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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 16 June 2020)

16 Jun 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:

  • Association of South East Asian Nations
  • Europe
  • Middle East and Africa
  • North Asia
  • Latin America
  • North America
  • South Asia

Association of South East Asian Nations

With the launch of World Bank’s “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Shocks to Education and Policy Responses” report, a joint WB-DFAT virtual panel discussion took place. The discussion features a number of speakers from the World Bank, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as Education Ministers from across East Asia and Pacific: Myanmar, Indonesia and Tonga.


  • Telkomsel, a major Indonesian telco, in collaboration with the Ministry of Religion Affairs, has launched a discounted telecommunications package for Islamic schools (madrasah). So far, eighty thousand madrasah across Indonesia have joined the program. The program is aimed at assisting the delivery of online teaching and learning during the pandemic.
  • Mr Bakrun, Director of Vocational School Development, announced curriculum in vocational education will be adjusted, to encourage the acceleration of the link and match program, between vocational education institutions and industry. This program aims to deliver vocational graduates with the skills needed to match Indonesian industry needs.


  • The Myanmar Ministry of Education has scheduled schools to re-start on 21 July, beginning with high schools and followed by primary and middle schools two weeks later. The Ministry further released detailed guidelines for parents, teachers and students to follow before, during and after the school period including the break-times. The Ministry also stated that private schools will be allowed to add classrooms so they can comply with the government’s guidelines on social distancing measures. However, the ministry has not yet decided whether to allow private boarding schools to reopen in July.
  • A recent World Bank Report predicts Myanmar will be the second fastest growing economy in 2020 among East Asia Pacific region, after Vietnam. Although economic growth for Myanmar is forecast to slow to 1.5 per cent in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this could rebound to 6 per cent by 2021, according to the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects 2020 report released on 8 June. The economy grew 6.3 per cent in 2019.
  • Currently, the Myanmar government is focusing on improving trade and investment with flexible policies, providing financial stimulus to businesses and promoting digital platforms under its COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP). The government is also trying to ensure the flow of essential goods such as food, commodities, medicines and medical supplies in the short-term, while raising investment promotion efforts and strengthening cooperation with development partners for long term stability.


  • The conditional movement control order (CMCO) ended on 9 June 2020, with the recovery movement control order (RMCO) taking its place from 10 June to 31 August. Under the RMCO, much of the economic activity will return to normal, with exception of large gatherings and foreign travel.
  • Under strict guidance from the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Ministry of Health (Moh), Malaysian schools will reopen in phases, starting on 24 June, 2020. The first phase of reopening will involve 500,444 students from more than 2,500 schools taking their national secondary or international leaving examinations.
  • Despite calls by students to lower fees, private higher education institutions (IPTS) have voiced their limited ability to do so considering there has been no substantial drop in operating costs.
  • With the added pressure from parents and students for more support, impact to the education sector continues to be felt despite the staggered ‘easing’ of restrictions. Education providers across the board are now grappling with both traditional face-to-face classes and online teaching — with stretched resources.
  • The Malaysian Prime Minister announced a RM35 billion (~AUD 12 billion) stimulus plan for economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19. There are 40 initiatives covering three main goals (to empower the people, propel businesses and stimulate the economy), with emphasis given to supporting workers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through training programs, social support, financing schemes, and boosting domestic consumption.


  • The Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) reported that nine million students enrolled in public and private schools as of 10 June, compared to 27.7 million students who enrolled last year. The decline is likely due to parents’ hesitations around distance learning.
  • The Philippine Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) are prioritising skills development in agriculture, ICT, health and construction sectors. TESDA has been ramping up its online learning program to upskill and reskill repatriated overseas workers. The TESDA Online Program (TOP) has 68 free online courses across 14 sectors which have been accessed by over 564,000 users from 16 March to 31 May 2020. TESDA is open to collaborate with international providers to enhance their TOP program, develop new programs and train their teachers.
  • An increase in tuition fees in private colleges and universities could be expected because of revenue losses brought by the pandemic. The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is currently preparing policies and guidelines for such increases.
  • The Philippine Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is in talks with DepEd and CHED to provide free wifi internet access in public schools. This initiative will help schools shift from physical classes to online or blended delivery.
  • PLDT, one of the Philippines’ biggest telco providers, offered free online training for teachers nationwide. 13 e-learning sessions were posted on Facebook as of 30 May 2020. Topics covered virtual teaching, improving students’ reading and comprehension, blended learning and mindset improvement amidst the pandemic. The program aims to empower teachers through training, scholarships, classroom donations, livelihood programs, connectivity and digitalisation.


