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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 25 August 2020)

25 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



  • On August 21, the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture (MoEC) participated in a virtual ‘Founders Meeting’ of the UK-Indonesia Consortium for Interdisciplinary Sciences (UKICIS) and discussed potential collaboration between universities in research related to handling COVID-19.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, several universities in Indonesia have supported government through various innovations and research. For example, more than 11 types of ventilators have been developed by universities with Indonesian research centres.


  • To complement the Philippine Commission on Higher Education’s (CHED) PHL CHED CONNECT online resources platform, CHED recently launched the Hi-Ed Bayanihan program. This aims to prepare higher education institutions to transition to online teaching delivery. CHED has partnered with various universities and industry associations to provide free training to faculty members on online teaching.
  • The Philippine Department of Education has deferred the start of the school year for public schools from 24 August to 5 October 2020 based on advice by the COVID-19 National Task Force. Parts of the country, including the National Capital Region, were placed back under stricter quarantine at the end of July. Whilst the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) could be lifted on 18 August, most public schools are not ready to deploy distance learning and handle the risks associated with the high level of COVID-19 transmissions. Private and Catholic Schools are still allowed to go ahead and open from 24 August onwards, provided that they only use ‘distance learning modalities’ and strictly adhere to the no face-to-face classes policy.
  • The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will be deploying a free contact tracing training program in September 2020. The graduates would then be employed by the Department of Health to boost the number of contact tracers in the country, especially outside Metro Manila.


  • The Singapore International School of Bangkok (SISB) recently announced it would close the Ekkamai campus in Bangkok as it was merging with the main campus located on Pracha-Thit Road effective from next academic calendar 2020/2021. SISB Ekkamai campus was its first campus, established in 2001. SISB currently owns five campuses in Thailand, which adopt the Singapore and UK curricula as the foundation for teaching and learning. The closure of their Ekkamai campus was planned a year ago due to decreasing enrolments from 80 to 40 students last academic year.
  • Members of the education agents association in Thailand, TIECA, have raised concerns about commission payment delays by private English language providers in several countries, including Australia. They are seeking deadlines for payment postponements to be set by providers, so they can better manage their income and cash flow.
  • Thailand is seeing an increasing trend of Thai parents moving their children from international schools in Thailand to study in bilingual Thai private schools in the current academic year due to financial impact from COVID-19. Bilingual schools are more affordable and maintain the use of English language as the medium of instruction.


  • On 14 August 2020, the Ministry of Education and Training of Vietnam (MOET) issued an official instruction to all city/provincial education authorities on delivering STEM education at school level. The document aims to raise awareness and build capacity for managers, school leaders and teachers on STEM education with detailed suggestions on STEM models and how to build and deliver lesson plans. This presents opportunities for Australian providers interested in Vietnam’s school sector and edtech market.
  • Also according to MOET, online teaching will be recognised as a formal method following months of experimenting as a result of the pandemic. The Ministry will soon finalise draft online teaching regulations for schools and education institutions. Once the regulations are in place, online teaching will be recognised as a formal teaching method. This presents opportunities for Australian International Education to share expertise, experience, best practices in delivering technology curriculum in Vietnam.
  • MOET is planning to implement the Vietnam National Qualifications Framework (VQF). The objective of the VQF is to have equivalent recognition of Vietnamese qualifications to those of regional and international qualifications to enable Vietnam to become a source of manpower to the world. This will present opportunities for Australian education providers to expand partnerships with Vietnam.
  • Vietnamese students abroad that returned home during the COVID-19 pandemic are permitted to study at domestic universities while they are in Vietnam. The universities are responsible for accepting overseas Vietnamese students upon their requests and capabilities to international training programs in English and joint-training programs with international universities. Universities were also considering credit exemptions for learners who had finalised similar studying programs in foreign countries in accordance with current regulations. This opens opportunities for Australian in-country delivery programs.


  • With reference to a rising number of COVID cases in some European countries, the UK has reintroduced a 14 day quarantine period for people entering from an increasing number of European countries, including Spain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Malta, Luxembourg and Austria. The US on the other hand has reopened its borders to all European students from the Schengen Area, UK and Ireland who already hold a valid study visa. The Schengen Area covers 26 European countries without border controls between them, excluding the UK and Ireland and the abovementioned continental European nations. The UK and the US are key destinations for continental European students who study abroad.

Czech Republic

  • A proposed amendment to the school law is being debated, which would introduce a requirement for students to participate in distance learning as part of their obligatory school attendance. This in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, when many schools were closed from mid-March until the end of the school year on 30 June. An estimated 10,000 children in the Czech Republic did not participate in distance learning during this time. The bill does not specify the form of distance learning, it only stipulates that schools should adapt to match children’s conditions.
  • The Education Minister declared all schools would open in September in their regular teaching mode.
  • The Education Ministry has been negotiating with the Ministry of Finance to provide extra funding to schools to purchase computers and software, as well as ensuring internet access, to support students from disadvantaged families. The funding to schools should amount to CZK 1.2 to 1.5 billion (AUD 73.5 to 92 million).


