​Seoul to launch metaverse-based counseling services for students struggling in school

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : January 16, 2023, 16:25 Updated : January 22, 2023, 16:50

[Courtesy of Yatavent]

SEOUL -- A metaverse-based counseling platform will be adopted in Seoul to help young students maintain their composure while facing various types of struggles such as academic concerns and friendship problems. Without revealing their faces, students can communicate with teachers using avatars capable of recognizing different emotions.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the number of young people feeling positive emotions has significantly decreased. In a 2021 survey of 862 people aged between nine and 24 conducted by the Korea Youth Counseling & Welfare Institute, a state-run counseling agency, those who feel positive emotions such as gratitude and calmness fell by three times compared to a year ago. The poll showed that 53.2 percent of the respondents cited anxiety and concern as one of the most common emotions they felt, while 39.3 percent came with irritation.

The institute said it is necessary to utilize various platforms such as online counseling for teenagers who prefer social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. The pandemic has also prompted young people to hide their faces with masks instead of showing them to strangers. According to data released by Kyungnam University's survey of 435 middle and high school students between May and June 2022, many teenagers favored wearing masks when eating food in a public place.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said in a statement that Metaforest, a metaverse counseling platform created by virtual reality (VR) platform developer Yatavent, will be used to provide counseling services for elementary, middle and high school students. Between January and late February, professional counselors will give advice to 216 selected students. During the winter break, each student will receive counseling services four to six times. In the virtual space, students can communicate verbally with advisors using avatars that recognize facial expressions.
"We hope many students who feel uncomfortable with face-to-face counseling use virtual spaces where anonymity is guaranteed so that more students in Seoul can become psychologically and emotionally stable through this new type of counseling services," Seoul's education superintendent Cho Hee-yeon said in a statement on January 16.
Data released by Statistics Korea, a state-run statistical information service, showed that South Korean middle and high school students' satisfaction rate with school life was 51.1 percent in 2022, down 8.2 percent from two years ago. The statistics office predicted that academic stress is the main reason for the low satisfaction rate. About 9.3 trillion won ($7.5 billion) were spent on private tutoring in 2021 by elementary, middle and high school students. An average high school student spends a daily average of about 13 hours studying. High school classes start at 9:00 a.m. and cram schools close at 10:00 p.m.
The municipal education office has utilized metaverse which enables users to engage in different activities in the virtual world in various sectors. In August 2021, the office launched metaverse-based science classes for about 2,100 students to explore a virtual exhibition hall called "Gather Town" with their own avatars. In November 2021, the municipal authorities also unveiled its scheme to provide metaverse-based services in every administrative sector by 2026. Avatar workers will handle various civic complaints and provide virtual tourism experiences such as virtual traditional lantern festivals for foreign tourists. About 3.9 billion won will be injected into such programs. 
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