  • Austrade delivered a briefing on the Australian education sector’s response to COVID-19 via IDP Singapore’s webinar, alongside three other study destinations – UK, New Zealand and Canada. There is strong interest from Singaporean students to pursue higher education overseas despite the current global pandemic.
  • Students wanted to know more about applying for visas; changes to tuition fees and entry requirements; and how universities are supporting the safety and wellbeing of international students.
  • Students sought clarifications on how post-study work rights are impacted across different study destinations for those who undertake online study for the second half of 2020. Canada and New Zealand were confident that international students will return to their countries soon. While Australia has not confirmed when the international borders will reopen, students were encouraged to apply for July 2020 and Feb 2021 intakes but to focus on online learning.


  • 12 June saw the eighteenth day of no local COVID-19 transmissions in Thailand. The government therefore announced the fourth phase of COVID-19 restriction easing which covered 25 types of businesses and social activities, including the re-opening of international schools and tutorial education centres effective 15 June. The night curfew has also been lifted but international arrivals remain mostly prohibited.
  • Thai Airways International has delayed the resumption of scheduled international flights to 1 August 2020.
  • Thailand is ranked twelfth for Australia’s student visa grants as of 31 May, according to the Department of Home Affairs. There were a total of 12,517 Thai student visa holders, of which 14 per cent were outside Australia (1,706).


  • As of 10 June, Vietnam has been 55 days without any cases of community transmission. The most recent 102 confirmed cases are all people who arrived in Vietnam with COVID-19 and like all passenger arrivals were sent immediately to centralised quarantine.
  • Vietnamese carriers have resumed all domestic operations, while there is still no date set to resume international operations.
  • In the World Economic Outlook report, growth in Vietnam is forecast to slow to 2.7 per cent but remain ahead of other countries in the region.
  • The Ministry of Education and Training has confirmed the high school examination will be held on 9 and 10 August. Local universities and vocational colleagues can utilise exam results for recruitment.
  • During COVID-19, many higher education institutions proactively invested in online education. By end of April, there 98 higher education institutions were teaching online. Universities will continue to focus on the application of advanced technologies in the management and organisation of training activities while the Ministry of Education and Training will work on building a legal framework to enhance e-learning and development of open learning materials.
  • The vocational training sector is also investing in e-learning systems and digitalised content.
  • Vietnam will further accelerate the implementation of Vietnam Qualification Framework in vocational education and training, moving forward to the implementation of Mutually Recognition Agreements (MRA) among ASEAN countries. This will become a new opportunity for Australian VET providers to leverage the MRA for promoting partnerships with Vietnam and ASEAN countries in VET sector.


  • The European Commission has recommended a gradual reopening of the EU’s external borders from the beginning of July, opening first to countries with a similar epidemiological situation to the EU. Countries with an epidemiological situation that is worse than the EU would continue to face entry restrictions, however the EU Commission recommends that international students are exempted from these restrictions.


  • In an open letter, around 2,000 professors and lecturers from German universities and other colleges have called for a return to teaching in the presence of students.
  • Universities had started the current summer semester in April as an "online semester" due to the coronavirus pandemic. The summer semester officially runs until 30 September, with the semester break taking place in July and August, depending on the university.


  • Enrolments for summer university courses in Sweden are up 57 per cent on last year to 72,000. The Swedish government funded an additional 6,000 places in April in response to the pandemic. The largest increase in demand was for nursing related courses which were up nearly 400 per cent.

United Kingdom

  • As part of plans to re-open campuses, Universities UK, the peak body for higher education, has announced a policy to keep students in ‘protective bubbles’ where they live and study together in small groups. Some universities, include Brunel, are offering international students the option to start courses in January if they cannot travel in September. Students must decide by 18 June whether they will enrol in university for the new academic year.
  • A survey by QS Education has revealed that 57 per cent of international student respondents would not return to the UK to take their degree if it were taught online and would expect a discount on their course if it were delivered online. 30,000 students from China, India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Vietnam participated in the survey.
  • The British Council reports that UK universities expect 14,000 fewer students from East Asia next year, a 12 per cent drop in enrolments compared 2019-20 and a decrease of £463m in tuition and accommodation fees.


