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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 23 June 2020)

23 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


  • Corporate interests, both domestic and international are working with Indonesia to deliver educational content during COVID-19.
    • The Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC) has officially partnered with Netflix, to televise home learning programs. Starting 20 June, 2020, Netflix will broadcast documentaries through the Indonesian National Television (TVRI). Education Minister Nadiem Makarim, outlined that the Home Learning Program (through the TVRI), is intended to help students, parents and teachers who have limited internet access.
    • Telkomsel, the largest telecommunication company in Indonesia, has launched a free package called Ilmupedia (translates to Knowledge-pedia), which allows students from various universities, to access e-learning services via major Indonesian educational apps including Quipper, Zenius, Udemy, Sekolah.mu, Rumah Belajar, Cakap, and Bahaso, as well as other campus e-learning websites.


  • While the spread of the COVID-19 virus appears to have slowed, Myanmar authorities have encouraged the public to remain careful, to avoid a second wave of contamination. On 12 June 2020, the government announced an extension of the current set of preventive measures until 30 June. For instance, wearing a mask in public will remain compulsory, and the curfew from midnight to 4.00am will remain enforced.
  • In order to continue an effective response, Myanmar has decided to also extend the imposed entry restriction measures until 30 June 2020. The restrictions include:
    • Precautionary measures for all travelers visiting Myanmar: and
    • Temporary suspension of all types of visas (including social visit visas, visa on arrival and e-visa), and visa exemption services.
  • Meanwhile, several measures will be significantly relaxed:
    • In Yangon, semi-lockdown orders for all the townships have been lifted, except in Insein, where a cluster still exits.
    • Gatherings of more than five people are now allowed in government departments, organisations, companies, factories and workshops as well as in public, private and monastic schools in accordance with the health ministry guidelines.
    • Domestic airlines have also resumed flights.
  • The Minister for Education participated as a panelist in a DFAT-World Bank joint webinar: The COVID-19 Pandemic: Shocks to Education and Policy Responses. The Minister spoke about the delivery of online training for teachers. Feedback so far demonstrates a great response throughout the country.. The Ministry of Education is planning to distribute over 20 million face masks and other disease-prevention items to students, teachers and other education staff as they prepare to reopen schools on 13 July.

The Philippines

  • Opportunities to engage in large scale training for organisations that offer Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) jobs, is foreseen in the coming months. This is based on major IT-BPO companies announcing that they would need 4,000 roles to be filled by this September, upskilling/reskilling will be critical to meet industry needs under the new normal.
  • Opportunities exist for edtech organisations to work with the Philippine National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), underscored by the importance of digital transformation in the private sector and most especially, in government offices. According to NEDA Secretary Karl Chua, structural reforms are important to allow the government to continue to provide social services and training and for people and businesses to be able to transact with the government. Learning programs such as using electronic media in facilitating training, developing blended training curriculum, and facilitating online learning sessions are needed to help the government upskill the workforce amidst the pandemic.
  • DFAT assisted the creation of a multi-platform communication system in support of the implementation of the Philippine Department of Education’s (DepEd) Learning Continuity Plan in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The communication system includes SMS gateway service or text blasts, a mechanism for virtual meetings, remote work collaboration, revival of the Ministry’s Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE) radio station, the use of a two-way radio communication for communities not covered by SMS or the Internet and mobilising teachers and volunteers to be sent to crucial areas in the region.


  • Austrade Bangkok has launched its contribution to the #InThisTogether initiative. Representatives from 35 Australian education institutions contributed video messages of support and encouragement to students and education agents in Thailand and Laos, and looking forward to welcoming them back to Australia. The two videos (in Thai and in English) are now live on the StudyAU Official YouTube Channel.
  • From 1 July, Thai schools will be able to re-open as scheduled. This will occur in shifts, with two groups alternating between online and on campus study.
  • Thailand’s Office of the Civil Service Commission has accredited online degrees, for its civil servants. Previously, applicants for government positions needed to hold degrees gained only through on-campus study. The rules have now changed to reflect the current situation, where many students have had to revert to online study during the recent lockdown measures.
  • UK specialist education agents in Thailand have advised that several UK universities have launched new policies to reduce both the academic entry requirements and IELTS scores in order to attract more students from Thailand to the UK next year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, universities have offered January as an additional intake for new international students. Usually, the majority of students commence their academic year in September.
  • Thailand’s education agents association, TIECA is working with the Chinese Government’s education promotion agency to organise a Study in China exhibition in Bangkok in October this year. Around 100 education institutions from China are expected to participate in the event.