  • A record number of students passed the Baccalaureate school leaving exam this year, generating increased demand for university places. Due to the pandemic, the final assessment for the Baccalaureate was based on a review of the year’s work, instead of exams, which were cancelled. The Minister for Higher Education has advised an additional 10,000 university places will be created to cope with the surge in applications, with strong demand occurring in nursing, physiotherapy, paramedical subjects and social studies. Health and safety guidelines have been issued to facilitate the return of students to campus, although universities are advised to be prepared to offer remote learning, should public health guidelines change.
  • As one of the leading international student destinations in Europe, France is continuing to proactively promote study opportunities to prospective international students. While travel bans remain in place for some countries, international students from anywhere in the world are permitted to enter France, although some may be required to undertake a 14 day quarantine period depending on their country of origin. The government has prioritised student visa requests and implemented measures to support international students who remained in France during the lockdown period, including automatic 6 month resident permit renewals and extended working rights.


  • The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) announced the coronavirus bridging aid for students will be extended by one month, meaning students in pandemic-related emergencies could still apply for a non-repayable grant online during September. The grant has a value of up to 500 euros per month. To date, the bridging aid had been limited to the months of June to August.


  • From August 5 onwards, foreign students have the right to get a job in Russia without obtaining a special permit. The Chairman of the State Duma said this would assist Russian universities and vocational schools to double the number of foreign students enrolled.
  • The Deputy Prime Minister advised that 92 percent of universities plan to start the academic year from 1 September; the remainder may open by mid-September. Nonetheless, universities can postpone the beginning of the academic year depending on the situation in their region, for a maximum of two months. Schools will start on 1 September, in accordance with appropriate safety measures.


  • Schools will fully reopen in Slovakia on 1 September. The Education Ministry has been preparing guidelines for situations in which a student or teacher becomes infected, and has stated that another complete closure of all schools nationwide will not be considered as a solution to possible local COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Foreign students have already started arriving in Slovakia and are subject to the same health measures that apply to all foreign travellers. In some cases, self-isolation and a coronavirus test is required. Currently, no quarantine facilities are available, and students are left to their own devices to organise their quarantine, which they mostly do in short-term rental apartments. Universities are closely monitoring developments in the COVID-19 situation in Slovakia, which was very successful in containing the first wave but is experiencing increasing cases since the end of June.


  • The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) reported that despite fears the sector would see a significant decline in non-EU student acceptances due to the coronavirus pandemic, UK universities have witnessed a two percent increase in non-EU acceptances for the coming academic year taking the total to 35,010. In contrast, the number of EU student acceptances has dropped by 6.5 percent, totalling 22,420 for this year.
  • China, Hong Kong and India represent the largest increases in non-EU acceptances. Student acceptances from China had a 14 percent increase from 2019, taking the total to 8,570 for this year. The number of students from Hong Kong increased by 11 percent (totalling 3,340) and student numbers from India increased by 10.3 percent (totalling 2,680) over the same period.

Middle East and Africa

United Arab Emirates

  • The Knowledge and Human Development Authority has issued guidelines for reopening of universities in Dubai. One of the key highlights is that the Higher education institutions have to ensure that they provide online teaching to students who are unable to attend classes physically.
  • The Sharjah Private Education Authority has allowed schools to provide 100 per cent distance learning in the new academic year commencing from 30 August. Parents who are reluctant to send their children to school can choose the online option.
  • Under the “Emirati Programmer” initiative, the Emirates Talent Association and Hamdan Bin Mohammad Smart University has launched programmes focused on cloud computing, internet of things (IoT) and 3D printing. The initiative aims to increase the technology skills of Emirati national graduates.


  • Feedback from education agents in Kenya has confirmed the trial period for online classes offered by Australian universities has been well received and helped the Kenyan market explore this new learning option. Some challenges have been expressed by some students who started classes and chose to defer, including challenges with internet connectivity and time differences.


  • Schools opened to education (online) on 17 August and will continue this until at least 21 September. It is expected that after this date online education will continue rather than face to face classroom teaching.

