[Newsmaker] Teachers’ unions accuse Education Ministry of sowing confusion

Workers disinfect a classroom at a primary school in Gwangju on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Teachers’ unions are expressing concern after the government announced schools will have the option of offering full distance learning in the first two weeks of March.

The Ministry of Education announced on Monday that it had designated the period from March 2 to 11 as a new semester adjustment period, allowing schools to hold classes online only if necessary.

Earlier, the ministry warned schools to refrain from switching to an online-only curriculum. However, he changed his stance with a surge of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the country.

Teachers’ unions are raising their voices against the new policy, saying giving schools autonomy over attendance policy will create confusion on the ground.

“Schools and faculty members are already concerned about carrying out their duties related to infectious disease control and prevention in the new semester,” the Korea Federation of Teachers’ Associations said Monday.

“Giving autonomy without specific standards in a situation like this will only put additional stress on faculty members and escalate confusion in schools,” the statement said. “If the schools’ decisions and the remote classroom system differ from each other, obviously parents are going to make a series of complaints.”

Another school workers’ union also criticized the new measure.

“Schools and teachers are asking (the ministry to come up with) a coherent plan with expert advice,” the Korea Teachers’ and Education Workers’ Union announced. “Different school attendance policies will lead to complaints.”

“The ministry should come up with a cohesive plan and persuade people instead of letting schools tackle unnecessary disputes,” the statement said.

Earlier this month, the ministry announced that schools will have autonomy to change their attendance policies, based on a new four-tier operating scheme. He advised schools against going completely online unless 3% of their students tested positive or 15% went into self-quarantine.

As confirmed cases continue to rise rapidly, parents have expressed concern against the ‘normal attendance’ measure which involves pupils returning to class. The ministry eventually stepped back as a result, announcing that schools can make individual decisions about attendance for the first two weeks of the new semester.

By Im Eun-byel ([email protected])