Faced with the novel coronavirus epidemic, South Korea’s schools began offering online classes this month in a step the education minister called a “new road we have never walked.”
Distance learning, however, poses an unprecedented burden to parents and educators, with the quality of education for each student appearing to be closely linked to the level of preparedness of the schools, teachers and parents — from teachers’ digital literacy to parents’ availability for their children.
The younger the students, the less likely they are to concentrate for longer periods, requiring parents’ help for them to take part in the classes. Not all parents, however, can afford to do that.
“It is impossible for my child to take online classes without me around. It would be better if the semester did not begin at all,” said Park Kyung-ah, parent of a third grader.
“I have to go back to work starting next week. I don’t know what to do.”
Korea began its new spring semester on April 9, one month later than usual, with online classes beginning in phases. School buildings remain physically closed.
Park needed to help her son in logging on to the digital platform, checking in for the class and watching prerecorded education materials, which took less than 30 minutes for each subject. For the rest of the school hours, he did nothing, she said.
“I hope schools can open again soon,” Park said.
For working parents, the only option usually comes down to sending them to “emergency