Austrade will provide weekly regional updates on the progression and impact of COVID-19 around the world, to support the international education sector as the situation continues to evolve. These reports are compiled using the latest on-the-ground information and advice. The following updates include markets and regions for:
- Middle East and Africa
- North Asia
- North America
- South Asia
- The Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC) issued a decree on 7 August 2020 regarding guidelines for the implementation of the national curriculum during COVID-19. This decree provides flexibility for schools to choose a curriculum that suits the learning needs of students, allowing them to choose one of three options: 1) the national curriculum 2) the emergency curriculum 3) simplify the curriculum themselves. The emergency curriculum is a simplification of the national curriculum with a reduction of basic competencies for each subject allowing teachers and students to focus on the essential competencies needed for each unit of study.
- Education Malaysia Global Services (EMGS) recently announced that entry for all new international students and their dependents is on hold until further notice. Some 11,000 foreign students – the majority of whom are from Pakistan, Thailand and Indonesia – had applied to return to Malaysia while over 9,000 new applications have come through for entry in January and February next year. With no explanation provided for the suspension, Malaysia’s private higher education sector in particular have been vocal to the Ministry of Higher Education of their discontent.
- The Ministry of Education has announced the school year for 2021 will resume in January 2020. This will make up for the 2020 year-end school holidays which have been cut short due to delay in examinations. Malaysian Higher School Certificate examinations remain postponed until first quarter of 2021.
- In July, the Ministry of Education announced the government will accept education aid fund applications for first-year university students. Priority will be given to students from low-income families. The amount of the fund is MMK300,000 (US$218) per student and around 10,000 students are expected to benefit. This year, the Ministry plans to provide aid to 9,654 university students across the country.
- On 4 August, the Ministry of Education, the Department of Myanmar Examinations released an announcement that the matriculation results for 2020 will be announced online. The announcement was due to be released on 9 August 2020 on two of the ministerial websites – www.moe.gov.mm and www.myanmarexam.org – and will also be aired on the same day on Myanmar Radio and Skynet Education Channel for remote areas.
- According to a report released by the Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS) on 7 August, there are 359 COVID-19 cases in the country since the beginning of the epidemic. Although the epidemic seems to be slowing down, the global acceleration is a reminder to remain vigilant. Myanmar authorities have repeatedly encouraged the public to remain very careful to avoid a second wave.
- In the Philippines’ capital, metro Manila and four other provinces (Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite and Rizal) reverted to Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) from 4 August until 18 August. Under MECQ, public transport is suspended and domestic flights and inter-island travel are not allowed. Only essential sectors are allowed to operate such as healthcare, agriculture and fisheries, manufacturing of essential goods, essential retail, logistics and essential private and public construction projects.
- The Philippines enters into recession as GDP shrank 16.5 per cent in Q2. This is the first time the economy has fallen into recession in 29 years. Quarantine lockdowns from March to mid-May halted 75 per cent of domestic economic activities. Consumer spending, industrial production and services dropped 15.5 per cent, 22.9 per cent and 15.8 per cent respectively while government spending increased 22.1 per cent.
- In his State of the Nation Address, President Duterte instructed the Philippine Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to provide skills training to repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to assist them with employment opportunities in the country or abroad. The TESDA Online Program offers over 70 courses in healthcare, agriculture, ICT, tourism, among others. As of May 2020, it had over 500,000 users. TESDA is now also planning to recruit OFWs to become accredited trainers and assessors.
- Six Philippine universities will offer free training on how to conduct flexible learning. The free training programs aims to improve faculties’ capacity to deliver online distance learning, including module writing, technology support and tools and formative assessment. The six universities are: Philippine Normal University, Central Luzon State University, De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde Manila, Manuel S. Enverga University Foundation, Far Eastern University and Tarlac Agricultural University.
- The Singapore Ministry of Education has a new Minister, Mr Lawrence Wong, following the recent General Election that took place on 10 July 2020. Despite the management change, the Ministry is committed to continue the government’s initiatives to implement changes in the education system that promotes STEM learning, graduate employability and realignment of skills sets to meet industry’s demands.
