Asia Minute: Returning to the Classroom: Different Approaches in Region

Jun 3, 2020

From restaurants to beauty salons, this week brings a loosening of some restrictions here in Hawaii and elsewhere. In parts of the Asia Pacific, that includes going back to school – on different timetables.

Nearly two million South Korean students are heading back to classrooms today, part of a phased reopening of schools – staggered by age groups. These students are in the first year of high school, the second year of middle school and the third and fourth year of elementary school.

Last week, several hundred schools that had re-opened were forced to close down after a spike in new cases of COVID-19.

In Singapore, classroom instruction resumed yesterday for the first time in nearly two months. Masks are mandatory, and so are temperature checks. Recesses are staggered, and there’s distancing from homeroom to lunch in the cafeteria.

In Australia, school re-openings have varied depending on the state. In West and South Australia, most students have been back since late April. In New South Wales, a phased re-opening began a couple of weeks ago, in Queensland a bit later than that, and later still in Victoria.

In Japan, many schools are in their second week of classroom activities — some had opened earlier.

Japan’s school year traditionally begins in April, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had floated a plan to shift the opening to September — a move that sparked political opposition even within his own party.

Japan’s national broadcaster NHK reports Abe has now “effectively given up on the idea” at least for this school year.