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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 28 April 2020)

28 Apr 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
  • North America
  • Europe
  • Middle East and Africa
  • North Asia
  • Latin America
  • South Asia

Association of South East Asian Nations

Indonesia

  • Several cities in Indonesia, including Jakarta, Surabaya, and Bandung have begun implementing large-scale social restrictions (called PSBB), with the current phase ending May 22. During this period, schools and businesses have been ordered to close.
  • Indonesia’s Minister of Education has removed the national high school exam as a graduation requirement. The national exam usually takes place in March (senior high school), and April (junior high school). Public university entry testing has been postponed until June 2020.
  • The government has accepted the initial 168,111 recipients into the Kartu Prakerja (pre-work card) program. This program has been designed to provide funding for training to workers that have lost their jobs due to the impact of COVID-19. Applicants are eligible to receive training to a value of IDR1 million (A$100) via several online platforms, as well as cash incentives upon completion of training.
  • The East Java Education Department has extended the period of studying from home for senior high school level until 1 June 2020.
  • Commencing 13 April, Indonesia’s Ministry of Education started airing a Study-from-Home program on Indonesian national television (TVRI) as an alternative study source for students, teachers, and parents. This program provides study materials from kindergarten up to high school and is scheduled to continue until July 2020.
  • Online learning platforms and edtech companies such as Ruang Guru, Zenius, and Quipper are granting free access to their learning content as a marketing strategy for students and teachers to get accustomed to edtech.

Malaysia

  • The movement control order (MCO) extension to 12 May was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on 23 April 2020. The consensus has been shifting for the MCO to be extended until after Hari Raya (Eid), which means a 2.5-month lockdown.
  • The decision to reopen schools will only be made when the situation is truly back to normal. The reopening of schools will only involve classes for public examinations comprising Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM), Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) and Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM), as well as corresponding international examinations. When this date is determined, the public will be provided a 2-week notice.
  • Malaysia has directed the Ministry of Finance and the Economic Planning Unit and the Prime Minister’s Department to develop a comprehensive short-term, medium and long-term Economic Recovery Plan. The focus is now shifting towards identifying measures to stimulate economic growth. Some planned initiatives include building the capacity and skills of the people, promoting domestic spending, enhancing the resilience of industries and SMEs, and fostering a more positive investment environment for the future.

Philippines

  • The current Enhanced Community Quarantine has been extended to 15 May 2020 for several locations across the Philippines, including Metro Manila. The current restrictions remain, including working from home, no public transportation and school closures.
  • The Philippine Department of Education is considering starting in-person classes again in August instead of June. No final decision has been made.
  • Key international donors, including the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, US, Australia are coordinating efforts to support the Philippines with its education response to COVID-19.

Singapore

  • The Singapore Government has extended the country’s ‘Circuit Breaker’ (lockdown) measures to 1 June 2020, which means business activities in non-essential areas remain closed or shifted to online platforms.
  • The extension will impact education agent’s in-market events in preparation for Australia’s July intake. Local agents continue to explore virtual avenues to engage with students and parents.
  • Despite uncertainty for the upcoming July 2020 intake for enrolments into Australian universities, there have been new enquiries from junior colleges and polytechnics in Singapore regarding applications for February 2021, as the market is expecting COVID-19 to taper off by end of the year.
  • The Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) has shifted their academic calendar to be aligned with the other autonomous universities in Singapore to September, which will also accommodate to the polytechnic graduates.

Thailand

  • The Thai International Education Consultants Association (TIECA) held discussions with the Thai-Chamber of Commerce urging government support to education agents that have lost business due to travel restrictions on major study destinations.
  • Some Thai education agents have relocated their offices to their homes if they cannot afford office rent. Some have temporarily closed and are waiting until the situation returns to normal.  
  • Some well-established Thai education agencies have begun promoting online English-language courses and short vocational programs delivered by Australian education providers. These courses are aimed at Thai students who will then be able to continue studying in Australia when travel restrictions are lifted.
  • There is increasing demand for the delivery of Virtual Study Tours in Thailand students before they recommence formal face-to-face school programs from 1 July. This involves taking online English-language courses from home, delivered by Australian institutions, in addition to virtual tours visiting Australia highlights such as the Opera House, zoos, museums, sporting activities, and other venues.