- Singhealth, one of the Singaporean government’s healthcare agencies, has introduced the Overseas Medics’ Education (Home) program to provide free medical lessons for Singaporean medical students who are unable to continue their medical degrees overseas due to the pandemic. The program has received participation of over 860 Singaporean overseas medical students since its launch in May, with 89 sessions already conducted as of early August.
- Singapore has established a new research facility to enhance education, R&D and entrepreneurship in digital finance and fintech. Called the Asian Institute of Digital Finance (AIDF), the institute will offer a master’s program and award PhD scholarships to train more local leaders in the financial sector. The institute is a collaboration between the Monetary Authority of Singapore, National Research Foundation and National University of Singapore.
- A Cabinet reshuffle has installed Dr Anek Laothamatas as Thailand’s new Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI).Minister Laothamatas is a veteran politician, adjunct professor and graduate of Columbia University. MHESI is the ministry established in May 2019 to integrate research and innovation into the education portfolio.The ministry focuses on promoting research for commercial purposes, producing the workforce of the future and developing the innovation sector.
- Thailand’s Ministry of Education has asked the Centre for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) to allow students in the 4,500 local schools to return to full time to face to face study from 13 August.Thailand has reported no community transmissions for more than 70 days and most lockdown measures have been eased.Currently, Thai schools have partially re-opened with students coming on alternate days which parents said interrupted their children’s study. According to the Ministry of Education, all schools must comply with measures imposed by the Public Health Ministry such as compulsory face coverings, hand washing and checking body temperature of students before they enter the premises.
- Despite the unexpected challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic this year, ongoing progress was made with a Free Trade Agreement between the European Union (EU) and Vietnam, which came into force from 1 August 2020. The EU reports that “the agreement provides the best access to the Vietnamese services markets ever granted by Vietnam to a trade partner.”With respect to higher education, the agreement states that “the provision of cross border higher education services by EU suppliers is now possible based on the new commitments offered by Vietnam to the EU. This would allow the provision of such services from the EU territory directly to consumers in Vietnam.” The EU contains some of the world’s most popular international education destinations, including Germany and France. DAAD (the German Academic Exchange Service) and Campus France (the French international education promotion agency) have two local offices each in Vietnam and actively promote their international study offers.
- There has been ongoing debate about the readiness of schools to manage the return of students in September in line with the COVID-19 health protocols, in an endeavour to avoid new outbreaks. Effective management of social distancing in classrooms and common areas is a key issue, with the government having now issued a tender for the supply of single-student desks. The Minister for Education has signed an agreement with unions including measures for access to doctors and psychologists for students and teachers and a free-call help desk number. Other solutions under consideration include staged school arrival times and rotating classes.
- Italian universities are committed to welcoming students back on campus in September, although the measures to ensure the safety of students and staff are still being planned. The more ‘theoretical’ study elements may be offered online, with the more practical components offered on campus. Remote learning will continue to be available for students who are unable to attend classes in person.
- The key topic under discussion in Poland at the moment, as in many European countries, is the return to school in September. Poland is experiencing a second wave of coronavirus infections with a growing number of new COVID-19 cases, and although the government announced a month ago that children will return to school on the 1 September, this decision is now under question.
- The Minister for Science and Higher Education has passed the decision regarding the return of students to universities to rectors. At this stage, is it not known whether students will be allowed to return to ‘traditional’ on-campus learning. Several universities are considering a mixed mode of delivery (online and in-class).
- This uncertainty is creating restlessness among students and parents.
- According to research by Bonard, the UK ELT sector could suffer a £510m loss due to COVID-19 during the first three quarters of 2020. The report also showed that nearly all seasonal staff (46 per cent of ELT employees) have been released, 37 per cent have been furloughed and 10 per cent have been placed on reduced hours or pay. The report indicates that 7 per cent of ELT employees have continued working as usual.
Middle East and Africa
United Arab Emirates
- The Knowledge Human and Development Authority (KHDA) has directed all schools in Dubai to provide 100 per cent e-learning option to parents who request that particular mode of teaching for their kids in the new academic year commencing from 30 August. Schools are currently busy preparing for the availability of blended learning options for students.
- Responding to the interest of parents who prefer continuing distance learning for their children, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) has approved the option for full-time remote learning when schools reopen for the upcoming term in September. The schools have the discretion to select the teaching methodology that is mindful of parental needs.