  • Spain has issued new guidelines for the safe return to school in the fall which include reduced distancing between students and classrooms of no more than 20 students.
  • Every school will have to draft a plan for the start of the new academic year, and protocols to deal with potential new outbreaks.
  • After months of remote learning, students will go back to their classrooms in September. Teachers’ unions, as well as numerous school principals and education experts, believe that remote learning is not working well and have warned that remote learning can be a particularly disadvantage for children from low-income families.


  • In 2020, 142 organisations involved in R&D will receive 9.1 billion rubles (approx. AU$190 million) to modernise their equipment in the framework of the national project “Science”. The new equipment will have a significant impact on the development of breakthrough technologies and help accelerate research in priority areas, including in the fields of metallurgy, counter-terrorism, technological disasters, micro and nanoelectronics. Renewed labs are also expected to attract the best researchers and increase the competitiveness of Russian organisations.
  • The Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and Arctic has proposed to establish the Institute of Arctic Development at the base of the Northern (Arctic) Federal University in Arkhangelsk. The institute will focus on applied research and development in the field of the socio-economic development of the region. The university, as an education export stakeholder, plays an important role in the development of academic mobility and digital economy in the Arctic. It plans to diversify education programs, including those focused on continuing education and professional training, including in the field of telemedicine, robotics and mechatronics, artificial intelligence and others.
  • The Rector of the Higher School of Economics stated at the QS World University Rankings 2020/21 online conference that the number of online students at the university is two and a half times higher than the number of students attending offline classes. He argued that the availability of online education should be added to criteria used by ranking agents for evaluating universities.
  • The First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education and Science proposed to keep the procedure of passing state exams at schools introduced recently due to COVID. He suggested that state exams should be taken only by those who plan to enter universities (approximately 80-85 per cent of the total 1 million graduates). This will encourage students who are concerned with the test, particularly from remote regions who tend to leave schools for VET colleges after Grade 9, to continue their studies. Such measures will also support local schools with filling classes at Grades 11-12.

Czech Republic

  • The Charles University in Prague has launched a think tank “Education21” (Vzdělávání21). The aim of the professional platform is to systematically improve education and enhance modern teaching approaches and methods. The first topic will be distance learning/teaching and its integration into education.
  • The COVID-19 situation in education has proven that educational programs are oversaturated with content and need to be revised to focus on key topics. One of the tools the initiative wishes to use is finding and updating examples of best practice.


  • In response to school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Slovak Ministry of Education will provide EUR 500,000 to support local summer school programs. Each applicant (parent) may apply for up to three one-week programs, for their children to a value of up to EUR 2,600.
  • This initiative should serve as preparation for a return to regular classes in September and will support children who may have lagged behind during the three months of distance learning, due to reasons such as a lack of IT equipment or a difficult family situation.

Middle East and Africa


  • The education sector received the highest allocation of $7.11 billion AUD or 26.7 per cent of the 2020/2021 Kenyan national budget. This will be allocated across various government programs such as free primary and secondary education and improving school infrastructure. More Technical and Vocational training centres are to be constructed. $11.1 million AUD has been allocated for the digital literacy programme and the implementation of the competency based curriculum that was announced by the Ministry of Education in 2017.
  • Over 2000 students who attained the minimum grade to join a local university in Kenya have opted to join Technical and Vocational Education institutions. This is a major shift which highlights the changing perception of technical courses among students. The government has been advocating for TVET in the country.


  • Tanzania took the lead in the East African region in opening up universities and other institutions of higher learning on 1 June 2020. The re-opening of primary and secondary schools will be delayed.

South Africa

  • The majority of South African schools have reopened for face-to-face teaching of Grades 7 and 12 only with physical distancing measures in place. Parents who don't want to send their children back to school must continue home schooling to the end of September.


  • The Ministry of Education announced a phased reopening of pre-primary schools from 22 June, 2020, along strict guidelines for social distancing, hygiene and physical safety.
  • The Ministry of Health will conduct training to all pre-primary teachers to prepare them to deal with the challenges of COVID-19 at schools.


  • There is increasing Canadian recruitment and promotion activity in the Turkish market. Canadians have shifted their strategy and are much more active on different digital platforms. Canadian institutions are quite visible on social media and education agents are expecting an increase in the Canadian figures when COVID- related travel bans end.
  • A significant number of government scholarship student placements are currently at decision stage. Due to the COVID crisis they are reconsidering their preferences across a range of countries including Canada, Australia and Ireland. Australia's border policy and the ability of international students to travel in the next 6 months will impact on decision making.
  • On 5 June, the Ministry of Education announced that schools will be opened on 31 August and commence with face to face education again.
  • The current academic year will cease on 19 June 2020, and until then all education will continue online. The Higher Education Institutions Exam (YKS) will be held on 20-21 June 2020.