Vietnam

  • Vietnam eased social distancing requirements on 23 April, though in some higher risk areas restrictions continue. While social isolation restrictions in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have also eased, enforced closures remain for bars, clubs, spas, theatres, sports centres and other entertainment facilities. Other restrictions include limitations on gatherings of more than 20 people in private events, and no gathering of more than 10 people in public.
  • The Ministry of Education and Training has reorganised the timetable of the second semester with the school curriculum being delivered online in March and April. The high school examination will now be held in August.
  • High schools and universities are scheduled to reopen from 4 May, while lower secondary schools, primary schools and kindergartens are expected to reopen a week later. 
  • The Ministry of Transport has approved an increase in the frequency of domestic flights on the Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City route, as well as reopening other domestic routes.
  • Austrade’s education team held a webinar on 17 April regarding COVID-19, which drew in over 200 Vietnamese agents.

Europe

  • Many countries are starting to gradually ease a limited number of restrictions, with most lockdown deadlines due to cease by mid-May. There will not be an immediate return to ‘normal’ however. Instead there will be a gradual, phased approach to re-opening that will be carefully monitored with a view to avoiding a second wave of infections. 
  • While there are significant differences between each country’s phased, post-lockdown approach to re-opening, in many countries universities will continue studying online through to the end of the academic year (with the possible exception of final exams). Some countries will gradually reopen schools, generally starting with younger classes and those scheduled to take exams, incorporating appropriate health and safety measures. Other countries are unlikely to reopen schools until the new academic year starts.
  • There are a variety of reasons for these different approaches regarding school and university re-openings across all countries, as overall, universities and older students are generally regarded as better equipped to continue distance learning, while younger students need more care and attention and schools are not always as well-geared for distance learning as universities. With younger children back at school, parents can also return to work.

Czech Republic

  • Twelve Czech education agents have established an Association of Agencies for Long-Term Study and Other Stays Abroad. This is to lobby the Czech government to consider making an exemption to the current travel restrictions, in order to allow local students and work migrants to travel abroad for study and work purposes.
  • The association sent an open letter to the Czech Minister of the Interior, requesting this matter be discussed by the government and arguing that the current travel ban affects around 30,000 Czechs, many of whom are planning their long-term study and work stays abroad. To date this initiative has been supported by Austrade and the US and Canadian embassies in Prague.

Italy

  • The Italian government has announced their plan for Phase 2 i.e. the gradual, phased reduction in restrictions that will take place from 4 May onwards.
  • It has been reconfirmed that schools will remain closed, with online learning continuing at least through to the start of the new academic year in September, although considerations are underway to allow final secondary school graduation exams (maturità) to take place in person, with appropriate social distancing and health safety measures in place.
  • While university studies will continue online for the remainder of this academic year, laboratories and other research activities will recommence fully from 4 May.
  • The eventual reopening of universities for classes, is likely to involve a blended learning approach, including both face-to-face and online teaching. This will also assist with maintaining social distancing measures.

Germany

  • The German federal government has announced an additional 500 million euro support program, to further enable schools and students to continue distance learning during COVID-19.
  • Part of the program is an emergency equipment fund, which enables schools to grant a subsidy of 150 euros to needy pupils for the purchase of appropriate technical equipment required for online learning at home. In addition, schools will also focus on building technical and teacher capabilities for the delivery of online learning programs to students.

Sweden

  • The Swedish Student Finance Authority, CSN, has agreed to maintain students’ funding if the institution is unable to provide face to face classroom activity and can only provide online studies instead. Usually this is not permitted for countries outside the EU/EES region.
  • Should a Swedish student not complete their courses satisfactorily due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, CSN will take this into account when determining if the student is eligible to continue to receive student finance.

Middle East and Africa

Kenya

  • The government has extended the closure of schools by one month — until 4 June 2020.
  • Private schools with online platforms have indicated they will open virtual classes on 4 May.
  • Agents are still receiving enquiries on studying in Australia. They are encouraging potential students to apply despite the uncertainty on when borders will reopen. Agents are pleased with Australian universities who have proactively engaged them during this period with updates on the different measures they have taken.  
  • Most agents are working on having virtual events and digital campaigns.
  • There is not much interest in participating in online studies, or for students who have already been enrolled into University programs, starting their courses online. Concerns have been raised by parents regarding the fees paid for a course taken online being the same as that in a face-to-face lectures/classes.

