Schools in China encouraged to stagger start times

Internet, TV channel used to deal with semester delay due to epidemic control

Schools in China have been asked to pick different time slots to start the spring semester to avoid concentrated mass movements of students when the new semester begins, the Ministry of Education said on Wednesday.

The ministry announced in late January that the spring semester for all schools would be postponed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Several provinces and municipalities, including Shanghai, Chongqing, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, have announced that the new semester would not start by the end of this month.

In some places, it is estimated that schools won’t start until May.

Places hard hit by the epidemic should start the new semester at different times than other places, universities should choose different time slots than secondary and primary schools, and schools in the same area should also avoid starting the new semester on the same date, said Wang Dengfeng, head of the ministry’s Department of Physical, Health and Arts Education.

“When the new semester begins, students who have close contact with confirmed patients and who demonstrate symptoms of cough and fever should be quarantined, and other students should undergo daily health inspections,” Wang said at a daily news conference.

Students who are in Hubei province must wait until the travel restrictions in the province are removed to return to their schools in other provinces, and they should also be quarantined when they return, he said.

Online classes offered

With the start of the new semester delayed, primary and secondary students will be able to attend classes online or study via television, said Lyu Yugang, head of the ministry’s Department of Basic Education.

A cloud platform will also be launched on Monday to provide students in primary and secondary schools with education resources covering all major school subjects, he said.

For students in remote or rural areas with poor internet accessibility, a television channel by China Education Television will start airing classes on Monday so they can study at home, Lyu said.

Local education authorities and schools should decide whether the online classes will cover content for the new semester and whether all students will be required to take those classes, he said.

“Online courses are only temporary measures taken during the epidemic, so when the new semester begins, schools should not replace classroom teaching with online classes,” he added.

Wu Yan, head of the ministry’s Department of Higher Education, said the ministry has issued a guideline for universities to conduct online classes, with 22 online platforms offering 24,000 courses to students.

These classes were not made in a hurry. Rather, they are of high quality and were carefully selected from courses created over the past few years, he said.

Don’t overburden students

Schools should not add an unnecessary academic burden on primary and secondary students through online classes, the ministry said on Tuesday night amid criticism that online teaching has significantly increased the workload for students and teachers.

Answering the ministry’s call in late January, education authorities, schools and after-school training institutions have been offering students online courses since the spring semester was postponed.

An official with the ministry said no online classes should be provided to kindergarten students, and primary students in lower grade levels can decide whether to take the classes.

For students in higher grade levels, schools should limit the time and amount of online learning, the official said.

Online courses should include infection prevention, psychological health and educational activities and content rather than just subjects that put extra pressure on students, the ministry said.

Schools should make good use of existing online teaching materials rather than putting an extra workload on teachers.

Source: China Daily

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Feb. 14, 2020