North Asia


  • China's Ministry of Education issued an alert regarding studying in Australia on 9 June aimed at Chinese students. The alert stated that the COVID-19 pandemic has not been effectively controlled globally and there are still risks in international travel and the opening of campuses. It noted that during the pandemic, there were multiple discriminatory incidents against Asians in Australia and reminded all Chinese students to undertake a risk assessment and be cautious in choosing to study in, or return to, Australia.
  • Chinese government funding of education totalled RMB 5.02 trillion in 2019, an increase of 8.74 per cent over 2018, which accounted for 5 per cent of the country’s total GDP. Preschool, Compulsory education (Years 1 to 9), Senior Higher Education and Higher Education saw an increase of funding of 11.63 per cent, 9.12 per cent, 7.53 per cent and 11.99 per cent respectively.
  • The Chinese government is taking steps to curb a new cluster of local COVID-19 infections in Beijing that has led to more than 50 new cases in the city since Thursday, including shutting down a major wholesale market linked to the new infections. The government has also imposed a partial lockdown in the vicinity of the market and ramped up mass testing and screening in key areas. As a result of the new cluster, Beijing has also suspended the resumption of classes for first to third graders in primary schools.


  • 42 local governments including Tokyo Metropolitan Government (with 5221 public schools) will shorten their summer holidays this year by between 10 and 24 days to compensate for the time lost due to COVID-19 school closures. For Tokyo Metropolitan Government schools, the summer holidays will run from 8-23 August and winter holidays will run from 26 December to 3 January 2021. This will inhibit study tours during the holidays.
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Government will expand the financial support it provides to students studying at private schools, given the reduction in household incomes due to COVID-19. During the current financial year, households with an annual income less than JPY 9,100,000 (AUD $121,000) will be eligible for tuition fee deductions for children studying at private schools, up to a maximum of JPY 461,000 (AUD $6,100).

Latin America


  • As at 12 June, the total number of confirmed cases in Argentina is 27,373, with 772 deaths. Of those confirmed, 10,542 (38.5 per cent) are cases of community circulation.
  • Social, preventive and compulsory distancing remains until 28 June, 2020.
  • The law on Distance Education was adopted by Parliament this week, allowing this type of delivery for compulsory Education under special circumstances.
  • In order to avoid desertion at university entrance, progress will be made in planning an extension in the presentation of documentation that proves the completion of secondary studies for students who are currently in their fifth or sixth year. The objective is to contain and respond to those who have seen their last year of compulsory education abruptly modified in the context of the pandemic.


  • 220,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 10,026 patients are hospitalized, of which 1,069 are in intensive care with mechanical ventilation and 6,308 deaths until today.
  • The president of the Congress Education Commission, Luis Dioses, reported this week that the proposal to create a higher authority above the National Superintendence of University Higher Education (Sunedu), which was to be in charge of reviewing licenses and denials, has been withdrawn as part of the university reform.


  • 850,514 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 42,720 deaths. Brazil has had the third-most COVID-19 deaths in the world. Social distancing measures remain until at least by the end of the month.
  • Following the US‘s lead, the European union is set to temporarily ban Brazilians from entering its borders until the country’s pandemic situation improves.
  • The State Government of Sao Paulo recently announced that the state-run Butantan Biological Institute will partner with Sinovac Biotech, a privately held Beijing-based lab, to produce a COVID-19 vaccine. The potential vaccine is entering its final phase of testing.
  • According to a study conducted by a prestigious business and economics school in Sao Paulo, Insper, the disruption of classes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic could cause Brazil’s GDP to fall by as much as 23 per cent. The lost academic year and premature market entry would result in a less skilled workforce entering a slow job market.


  • Official data states that 146,837 persons have been infected with COVID-19 and 17,141 deaths as a result. There are currently 22,398 active cases.
  • The country will start the re-opening process on 15 June.


6,938 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in Chile, increasing the total number of cases to 174,293, with a total number of deaths of 3,323. Santiago, is still in total lockdown mode until Friday 19 June and likely to be extended until end of June, as cases continue to rise.

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 2,033,000 and 99,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.