North Asia


  • The Ministry of Education and the National Health Commission recently issued updated guidelines on COVID-19 control and prevention for all education institutions, including universities, primary and high schools, and kindergartens, to facilitate their reopening for the fall semester. Education institutions across the country will reopen on a staggered schedule in the coming weeks, and a number of universities and colleges in cities, including Beijing, welcomed their first students back last weekend. The guidelines stated that all teachers, students and staff from low-risk areas must present a green health code to be able to return to their educational institution. Those from medium-risk or high-risk areas require a negative COVID-19 nucleic acid test result in the week before they can return to campus.
  • In May 2020, the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE) issued a Notice encouraging Chinese universities to offer ‘Second Bachelor’s Degree programs’ (SBD) from 2020. This is a domestic higher education scheme that allows students to pursue a second Bachelor’s degree after successfully obtaining a first Bachelor’s degree. The SBD is different to a “double degree” or “double major”, both of which are offered while students are completing their first degree. It is also not considered a postgraduate degree despite the student having already obtained an undergraduate degree. A list of approved institutions to offer SBD in 2020 was published in July. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) has recently published a policy update on the SBD including an unofficial translation of the notice. Please refer to DESE’s website for further details.
  • According to a decision of the State Council, China will reform its qualification system for local teachers by cancelling the qualification exams undertaken by graduates majoring in education. By doing so, authorities aim to encourage more graduates to study education and expand employment in the sector.


  • The Chinese government has agreed to issue visas for Koreans including students, from 5 August 2020. In response to the pandemic, China banned the entry of foreigners from 28 March, including people holding valid visas and residence permits. China is the second preferred study destination after US with over 50,000 Korean students in 2019. South Korea would be the first country that China resumes some visa issuances to and can serve as an example as Beijing opens up to more countries.


  • The Government of Mongolia will open schools and kindergartens from 1 September (3 days classroom and 2 days online arrangement). Universities commence on 1 October 2020.

Latin America


  • San Juan province celebrated this week the return to 10,500 students to class. Classes will consist of a blended model between virtual and on-site sessions.
  • The National Teachers’ Training Institute (INFOD) developed a virtual teachers’ training package to support the return to normal classes. The 5 day course provides health, pedagogical and emotional support and care tools. In addition, specific content designed by the provinces will be added according to their needs. There are already 4 out of the 23 jurisdictions nominated to start: San Juan, Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero and Catamarca.
  • Formosa was the second province to reopen its schools this week. It will be in the rural area that comprises 10 of the 19 delegations of the Formosan territory and will include the reopening of 408 educational institutions that host 9,783 students of all levels.


  • On Monday 10th August, the Ministry of Education (MEC) stated that it plans to cut USD 7.7 billion in the discretionary budget (non-mandatory) expenses for 2021, a reduction of 18.2 per cent in relation to the budget approved for 2020. According to MEC, the percentage will be passed on to all areas of the ministry, including basic education and higher education. At higher education and technical institutions, the cut is expected to be USD 185 million. The National Association of Directors of Higher Education Federal Institutions (Andifes) is seeing a risk to research and teaching levels, as with these amounts it is likely that no institution will be able to fulfill its teaching, research and extension purposes in the next year.
  • Brazilian scientists from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro will soon announce a potential breakthrough in the fight against the COVID-19 at the National Academy of Medicine. Horses injected with Sars CoV-2 protein, responsible for the infection of human cells, developed neutralizing antibodies that were 20 to 50 times more potent against the coronavirus.


  • Areas of Santiago, such as Vitacura, Las Condes Lo Barnechea, La Reina, Nunoa have entered the second stage of the Government Plan ‘Paso a Paso’.
  • On 16 August, the two largest areas of Santiago – Santiago Centro and Estacion Central – will lift their lockdown.
  • The Chilean Government launched a US$32.000 million economic recovery plan on 16 August, focused on construction of infrastructure and grants.


  • Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) held its forecast that the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico will occur at the end of August.
  • The Minister of Education announced the school year 2020-2021 will start on 24 August with a plan that includes the support of public and private television stations. Face-to-face classes will not resume until each state is at a ‘green light’.
  • The National Association of Private Schools estimates that by the end of 2020, 40 per cent of private schools will be out of business. As a consequence of the economic situation a significant number of parents are no longer able to pay tuition; equally a significant number of parents are no longer willing to pay tuition for on-line education. This would result in almost 2 million children moving to the public system.


  • The governments of Peru and France, through the Ministry of Education and the French Embassy in Peru, respectively, signed an inter-institutional agreement that will allow students and teachers from high-performance schools (Coar) to have access to online classes in French.
  • The agreement will benefit 878 third-year high school students and one teacher for each of the 25 sites that make up the Coar network nationwide. With this, the Coars add an additional foreign language to their proposal, in addition to English.
  • The program lasts five months with 40 hours of classes, online assessments and access to a virtual library, which will be fully funded by the French embassy and operated through the French Alliance, a cultural institution with about 130 years of experience in teaching this language.

