Classroom teaching starting nationwide

The Ministry of Education has asked all schools nationwide to fully restore normal classroom teaching for the fall semester with effective pandemic control measures in place, ministry officials said on Thursday.

Wang Dengfeng, head of the ministry's leading group for COVID-19 responses, said classes in all grades, at all schools, and in all places should start the new semester as they are able because the country has met the required conditions for comprehensive school resumption.

Thirty provincial-level regions have issued plans for resuming on-site schooling for the fall semester, with the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region still allowing only online classes until the recent outbreak of COVID-19 infections eases, Wang said at a news conference.

Kindergarten, primary and secondary schools were expected to welcome students in staggered time slots from Aug 15 to Oct 10, while universities were allowing students to return on different schedules from late August to early October, he said.

After the new semester begins, the schools should keep records of the health of every student, even if they show no symptoms of illness, and university students and teachers should not leave their campus unless necessary, he said.

The schools have made contingency plans and have prepared material reserves for a possible resurgence of the pandemic. They will quickly and resolutely take action to contain the pandemic if needed, Wang said.

"We should by no means be slack in our pandemic control efforts, yet we should also refrain from being too strict in containment measures," he added.

Lyu Yugang, head of the ministry's Department of Basic Education, said that through concerted efforts, the country's 180 million primary and secondary school students were able to take online courses in the spring semester amid the pandemic. As schools resume person-to-person teaching for the fall, special attention should be given to students' psychological health, he added.

Schools and teachers should familiarize themselves with students' psychological well-being and help them deal with any anxieties, Lyu said.

Wu Yan, head of the ministry's Department of Higher Education, said 22.59 million university students took online courses during the spring semester, with 1.08 million teachers producing 1.1 million online courses.

The reopening of universities means tens of millions of students have to move across the country to attend their classes, and tens of thousands of students will reside at their schools for a long period of time, he said.

Students and staff at Beijing schools should continue to wear masks on campus for the new semester, and they should remove them only for outdoor activities, the Beijing Municipal Education Commission said recently.

More than 600,000 university students are expected to return to the capital and they should all take nucleic acid tests before going to their campuses, with the costs paid by universities, the commission said.