  • The Canada Trade Commission organised an EduCanada virtual fair for Asia and Latin America stakeholders.
  • ICEF Monitor hosted a webinar on how the Canadian education sector is responding to the pandemic. 88 per cent of education agents who attended responded that Canada is an attractive destination in light of how Canada is handling the pandemic.

United States

  • A group of bipartisan representatives are seeking to preserve the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows foreign students to work in the United States for up to three years after completing their academic studies. International students and their families contributed approximately $41 billion to the economy in 2018-2019 alone, despite making up just 5.5 per cent of overall US college enrolments. The request comes in response to media reports that the Trump Administration is planning an executive order to limit the OPT program and thereby decrease the number of international students studying in the United States.
  • Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing titled, “COVID-19: Going Back to College Safely.” Witnesses discussed their universities’ plan for testing, social distancing, and responding to positive cases when schools return in the fall. Senators discussed options to better support students and universities in the next COVID-19 legislation, suggesting increasing direct financial aid to students and universities as a viable option.
  • The Department of Education has determined that unauthorized and international students are ineligible for federal coronavirus relief. The "interim final rule" restricts Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grants to students who are eligible for Title IV aid, which would exclude those populations.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education are tracking more than 950 (+150) colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall, with:
    • Planning for in-person (67 per cent, -1 per cent)
    • Proposing a hybrid model (8 per cent, +2 per cent)
    • Considering a range of scenarios (9 per cent, no change)
    • Planning for online (8 per cent, +1 per cent)
    • Waiting to decide (7 per cent -1 per cent)
  • A survey by America’s Promise University of 13-19 year olds saw more than 75 per cent of respondents have been showing up for online classes at least four days a week, but they’re generally spending less time on learning than if they were in school.

South Asia


  • COVID-19 cases continue to rise in India. The urban centres of Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai are reporting significant rise in infections. The spike in cases has bought the country's total cases tally to nearly 280,000. India is currently the fourth worst country impacted by the pandemic. The Indian government insists that India is "definitely not" in the community transmission stage of the coronavirus pandemic, amid speculation over the past few days.
  • Due to the uncertainty over COVID-19, India’s outward remittances for education have dropped by 84 per cent from A$740 million in January 2020 to A$114 million in April 2020, according to a leading business newspaper. Market experts have suggested that this drop is due to uncertainty over international travel, on-campus studies, dwindling job prospects in foreign countries and fear of contracting coronavirus infection.
  • Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has announced Australia Virtual Masterclass Series, an initiative by Austrade, on their website inviting school leaders to register for the sessions as a professional development opportunity and enable educators to smoothly transition to online teaching. There are six masterclasses scheduled for schools in India and Middle East from 15-23 June 2020 delivered by some of the leading Australian universities.
  • At a recent webinar on online education conducted by Indian think tank Observer Research Foundation suggested that the sudden shift from face-to-face education to online platforms, termed as ‘Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT)’, is different from online education which is a well-established practice, as teachers & students grapple with digital transition. It was discussed that the effective way to teach students in India is through learner centric model for course design and delivery.
  • With the current ongoing interest in Digital education, Tamil Nadu Government’s Education Minister has recently launched ‘complimentary’ online classes for Accountancy. This announcement has come as the country requires more Chartered Accountants and the government is encouraging the students in the state to utilise this opportunity. The course will be launched as a foundation course from 10 June until 20 September 2020 in order to prepare for further courses and exams in the future. Another new trend picking up in the state is ed-tech start-ups offering free learning solutions to teachers across various schools on methods to adopt digital learning. Methods like breaking up the classes into different useful sessions, screen sharing and converting documents into pdf/digital versions are being taught.
  • Less than 40 per cent of students get formal internships before entering the job market. In an effort to minimise the gap, the Government of India through Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) and Housing & Urban Affairs unveils an ambitious project to offer 10 million student internships in government departments, urban local bodies and smart cities in the next few years. India has a substantial pool of technical graduates and it provides rising opportunity to Australian universities and corporates in reaching out to Indian universities and colleges to provide internships in Australia (virtually or physically) and branding Australia as a favourable destination for their higher education and research.


  • Bangladesh parliament will go into session on Wednesday for the national budget for fiscal year 2020-21 as Bangladesh grapples with a worsening coronavirus epidemic.

Sri Lanka

  • Sri Lanka expects to hold a delayed parliamentary election on 5 August 2020. The election was originally scheduled for 25 April 2020, having been postponed due to the pandemic.

If you have questions, please contact Austrade offices in market who can direct and assist in your enquiry.