Nigeria

  • The National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) of Nigeria has postponed its 2020 May/June Ordinary Level Certificate Examinations indefinitely.
  • All schools in Nigeria remain closed, with no re-opening dates yet announced.
  • International education fairs are still postponed, with virtual sessions held in their place by universities and agents with students.
  • Australian universities/institutions should consider online/webinar sessions with agents. We are aware that a number of UK universities are providing these types of sessions in the market.
  • Airports in Nigeria are still closed to all incoming international flights, with the exception of emergency and essential flights, which have been extended for further two weeks from 23 April.

Ghana

  • All schools through to tertiary remain closed until further notice.
  • A ban on all public gatherings, including religious meetings, gatherings, funerals, festivals, parties, conferences etc. of more than 25 people remains, and has been extended for a further two weeks from Monday 27 April.

South Africa

  • South Africa remains in lockdown (level 5) until April 30. The Government has announced a phased approach to resuming economic and social activities.
  • From 1 May, Level 4 regulations will apply, with a curfew between 8pm – 5am and a gradual opening of services. The phased approach will be monitored and higher risk areas will be subject to more gradual easing of restrictions than areas where there are very few cases.
  • Social distancing must still be observed, travel is not allowed and gatherings (apart from funerals with less than 50 people) are prohibited.
  • Further announcements and clarifications on the lockdown levels are expected this week.
  • President Ramaphosa informed Parliament that he has deployed another 73,000 members of the military to assist police with enforcing lockdown regulations. The lockdown period has caused social unrest in some areas, largely due to the lack of income for many in the informal sector. The extension of social grants and tax relief measures were also announced.
  • Schools and universities are operating online across different platforms.
  • The Department of Education is providing support to parents, caregivers and learners through their website to all school learners; a range of classes are run on TV channels and there are classes on regional radio stations as well.

Mauritius

  • Mauritius remains in lockdown until 4 May, but with a gradual phasing out of measures. Under the first phase of lifting, citizens will continue to shop in supermarkets on an alphabetical basis.
  • Public gatherings are still not allowed and schools will remain closed.
  • Other food trades (such as pastry shops and bakeries) will be allowed to operate, but with social distancing rules.
  • The healthcare system will also be reorganised, with dedicated flu clinics set up to channel people who have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • The Prime Minister has announced measures to relaunch the country’s economic activities without neglecting the health of the population.
  • The Government has put in place several schemes to support enterprises and avoid job losses.
  • There will be mass testing for 35,000 people, mostly frontline health personnel, Police Force and supermarket employees.
  • The Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, jointly with the Bank of Mauritius, is working on a recovery plan for investment and the economy.
  • The national air carrier, Air Mauritius is now under voluntary administration. The Government is closely monitoring the situation.

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia has partially lifted its Coronavirus lockdown. The 24-hour curfew is no longer applied in parts of the country from 26 April, with the curfew lifted between 9am to 5pm until 13 May. 
  • Restrictions still apply to beauty clinics, cinemas, barbers and other non-essential businesses.
  • The two holy sites of Makkah and Madina are still on 24 hour lockdown.
  • There has been no change to schools/education providers, as they remain closed. 

Iran

  • The Iranian government has been reopening businesses in Iran. The government will divide the country to 3 risk zones- ‘white’, ‘yellow’ and ‘red’ based on Coronavirus infections and fatalities, two months since the start of the COVID outbreak.
  • Education agents are concerned about IELTS exam postponement in Iran.
  • Education agents are keen to confirm if alternative English tests (e.g. Duolingo) are acceptable by Australian authorities and universities for the purpose of obtaining a student visa.

Pakistan

  • The government has extended the nationwide lockdown by another two weeks, for review in early May.
  • In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and increased number of cases, the Government has announced the closure of all academic institutions (schools, colleges, universities) in the country until 31 May 2020. The period of break will be treated as summer vacation.
  • The Pakistan Higher Education Commission (HEC) has allowed universities and degree awarding institutes, to continue teaching and learning during the interrupted Spring Semester 2020, by using a variety of distance learning approaches.
  • All board/Cambridge examinations for grades 10 to 12 have been deferred to August 2020.
  • Education agents are engaged with students through online sessions, online exhibitions, online interviewing, as they continue to use different digital options. They are receiving a reasonable level of student inquiries, applications for admissions and offers for July/Aug semesters, primarily for online classes. A key challenge is the inability to undertake IELTS testing due to the lock down provisions.
  • IDP Education managed a virtual/online fair — the first online experience for many students. Several Australian universities participated and there were 52 online sessions, with each session attracting over 20 students, handling admission and other inquiries.
  • Agents continue to consider the possibility of a July/August semester commencement. At this stage many agents recommend students continue with their admissions and study online until the situation normalises, however some students are reluctant to participate.

