Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hagwon, more public schools, to close?

From the Joongang Ilbo this morning:
“We had an emergency meeting with local education offices, doctors and parents today to discuss whether or not to force schools nationwide to stop providing classes for a limited period, since the number of schools with suspended operations more than doubled from 97 on Monday to 205 the next day,” Jang Gi-won, head of planning department at the Education Ministry, said.

Jang said the ministry is considering shutting down schools in areas with apartment complexes or a large number of private education institutions as a preventive measure against the flu.

But he said shutting down all schools was not under consideration.

As of yesterday, the average number of kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school students that had been confirmed as the flu patients each day surpassed 1,500. This demographic accounts for 80 percent of the total contractions in Korea.

. . .
Also, the ministry will ask local governments to encourage hagwon and some other locations popular with students to suspend operations temporarily, citing the law governing the prevention and control of epidemics.

Read the rest on your own. Last night the Korea Times said "Doctors Propose 2-Week Shutdown for Schools"; an excerpt:
Doctors advised the government Wednesday to temporarily close schools to contain further transmission of influenza A (H1N1).

"Students are one of the most vulnerable groups. Schools are becoming the largest route to mass transmission. We should ask schools to close for a week or two to prevent transmission among students and to let the ill ones take a rest for quick recovery," said the Korean Medical Association.

"Unless we close the schools at this point, many students preparing for the College Scholastic Ability Test slated for Nov. 12 might get infected and may be unable to take the examination," said Jwa hun-jung, the spokesman for the group.

The recommendation came after the government gave heads of schools the discretion to suspend classes. The education ministry said shutting down all schools may trigger a greater level of anxiety among students and parents.

The number of students infected exceeded 41,500 and the number of schools and military installations that have reported flu outbreaks reached over 2,400 nationwide as of Monday.

The death toll in Korea has risen to 33, including an otherwise 26-year-old woman.

On Tuesday, I posted on the cancellations already going on in schools, as native speaker English teachers on Dave's ESL Cafe and Facebook have been sharing their school swine flu experiences. From Dave's poster Gordana:
According to my co-teacher, yesterday we had 80 students absent - 7 of whom have been diagnosed with swine flu.

Today the Principal instructed all teachers to have classroom windows open so that any dirty germs will 'fly away' rather than linger and infect.
It was freeeeezing.

And blackjack:
My school has been closed since tuesday, right when I started to get sick. don't think it is swine flue as different symptoms (extreme tirdness, hacking cough and a very fuzzy head). we had 16 kids in one class absent with swine flue like symptoms.

From smajk710:
The flu is also spreading like wild fire with 9 confirmed cases of H1N1. The school has been sending home students who have 38.0 c temps or above but if a students returns back to school, we must let them. The Principal said that all students have a right to attend classes and we can't make them stay home even if they're sick. We already had angry parents call the school because their daughter or son was sent home. Most of them sent their children back to school.

To which hockeyguy109 adds:
I bet those poor sick students are just thrilled about having the right to sit in an unheated classroom for 6 hours.

Lots more on this thread. On my post Ryan G. brought up a good point:
CLosing the schools would help to stop the spread ONLY if the students stayed at home and isolated themselves during that time period.

But you know what's going to happen? ALl of those students will go out and do stuff in other types of people areas, making it almost completely useless.

What's the point of shutting down the school, if the kids will just pick up the infection from the PC bang they will go to instead?

And who's to say parents would even let the schools close? Parents aren't going to want children home from school for one or two weeks with no one to supervise them. Back in 2008 many schools here were ready to give their teachers a week off in May, though these plans were cancelled because parents didn't want students home alone, and didn't think teachers should be taking more time off.

And last night, Monster Island asked "Is the Korean government going to use the H1N1 pandemic as an excuse to "temporarily' close down hagwons, with the intention of breaking their backs?"


Chris in South Korea said...

Wow - closing schools seems to be yet another opportunity for kids to get sick. There's far too many vectors to spread an infection... The idiocy of some principals blows my mind ('let the dirty germs fly out the window'? WTF? Who taught you that one?)

B_Wagner said...

What's the word on the streets and in the schools as far as foreign teachers being considered especially likely to infect students or faculty (e.g. Avalon)?

Are we beyond that now?

kushibo said...

What's the point of shutting down the school, if the kids will just pick up the infection from the PC bang they will go to instead?

This was brought up in the post you linked, where The Expat suggested that "all those kids are not going to be sitting at home anyways. They'll be out and about slobbering all over each other."

To an extent, that might be true, but you'd be taking out of the picture a major nexus of infection, the school where people are not only trapped with dozens if not hundreds of other kids for a large portion of the day, but sick people still feel compelled to go.

So, maybe some kids free from school would run around their neighborhood, but not all of them, and even those out and about might be encountering fewer people on the whole. In the aggregate, there would be fewer person-to-person infection-capable connections formed during that time period.

Moreover, those who are sick or under the weather might feel compelled to go to school if it's in session, but relieved to stay home if it's not. They're much less likely to go out and play if school is out than they would be to go to school if it's in session.

Mike said...

Kushibo, you make some good points. And I don't disagree that there would be, at least, a lessening of transmission.

That being said, maybe it would be a FAR BETTER use of doctors, the M of E, and parents' time to devise a strategy to implement basic hygiene into Korean culture and schools.

Not including rampant tooth decay, unshowered children who wear the exact same unwashed clothes daily (to the point where I know my kids as "blue striped shirt boy")... hyegeine is somthing I neither see an awareness of or emphasis on past hanging a sign in the bathroom that shows how to wash one's hands.

I think at least teaching them to wash their hands before they eat, after they eat, after using the bathroom, covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze and then washing them, etc. would probably decrease transmission rates, again, at least as much as this proposed "quarantine."

Puffin Watch said...

I can see suddenly people setting up "study rooms" in officetels to take in the kids during the two weeks and mothers happily packing their kids off to the those study rooms.

Ryan.G said...

kushibo, you do bring up a valid point to my original comment. Closing down the schools would slow down a major hub of infection to an extent, especially the kids who would feel compelled to go even if sick, and I do agree with this.

Mike also hit the nail on the head too. It's not necessarily closing down the schools that will fix the problem, but education to students, and more importantly parents on basic hygiene. Like covering one's mouth when coughing, or more importantly STAY IN BED AWAY FROM PEOPLE IF YOU ARE SICK.

The truth of the matter though is that a person is contagious before symptoms show as well as after. So there's a good chance that you may have been infected by someone who recently picked it up themselves, but at the time looked like in a good condition of health.

Zach said...

I highly doubt middle and high schools will be closed. University and high school entrance exams are coming up.