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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 11 August 2020)

11 Aug 2020

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:

  • Europe
  • 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.


Nil report


  • 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.
  • The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) Scholarship Program 2020-21 considers universities or institutions that rank in the top 150 by at least two of the three following rankings: QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings and U.S. News & World Report Best Global Universities Rankings. Eight Australian universities fit ADEK’s 2020-21 criteria. The areas of study include various majors based on the needs of the priority sectors in Abu Dhabi, including Energy, Logistics, Aerospace, Information & Communications, Tourism & Hospitality, Medicine & Health and Defence. More information on the scholarship program is available on www.adek.gov.ae/ADSDS-Program.

North Asia


  • The Chinese Government has recently released a draft regulation on “Measures for employment and management of foreign teachers” for comment by 21 August.  It is understood the regulation will apply to foreign teachers employed by Chinese schools, colleges and universities; international schools, colleges and universities operating in China; and foreign institutions travelling to China to teach as part of transnational education partnerships (i.e. joint institutes and joint programs).  In addition to qualifications requirements, the regulation introduces a social credit system applicable to foreign teachers and a training requirement before commencing work in China. The regulation also prohibits short-term concentrated courses through concentrated class schedule arrangements. Australian providers and teachers operating in China are encouraged to consider the draft to learn of the proposed new requirements. DESE released a policy update providing further details regarding the draft regulation. 
  • Austrade, the Department of Home Affairs, and 13 State and Territory study clusters/Australian education providers delivered online presentations as part of the China International Education Exhibition and Tour (CIEET) on 8 August. The Austrade session featured a Study Australia Presentation, update on the recently announced student visa package from Home Affairs, and a Q&A session. The CIEET is traditionally one of the largest international education events in China and attracts significant media attention in-market.  It is organised by the China Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (CSCSE) which operates under the direction of the Ministry of Education and this year was delivered online due to the impact of COVID-19. 
  • In what is an encouraging sign for the market, a range of education agent events in the coming weeks in China will be delivered offline rather than online. This follows the period since February in which agents events in China were delivered mostly online owing to COVID-19 restrictions. The Austrade China Team has been involved in 27 online agent events since February, hosting Q&A sessions and delivering the Study Australia presentation to audiences of prospective students and parents.  As was the case for these online events, Austrade will continue to represent the Australian government at future offline agent events to continue to promote the Australian education brand in-market and opportunities to study Australian education programs online.  

Latin America


  • As at 7 August, the total number of confirmed cases in Argentina has risen to 228,195 (49.1% women and 50.9% men).
  • Argentina’s Ministry of Education has announced the return to classes in 2 out of 23 jurisdictions across the country: San Juan and Catamarca. Both states have recorded a low number of cases where return to classrooms is planned for 10 August and 18 August respectively.
  • San Juan will have 10,500 students returning to normal schooling but with a blended model - online and on-campus.
  • Catamarca also received netbooks and tablets from the Ministry of Education as part of the Federal Plan “Juana Manso” to help bridging the digital gap under the new circumstances after pandemic.
  • According to a recent survey conducted by the Observatory of Argentina’s Education, mobile phones became the most used device between teachers and students. According to responses from families, WhatsApp is used in 92.2 per cent of urban state primary schools for the purpose of homework, with 80 per cent of the institutions always using this app.


  • On 7 August, official figures from the Ministry of Health reported 2,962,442 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 2,068,394 recovered cases and 99,572 deaths.
  • According to the Brazilian Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), COVID-19 figures for death and case rates in Brazil continue to be very high.
  • The President of Brazil recently signed a provisional decree to allocate USD 350 million towards acquisition and production of a prospective COVID-19 vaccine developed by the drug maker AstraZeneca in partnership with University of Oxford. The amount will be transferred to Fiocruz for biological research, AstraZeneca’s partner in Brazil.
  • Brazilian states have postponed the reopening of public and private schools. The return to in-person schooling across the country remains uncertain. The state of Sao Paulo, for example, has confirmed that it will be suspended until at least 5 October.
  • The National High School Exam (Enem) of 2020 in print version has been postponed January 2021. Traditionally, the test is held in November. For the first time, there will be a digital version of the test, which will happen between 31 January and 7 February 2021.


  • On 9 August, Peru has completed 147 days of the state of emergency decreed by the Government to contain the spread of the coronavirus. According to the Ministry of Health (Minsa), the total number of positive cases rose to 471,012, while the death toll reached 20,844.
  • On 4 August, Congress denied confidence vote to the cabinet of ministers headed by Pedro Cateriano with 54 votes against, 34 abstentions and 37 votes in favour. The total crisis of a ministerial cabinet in its first presentation before the Legislature to receive the investiture vote that had not occurred in at least 20 years. With this, the serious health and economic crisis is compounded by a political crisis that will further complicate the functioning of the public administration in general and threaten the governance of the country.

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 4,884,000 and 120,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.

    United States of America

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education and Davidson College’s College Crisis Initiative (C2i), are tracking 2,967 colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall with:
    • To be determined 26.9% (-0.1% WoW)
    • Primarily online 23.7% (-0.3% WoW)
    • Primarily in person 20.9 (-0.1% WoW)
    • Hybrid 16.2 (+0.2% WoW)
    • Other 5.2% (-0.8% WoW)
    • Fully in person 2.5% (no change WoW)
    • Fully online 4.4% (+3.5% WoW)
  • ABC Insights and Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) completed their second survey with college and university presidents, following their first survey in March. Their key insights include:
    • Comparison with responses from previous survey
      • The vast majority of presidents still plan to maintain tuition and implement hiring freezes.
      • Fewer presidents now anticipate cuts to academic programs and faculty positions.
      • Fewer presidents now expect severe (>15%) revenue losses.
      • More presidents now expect to lay off staff, implement across-the-board cuts, and cut administrative jobs.
      • More presidents now expect to cut benefits.
    • New findings
      • 1 in 5 presidents expect no change in the fall enrolment.
      • Presidents of small private institutions are most likely to bring students back for face to-face instruction in the fall.
  • The Department of Education has recently suggested that states should not expect standardised testing waivers for the 2020-21 school year. Waivers from state testing requirements were previously offered during the spring due to coronavirus-related school closures.

South Asia


  • Nokia is establishing a centre of excellence for networked robotics at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore to promote inter-disciplinary research and develop services in coordination with industry. Australian universities and research institutes looking to develop R&D linkages in robotics, advanced communication and artificial Intelligence can engage with IISc.
  • UGC is seeking EOIs from higher education institutions to develop MOOCs of international standards for its SWAYAM platform in humanities and social sciences areas. Australian universities keen to engage with Indian government for delivering online education can find more information at http://swayam.inflibnet.ac.in/.

Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka’s President has declared the next ten years as decade of skills development to transform the education sector in order to position Sri Lanka as a talent powerhouse in Asia. This declaration is expected to be followed by education reforms which will create many opportunities for Australian VET providers.

NZ Pacific

Nil report