What is South Korea's top flight

South Korea: everyday school life in the corona model country

In South Korea there has long been a normal state that deserves the name. People in Seoul, a metropolis of 10 million people, go to their offices every morning, and the rush hour traffic means that the streets are overcrowded. And the city's restaurants are also well attended.

And yet: the opening of schools remains fragile. When a cafeteria employee at Cheongdam Middle School in Seoul's posh Gangnam district tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, the educational institution had to close its doors immediately amid great media outcry. Since then, classes have taken place exclusively online again. Almost 200 students and teachers were asked to have a virus test.

Fancy dress teachers greeted the students when the school reopened in May 2020

Leader in the PISA test

South Korea is generally regarded as a corona model country. The East Asian tiger state was hit by the pandemic at an early stage due to its geographical and economic proximity to China. But despite several large infection clusters, including in church parishes and later in a nightclub, the country on the Han River has so far largely kept the virus risk under control - without widespread lockdowns. This was possible above all through the aggressive tracking of possible infected people with the help of technical monitoring. The number of new infections every day is currently in the mid double-digit range. In total, the authorities in South Korea reported around 14,000 infected people and almost 300 dead.

In hardly any other country has the closure of schools in particular caused so much controversy as here. After all, the Confucian-influenced society is notorious for its appreciation of education, with South Korean students in the top group of the Pisa test every year.

Nevertheless, the reopening of the schools has been postponed a total of five times due to new virus infections. The return to work was initially gradual: First, the high school students of the last year began classroom teaching on May 20, two months later than initially planned. At the beginning of June, elementary and middle school students followed, with hundreds of schools having to close again after an infection cluster spread in the capital, Seoul.

Schoolboy says goodbye to his mother

Reduction in tuition fees

The current day-to-day school life is therefore without exception subject to strict conditions. Each student's body temperature is measured in front of the building entrances. In principle, there is a constant mask requirement as well as social distancing measures throughout the entire class time. Students sit alone at tables that were previously intended for two people.

At the universities, on the other hand, everyday life is already back to normal. Only the first half of the summer semester was largely completed online, which sparked heated discussions in the public debate - for example, how examinations take place fairly, whether the internet infrastructure is sufficient and whether students are entitled to partial reimbursement of tuition fees.

On Wednesday (July 22nd) the renowned Konkuk University in Seoul reduced the tuition fees for the coming winter semester by 8.3 percent, which is the equivalent of around 280 euros. It is expected that other educational institutions will follow.

Partition walls in the classroom of a South Korean high school

Clinical studies

Since the East Asian tiger state is a few weeks ahead of Europe in fighting the virus, a look at South Korea always offers valuable insights into its own future. These are not rather sobering: A broad study from South Korea of ​​6,000 households has shown that even children under the age of ten pass the virus on, even if the risk is only half as low - possibly because they generally exhale less air or are disproportionately asymptotic . Teenagers (between 10 and 19 years of age), however, are at least as infectious as adults. The teaching of the study is clear: schools around the world will again and again be sources of infection for the virus - and should therefore only be operated under strict conditions.

In the coming semester, South Korea will mainly face the problem of how it can hold the all-important university entrance examination, known as "Suneung". Comparable to the German Abitur, the test was postponed from November 19th to December 3rd. Education experts, parents and students are already complaining that the Corona class suffered a competitive disadvantage due to the lockdown. According to a recent survey, well over half of all students in South Korean high schools said this.