South Korea university entrance exams begin amid extraordinary measures

Update 1: Adds quotes, context

Seoul, Dec 3 (efe-epa).- Half a million South Koreans are taking the university entrance exam on Thursday amid unprecedented measures to prevent COVID-19 infections and to allow even infected students to take the test.

About 490,000 high school seniors, graduates and others have applied to take the exam this year, including 35 who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 404 who are in self-quarantine due to close contact with infected people, according to data from the South Korean government, which has implemented measures so that everyone, without exception, can sit the exam.

The authorities have set up 205 hospital beds for COVID-19 positive students, and special test centers for 3,775 students in quarantine to take the exam.

To prevent infections, the number of test classrooms have also been increased by almost 50 percent compared to last year, to 31,291 classrooms spread over 1,383 test centers across the country.

The maximum number of students per classroom has also been reduced from 28 to 24 this year and dividers have also been installed on all desks.

Through an extraordinary mechanism, the almost half a million registered schoolchildren had the possibility of undergoing a PCR test until 10:00pm the day before if they showed symptoms.

The results arrived during the night and students who tested positive were sent directly to a specific medical center to perform the examination from there.

Students have been asked to dress warm, since classrooms will be ventilated at the end of each of the different tests that are being carried out throughout the day.

At the entrance of the examination centers, temperature checks were obligatory – as was the use of a mask at all times.

“Beyond social distancing, our goal in this year’s [exams] is to clearly differentiate between those who perform the exam normally, those who show symptoms, those in quarantine and those who are infected, and to completely separate their movements.” a spokesman for the Ministry of Health told the Yonhap agency.

The use of a mask is mandatory at all times and students, whose temperature will be checked before entering the exam center, have also been asked to avoid gathering and talking to each other during breaks.

The College Scholastic Ability Test, known as “Suneung” in Korean, is the culmination of the intense effort put in by students over years of study in a country that is highly focused on education.

Due to the importance of this yearly exam, which brings the country to a standstill, the South Korean government has established various measures to facilitate student access to exam centers and prevent any noise that may disturb them.

The measures established for the exams starts with a strict mandatory confinement for teachers in charge of preparing test questions.

Academics spend about a month completely isolated – Internet or telephone use is not allowed – in a hotel that has blocked and tinted windows to prevent the content of the exam from being filtered outside.

It increases the frequency of public transport in the early morning, delays the office hours of officials as well as the opening and closing hours of the Stock Exchange, and deploys patrol cars and motorcycles to transport those who run late.

In addition, traffic is also cut off around the exam centers, and the take-off and landing of planes are stopped during the English listening test. EFE-EPA


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