SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korean students will take in-person classes more often starting this week, as attendance cap restrictions in schools have been eased amid a recent drop in new coronavirus cases.
The Ministry of Education raised the attendance cap, currently at one-third in elementary and middle schools, and two-thirds in high schools, to two-thirds for all schools last Sunday, in line with the government's relaxed social distancing rules nationwide. The new measure goes into effect on Monday.
The ministry said schools in the greater Seoul area, where half of the country's 51 million people live, are required to strictly follow the new mandate, while those in the rest of the country will have more leeway to adjust attendance caps depending on the level of pandemic.
First graders of elementary schools, including those in the greater Seoul area, are expected to attend in-person classes almost every day to help them get accustomed to school life, which has been largely absent since the start of the pandemic in spring. The country's academic year starts in March.
Loosening anti-virus restrictions for schools reflects a growing concern that learning gaps have been widening among young students due to differences in their self-directed learning capabilities and that in-person instruction is necessary to reduce the gap.
To reduce classroom crowding and serve more students at the same time, schools are expected to implement various measures, including staggered classes and split sessions between morning and afternoon.
Last week, Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae called for cooperation from regional education offices to narrow learning gaps among students and to create a safe school environment for students.