Over 80,000 Seoul Schoolkids Lack Computers for Online Study

  • By You So-yeon

    April 03, 2020 11:14

    Schools across the country are set to start teaching online from April 9, but around 85,000 schoolkids in Seoul alone lack the smart devices they need to stream lessons.

    There are 870,000 schoolkids in Seoul, so a whopping 10 percent lack the tools to attend online classes, according to a study by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

    The Education Ministry has been trying to gauge the computer needs of schoolkids across the country since March 25. As of Wednesday, the needs of only 67 percent or around 3.62 million were met but 170,000 lack smart devices.

    The ministry says it will secure 50,000 smart devices to be distributed in addition to 230,000 already available through regional offices of education and schools.

    The Seoul office has around 34,000 smart devices to lend -- around 6,000 laptops and 28,000 tablet PCs -- and will get another 4,000 tablets from the ministry. But that still falls short of meeting the needs of 85,000 schoolchildren who do not have one.

    Seongdong District Office staff in Seoul prepare laptop computers to lend to students in need on Wednesday. /Yonhap

    High school and middle school seniors start school online on April 9 and must get their devices by the middle of next week.

    The Seoul office agreed with the Seoul city government and district offices to buy more smart devices for an estimated W36.4 billion at W700,000 per device (US$1=W1,228). It also pledged a W1.5 million subsidy for each of 1,000 classes that requires WiFi connections and W30,000 each for 70,000 teachers so they can have access to unlimited data.

    The online classes are expected to get off to a shaky start because not many teachers have experience of cyber lessons. A lack of computer literacy among parents is also a problem, since most elementary schoolchildren will need their help. Also, children whose parents both work will need extra assistance.

    Attendance could be another problem since teachers have no way of telling whether students are paying attention. One teacher said, "We can only see the faces of students as they sit in front of their computers, but they may be playing games or chatting at the same time." 

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