Department of Educational Administration


Date of this Version



Comparative Education Review, volume 65, number 4, November 2021.


(c) 2021 Comparative and International Education Society


This article explores how policy actors in South Korea understand and make meaning of school-related policies responding to COVID-19. Using sensemaking and crisis theory as a framework and informed by literature on policy culture, we analyzed qualitative data collected from interviews with teachers, educational leaders, and parents. The findings show that our participants initially thought the crisis situation would “just pass,” but they experienced “fear” and “chaos” when online and hybrid classes were implemented. After adopting unexpected policy changes to cope with the spread ofCOVID-19, participants sought shared responsibility to overcomethe crisis. In addition, our participantsmademeaning of the crisis as an opportunity to transform schools, suggesting that COVID-19 catalyzed democracy, innovation, and equity in Korean school education. We conclude this article with a discussion on the role of crisis in sensemaking and the importance of national policy culture and sociohistorical contexts in shaping policy actors’ meaning making, extending comparative perspectives in education.