SEOUL, April 26 (Korea Bizwire) — Acute decreases in in-person classes caused by the spread of COVID-19 appear to have greatly impacted the academic achievements of middle and high school students in South Korea, civic activists said Monday.
Domestic middle and high schools, which shifted to online classes for many months last year to stem the coronavirus pandemic, saw students in the middle level group shrink significantly, according to a civic group dedicated to the campaign against private education.
In particular, educational polarization worsened at middle schools and the weakening of scholastic abilities deepened at high schools, the group said.
According to the group’s analysis of math achievements at a randomly selected sample of 1,259 schools across the country, 75.9 percent of middle schools and 66.1 percent of high schools showed an on-year contraction of the middle level group (ranging from B to D grades) in the first semester of 2020.
At 66.2 percent of middle schools, the high level group with A grade increased in the 2019-2020 period, while high schools reported little expansion of the high level group.
In the same period, the low level group with E grade expanded at 56.9 percent of middle schools and 66.4 percent of high schools, the civic group noted.
In similar research on Korean language, English and math achievements at a sample of 973 schools nationwide, the proportion of the middle level group decreased 5.8 percentage points at middle schools and 4.4 percentage points at high schools from the first semester of 2019 to the first semester of 2020.
“There were education gaps at local schools before, but a sharp reduction in in-person classes caused last year by the coronavirus pandemic led to reductions in middle level group students at both middle and high schools,” the group said.
“High schools, in particular, reported an expansion of the low level group as they had no choice but to maintain their academic difficulty level in preparation for the annual college entrance exam,” it said.