North America

Pearson’s Global Learning Survey has showed US and Canada respond on the following COVID related questions:
Question USA Canada
Primary and secondary education will fundamentally change because of the COVID-19 pandemic 81% (2nd highest) 71%
Colleges and universities will fundamentally change because of the COVID-19 pandemic 83% (highest) 82% (2nd highest)
Online learning will be a part of children's education experience moving forward 81% (lowest) 88%
Online learning will be part of the university experience moving forward 87% 89% (2nd highest)
When thinking about higher education, fewer people will go overseas for their studies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 78% (2nd lowest) 80%
When thinking about higher education, fewer people will be able to afford a university education as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 76% 72% (2nd lowest)
When thinking about higher education, fewer people will seek out traditional university degrees as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 71% (highest) 62% (2nd lowest)
The education system in my country has done a good job adapting to the needs of students during the COVID-19 pandemic. 63% 67%
The education system in my country has failed students during the COVID-19 pandemic. 37% 33%
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the digital divide more obvious between those who have access to technology for learning and those who don't. 83% (lowest) 84%
The COVID-19 pandemic will deepen inequalities among primary and secondary students. 72% 71%


United States of America

Government response

  • Department of State lifted the Global Level 4 Health Advisory. The Global Advisory, initially put in place on 19 March, 2020, advised U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.
  • In addition, the State Department have eased those restrictions for some visitors from Europe, specifically, those travelling from the Schengen Area, the UK, and Ireland with valid F-1 and M-1 visas, do not need to seek a national interest exception to travel. This would include students travelling from those specified European countries who already hold a valid study visa for the US may now enter the country.
  • Department of Education is appealing a ruling from a California judge that allows the state's community colleges to distribute federal coronavirus aid to unauthorised and international students. This follows the interim rule in June, where the Department blocked students who are ineligible for federal financial aid from receiving money under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
  • 75 Senators and members of Congress have signed a letter to acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, calling for a reversal of guidance that prohibits new international students with a full-time online course load from entering the U.S. in the fall semester.

Higher education response

  • Some universities, such as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame and Michigan State University, have had to shut down in person classes, due to new coronavirus cases.
  • In addition, universities, such as the University of Kentucky, University of Washington and West Virginia University, are publishing public dashboards showing how many coronavirus cases are occurring. While other universities, such as the University of Alabama, are looking for apps that screen for symptoms and trace contacts.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education and Davidson College’s College Crisis Initiative (C2i), are tracking 2,958 colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall, with universities
    • Primarily online 27% (+3% WoW)
    • To be determined 24% (-3% WoW)
    • Primarily in person 20% (no change WoW)
    • Hybrid 15% (-1% WoW)
    • Other 6% (+1% WoW)
    • Fully online 6% (+3% WoW)
    • Fully in person 2.5% (no change WoW)
  • The Council on International Educational Exchange have announced that a number of their U.S. colleges will offer in-person classes to international students unable to travel due to the global pandemic at turn-key campuses in several countries.
  • A third survey by SimpsonScarborough on Higher Education and COVID-19 saw
    • 40 percent of incoming freshmen who aspired to attend a four-year residential college say they are likely or highly likely to not attend any four-year college this fall.
    • 28 percent of returning students who have the option to return to their campus say they are not going back or haven't decided yet.
  • A survey by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing showed 60 per cent of four-year U.S. colleges will not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admission.
  • The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) wants colleges to re-evaluate the role of entrance exams, following a report detailing flaws with the SAT and ACT, some of which have worsened during the pandemic.

K-12 response

  • EdSurge and Social Context Labs, a data analytics firm, are monitoring 375 districts are planning throughout the fall, with
    • Top policy focuses for districts: attendance structure (100%), school safety precautions (42.1%) and connectivity (41.3%)
    • Top policy focuses on attendance structure: remote instruction (53.6%), computers available to students for remote/hybrid learning (41.1%), in-person instruction (38.7%)
  • Data from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) shows that 40 per cent of school districts that have announced reopening plans favouring full in-person instruction this fall, and 51 per cent of school districts with announced plans will provide in-person learning at least partially through a hybrid model.

South Asia


  • In a recent Bangladesh leader’s virtual summit, industry has raised concerns about lack of programs to train local people which results in over AUD $12b loss to economy. Bangladesh’s demand for skilling courses is in line with Austrade’s market strategy to engage Australian TVET players with the country’s top public universities to deliver skill training at scale.


  • Ministry of Education has released Atal Ranking on Institutions on Innovation Achievements (ARIIA) for the first time to systematically rank Indian higher education institutions on indicators related to innovation, start-up and entrepreneurship development. This showcases the Indian government’s increasing focus to build research ecosystem at sectoral level, and provides an opportunity for Australia institutions to support India’s aspiration of becoming global innovation hub.

NZ Pacific

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