  • As of 19 June, Vietnam has been 64 days without any cases of community transmission. 325 affected patients out of the 342 confirmed COVID-19 cases have recovered and been discharged from hospitals. Most recent confirmed cases are all people who arrived in Vietnam with COVID-19 who were then sent immediately to centralised quarantine.
  • Vietnam is now discussing a step-by-step approach to reopen air routes with China, South Korea and Japan in line with COVID-19 prevention and control measures. This arrangement is prioritised for experts and labourers from these countries to return to Vietnam for work and for Vietnamese interns and workers to travel to these countries.
  • The Ministry of Education and Training has confirmed the high school examinations will be held on 9 and 10 August. Local universities and vocational colleagues can use exam results for recruitment.
  • During COVID-19, many higher education institutions proactively invested in online education with a total 98 higher education institutions deploying online teaching.
  • For vocation education and training, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has asked vocational training organisations to invest in e-learning systems and to digitalise learning content, as well as drafting methods for online payment of tuition fees.
  • 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. In May, the Directorate of Vocational Education and Training called for a meeting, seeking the inputs of VET policy experts on the roll-out of this framework and the ASEAN Qualification Reference Framework in 2020. 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 launched a public consultation to invite feedback from citizens, as well as public and private institutions and organisations, regarding their vision for the future of digital education during the pandemic recovery period and beyond. The consultation will be open until 3 September, and input willinform the Commission’s Digital Education Action Plan, which is to be launched in September 2020. Digital transformation is a key priority for the Commission and the proposed Action Plan will be designed to provide support in adapting to the digital transition and helping to ensure a fair and inclusive recovery for all.


  • France has lifted a number of restrictions, including the reopening of many schools. It has also been announced that international students will be able to enter France from 1 July.

United Kingdom

  • On 16 June 2020, the UK Home Office announced new guidance relating to student visas including:
    • The two-year post-study work visa will be introduced as planned in the summer of 2021
    • Students may count online studies undertaken outside the UK towards their post-study work eligibility. In order to qualify, students must enter the UK on or before 6 April 2021, and will be required to complete (at least), a final semester in the country
    • Students whose visas expire between 24 January and 31 July 2020, who would otherwise be unable to extend in-country, will be able to apply for (under exception) further leave within the UK
    • The limit of 20 working hours per week during term time has been relaxed for students in specific health care fields
    • Tier 4 students with work rights whose sponsor suspends all study as a result of COVID-19 will be permitted to work full-time during this period
    • Until 31 July 2020, students undertaking short-term studies in UK may apply for a Tier 4 visa ‘on an exceptional basis’ with some restrictions


  • The German federal education ministers decided that all German schools should be back in normal operation after the summer holidays — provided the local infection situation allows it. This also means there will no longer be any mandatory distancing rules.

Czech Republic

  • Within five days of national school lockdown commencing, Czech Television launched a unique educational TV broadcasting program “UčíTelka” (“TV teacher”). During the emergency period more than a third of school children (some 600,000 students) watched the program, which consisted of a daily block of three hours for year one-five students and two hours for year six-nine students. The show concluded on 19 June, with 66 programs airing during the lockdown. All broadcasting sessions will continue to be available on the website of Czech TV and can be used by parents and children as a source for learning and practice.


  • In 2020, local applications to universities have largely been submitted remotely, either through the universities’ electronic information systems, via the government online service “Enrolling in a university online”, or through public mail service providers. Names of successfully enrolled students will be published on 26 August. Additional places for Bachelor programs will be announced by 15 September.
  • Lomonosov Moscow State University (MGU), Russia’s flagship education institution, opened applications for foreign students from 15 June. Education in Semester One is offered online, which may change if the COVID-19 situation improves. Of 8,000 students from 75 countries studying at MGU main campuses, 50 per cent are students from Asia Pacific countries and 30 per cent are from former Soviet Republics.
  • The Deputy Minister of Education Dmitry Glushko, advised that the new academic year at secondary schools is planned in full-time format from 1 September. It is unlikely the schools will continue to work remotely.


  • A study undertaken by AlmaLaurea in Italy in the first five months of 2020, has revealed a 9 per cent decrease in employment for new graduates in the year following their graduation, in comparison with last year. A decrease in employment was registered for almost all study disciplines.
  • The Ministry for Universities and Research, with the support of the University Rectors Association and in collaboration with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry for Internal Affairs, is inviting international students who need a visa to pre-enrol via the Universitaly website.

Middle East and Africa

United Arab Emirates

  • The UAE Ministry of Education has announced that they are considering the possibility of reopening educational institutions, including the reopening of public and private universities and schools in September 2020. Schools are looking at creating micro-groups of students, who can arrive at different times and stay in their own zones, if schools re-open in September. The UAE’s current academic year ends on 2 July with the new academic year commencing on 30 August.

