to be back in a better studying environment, but also worried, especially with inoculations still not available to college kids.
“I prefer in-person lectures,” said Cho So-un, a student at Seoul National University. “It’s easier to give feedback to each other for presentations and there is more interaction with the professor.”
“Taking courses online doesn’t feel like proper lectures at all,” said Park Jin-ah, who attends Ewha Womans University. “I often get distracted by my family when I listen at home. I also had experiences being cut off from taking exams online when the internet connection was bad.”
Some expressed worries over the spread of Covid-19 as many students will return to campus without being vaccinated.
The Ministry of Education and health authorities said they will inoculate high school seniors and CSAT (College Scholastic Ability Test) test takers during the summer vacation to prevent group infections at schools.
All people aged between 18 to 49 will be able to get vaccines starting in August, but on a first-come, first-served basis and the vaccine type has yet to be decided.
“I don't understand why the country is resuming face-to-face classes at universities if they won’t give shots to all college students,” Jung Young-kyoung, a student at Ewha Womans University said. “Only a few have been vaccinated, and I don’t know how the school is going to keep distance between each other with the limit of classrooms.”
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]