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Implications: Just as the current administration is using the lessons from the 2015 MERS outbreak in its public health response, other prior experiences of the Korean government are shaping public policies aimed at ameliorating the social impact of the pandemic. The debate around the public school calendar is the most telling example of the government’s use of past experiences. When asked whether he thinks the changes to the school semester would be appropriate, President Moon avoided answering the question. He is likely benchmarking the experiences of previous administrations that received pushback on similar proposals.
Context: Unlike most other OECD countries, South Korea’s new semester begins in March. Believing that more international students might come study in Korea if its school calendar was more similar to other countries, Presidents Park Geun-hye and Roh Moo-hyun have considered introducing a new school calendar that would begin in August. However, both attempts failed because of the enormous cost associated with such a change. According to the Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI), the cost of such reforms will amount to 10.43 trillion won (~USD 10 billion). Much of the added cost will go towards hiring new teachers and classes.
In addition, many cited potential social confusion if the school calendar was changed as the schedule of entrance exams, employment period, and budget planning calendars are all built around the current school semester system.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.
Picture from flickr user Ji Sun Lee