South Africa

  • The Department of Basic Education (DBE) has published the new school calendar for the 2020 academic year, which has been significantly shortened due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Grades 7 and 12 students returned to school on 8 June, and there will be a phased approach for the remaining students to return. Early Childhood Development and Grades 1, 2, 3, 6, 10 and 11 will return on 6 July, and the remainder will return on 3 August.
  • Under Level Three (current), universities are allowed a maximum of 33 per cent of the student population to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences on condition that they can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the Department.


  • Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) confirmed that the June 2020 exams will start on 29 June, 2020 to 14 July, 2020. Initially, this would have been postponed due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 induced lockdown, however students sitting important exams have been given priority to proceed. Education agents are planning virtual recruitment fairs with Australian universities after exams.


  • The Head of the Ministry of Science's e-learning working group has noted, that due to the current trends of coronavirus in Iran, it is highly likely that all universities will start their next semester using virtual education.


  • The Minister for Education indicated that national examinations for 2021 will be conducted and released by April 2021, if schools open in September. This will impact the February 2021 intake for Australian Institutions, as some agents indicate that they get a bigger number of students from the national system — Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). In the event that schools do not open in September, the Minister indicated that there would be consultations on merging the 2020 exams with 2021 in November 2021. The new school calendar is expected in August.
  • Education agents have started to open their offices, maintaining a small team of staff to handle walk in enquiries and students scheduled on appointment. Agents recognise the proactivity that Australian universities have shown in engaging them during this time.


  • Ghana has begun a phased approach to re-open schools and universities. Between 15–29 June, final year students of universities, senior year high schools and junior high schools will resume classes. Social distancing, reduced class numbers and school time (9am–1pm) will apply. All other educational facilities, private and public for non-final year students will remain closed. Around 800,000 students, teachers and non-teaching staff are expected at various school premises nationwide.


  • The Government has announced the re-opening of schools will occur when the ban on interstate travel is lifted. This comes after student groups have asked the government to re-open schools and waive approximately 60 per cent of tuition fees, for students to cushion the effects of the pandemic. The Nigerian government announced it is resuming the payment of fees for Nigerian students on scholarships abroad.

North Asia


  • The Ministry of Education and seven other departments have issued a new guideline (in Chinese language) reiterating that China will continue to cultivate talent for its modernisation drive, by encouraging students to study abroad, and the Ministry will continue to expand cooperation with other countries and offer more opportunities for overseas study for Chinese students. This cooperation will cover higher education, basic education, and vocational training, according to the guideline stated on the Ministry's website. The guideline proposes the following:
    1. A strengthening of the "Study in China" brand;
    2. The encouragement of domestic universities to run joint-degree programs with foreign providers and the mutual recognition of academic credits and diplomas;
    3. The expansion of online education internationally; and
    4. The provision of high-quality international education to schools in the central and western regions of China through digital channels
  • According to the National Health Commission, students from moderate to high risk regions for COVID-19, should wear masks when taking the National College Entrance Exam (gaokao) this year. The gaokao will be the largest organised set of gatherings in China since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. All students and monitors will undergo 14-day health monitoring and temperature checks before the gaokao, and their temperature will be checked before they enter gaokao testing centres.
  • On 16 June 2020, a popular Wechat account followed by Chinese students in Australia (or who are considering study in Australia) published an article “Which are the best countries to study abroad in 2021”. The article shared the results of the Global COVID-19 Index (GCI) developed by PEMANDU Associates in collaboration with Malaysia’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, which found that Australia is ranked number one in the world in terms of recovery from COVID-19. In contrast, Canada is ranked 105, Singapore 120, the US at 125, France at 148 and the UK at 154. The article suggested that although traveling and studying abroad was risky during the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia appeared to be in a much better position than many other countries. The article also included a survey in which students were asked to indicate where they wished to study in 2021 with Australia receiving the highest number of votes.


# of votes

per cent of vote



14 per cent



43 per cent



10 per cent



6 per cent



9 per cent



14 per cent


  • Some education agents have reported that the number of enquiries they are receiving about studying abroad is increasing compared to March and April, suggesting that students’ appetite for studying abroad is starting to return. Owing to positive news about Australia and New Zealand’s management of COVID-19 in local media, Japanese students are reported to feel especially positive about studying in Australia and NZ.
  • The Ministry of Education (MEXT) has published its COVID-19 education compensation package’. The package encourages local boards of education to liaise with the community, to ensure extra teachers are employed to support students’ learning. MEXT will also subsidise schools for the cost of purchasing medical and learning equipment, up to JPY 2,000,000 (AUD $27,500) for primary and junior high schools and JPY 3,000,000 (AUD $41,300) for high schools and special education schools. To catch up with the curriculum students will have extra classes, schools will hold classes on Saturdays, and both summer and winter holidays will be shortened.

Latin America


  • The total number of confirmed cases in Argentina is 37,510, of which 954 have died. Of these confirmed cases, 1,049 (2.8 per cent) are imported, 14,420 (38.4 per cent) come from contact with infected people, and 15,347 (40.9 per cent) are cases of community circulation.
  • The Ministry of Education began the implementation of the National Evaluation of the Pedagogical Continuity Process, in which 30,000 teachers and principals and 2,800 families participate, to obtain precise information on the response of the Argentine educational system in the context of the COVID-19 health emergency. Throughout this week, 5,000 executives from all over the country have answered the online questionnaire. Participating schools are part of a random sample of the 52,000 institutions across the country, at the kindergarten, primary and secondary levels.


  • On Sunday 22 June, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 5,607 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in Chile, increasing the total number of cases to 242,355, with a total number of deaths of 4,479.
  • It is expected the peak of COVID-19 infections in Santiago will be reached in the next 14 days, which is still on total lockdown mode, until Friday 26 June. This will probably to be extended until end of June, as cases are still growing in some areas of the city.


  • The Ministry of Health has reported that in Peru, to date, there are 204,952 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 10,297 patients have been hospitalised, of which 1,111 are in intensive care with mechanical ventilation, while 9,623 deaths have been recorded in total.
  • The Austrade LATAM team delivered a targeted agent webinar, focused on the state and territory welfare measures on 24 June.


  • On Sunday 21 June, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 1,085,038 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 50,617 deaths. However, actual cases are almost certainly higher, as official figures have been compromised by system glitches, causing underreporting in several states.
  • On Thursday 18 June, Brazil's Education Minister, Abraham Weintraub, announced his resignation. The government has yet to announce Brazil's new Minister.
  • Brazilian researchers in the state of Sao Paulo are developing a voice-based COVID-19 diagnosis. The project is spearheaded by the Artificial Intelligence Center and backed by the Sao Paulo Research Support Foundation (Fapesp).

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 2,191,000 and 101,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.

United States

  • A webinar by Professionals in International Education saw 71 per cent of educator and webinar attendees saying their institution had not yet begun to map out autumn 2020 international recruitment travel, as many recruitment and marketing departments facing budgets cuts.
  • A cost analysis by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, said that reopening schools could take an average district nearly $1.8 million in unbudgeted expenses.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education are tracking more than 985 (+35) colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall, with
    • Planning for in-person (65 per cent, -2 per cent)
    • Proposing a hybrid model (14 per cent, +6 per cent)
    • Considering a range of scenarios (8 per cent, -1 per cent)
    • Planning for online (8 per cent, no change)
    • Waiting to decide (5 per cent -2 per cent)
  • A survey by the National Association of College and University Business Officers saw returns from college endowments were down 13.4 per cent on average, in the first quarter of the 2020 calendar year.
  • A survey by Consortium for School Networking on school IT leaders saw 42 per cent of respondents seeing a decrease in their IT budget.
  • A survey by the Center for Reinventing Public Education, saw a third of school districts have provided clear expectations for how teachers should provide instruction and track students’ participation and progress. They also note that teachers are likely “going beyond their district’s expectations to continue instruction,” but that a lack of specific guidance can result in wide variation, and that there is a urban-rural.
  • A survey by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, saw that 47 per cent of financial aid offices at colleges and universities saw an increase this year in the total number of requests for professional judgment, compared to the previous year. In addition, 90 per cent of them anticipate experiencing an increase in professional judgment requests in the next quarter.

South Asia


  • India this week passed the 400,000 mark for total infections. The country has been registering record single-day spikes for the past four days. Delhi has become the state with the second-highest number of confirmed infections.
  • Austrade is engaged in outreach with international students working on the frontline of the current pandemic. Through this ‘Act of kindness’ student outreach campaign, Austrade has recognised the contributions of International students — especially those of Indian origin, towards Australia’s fight against COVID-19. In the first week of the campaign, Austrade created 12 Videos, including five ‘Thank you videos’ from Australian Icons such Adam Gilchrist and David Warner. Through this social media activity, there have been approximately 600,000 impressions generated across a range of channels including YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.
  • The 2020 National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) for educational institutions, has been released by The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). NIRF is an annual ranking that was launched in 2015, and the first rankings were released in 2016. NIRF ranks the institutes on the basis of five parameters — teaching and learning resources, research and professional practice, graduation outcome, overall inclusivity and perception. For 2020, IIT Madras and IISc Bangalore have secured the top two positions, followed by IIT Delhi. These rankings act as a guide to students, and help universities to improve their performance, and to identify gaps in research. The rankings are listed at MHRD website.
  • After requests and appeals from parents on social media against the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in conducting pending exams, the Supreme Court of India has instructed the board to consider cancelling the pending board exams for grade 11 and 12. Board exams for senior secondary classes, directly affects the pipeline of students for international education for further studies. If cancelling the results is allowed on the basis of already held internal school exams, students will then no longer have to wait to apply to international universities for further education.

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