North Asia

China

  • Several English proficiency and graduate entry examinations which Chinese students take to gain admission to foreign universities will be cancelled nationwide in May, including IELTS, TOEFL, GRE and GMAT.
  • China's universities and colleges will offer a number of courses in English to students across the globe via an international online teaching platform to promote massive online open courses (MOOCs).

Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong’s university entrance exams — the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE) — finally commenced on 24 April. The first two days of tests ran smoothly with COVID-19 protective measures put in place in exam centres.
  • The examinations will last for one month and 52,000 candidates will sit tests for the core subjects this week. 

Korea

  • The Korea Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) has recorded single digit increases in new infections since 18 April, bringing the total number of cases to 10,702.
  • Korean schools began their spring semester on 9 April, one month later than usual, with online classes beginning in phases. Semester commenced for year 1-3 students on 20 April with online classes.
  • Most of universities are scheduled to resume their offline classes in early May.
  • The webinar COVID-19 Impact and Responses on International Education in Australia held on 22 April by Austrade, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, and the Department of Home Affairs attracted 45 Korean education agents.
  • A survey conducted by the Korean University Student Council Network found that of 21,000 students surveyed at 200 Korean universities, 99 per cent had requested a full or partial fee refund. Reasons included; poor quality of online classes and facilities being unavailable. Rallies and protests have been held by students demanding refunds. This request is now being discussed by the Government and university officials.

Mongolia:

  • A decision was taken by the Minister for Education, Culture and Science of Mongolia to extend school lockdowns until 1 September, all schools and universities will keep running online classes until 1 of June 2020.
  • All schools and universities will not take any final exams, students will be awarded marks based on their first two semester’s grades, with the exception of students in Year 12.

Taiwan

  • Taiwan’s Ministry of Education has announced regulations regarding the recognition of foreign degrees. 
  • The regulations require a student to study in a university recognised by the Ministry, and to complete two thirds of their program in the country where the university is located.
  • In the event that study is restricted to online due to COVID-19 and the duration of online study lasts longer than one third of the program, the Ministry will give special consideration to the student’s application for qualification recognition.
  • Some Taiwanese universities offering programs taught in English, have seen a substantial growth in applications for the Semester commencing September 2020. This may be due to global travel restrictions, and the fact that many Taiwanese Year 12 students no longer have the option of studying abroad upon graduation.

Latin America

Argentina

  • Social, preventive and compulsory distancing protocols in Argentina have been extended to 10 May.
  • The Ministry of Education is currently focused on a crisis management plan to deal with 1,400 Argentine students stranded abroad. This plan includes how to deploy psychological assistance to these students to help them face difficult challenges like unemployment and confinement.
  • The Ministry’s Secretariat for University Policies this week suspended students’ mobility for this whole year (2020).
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched an Assistance Program for Argentine citizens stranded in other countries (including students) whereas the Ministry of Education also approved a Rescue Plan to assist Argentine students abroad. 
  • Parents and students facing financial distress are entitled to postpone the payment of private schools and universities’ fees.

Brazil

  • On Saturday 25 April, official figures from the Ministry of Health reported 55,283 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 3,762 deaths.
  • Quarantine measures remain in most states until at least 10 May. The government of the State of Sao Paulo is planning a gradual and controlled state wide economic reopening, which will be accompanied by an increase in testing and the constant monitoring of the state’s healthcare system capacity. This will begin on 11 May.
  • The Ministry of Education is requesting R$450 million (approximately A$126 million) for research against COVID-19, realising the need to invest in research and sourcing resources.
  • The Australian Government in Brazil (Austrade, Education, DHA, DFAT) has been in regular contact with stakeholders through the COVID-19 crisis, providing updates on the sector and measures in place.

Chile

  • Thus far, there have been only 174 deaths recorded in a nation of 18 million. There were 494 new infections announced Friday, compared with a peak of 534 on 16 April, bringing the total to 12, 306.
  • Chile has tested a higher percentage of its residents than any other Latin American nation, suggesting that its numbers can be viewed with greater confidence. Chile is similar in some ways to South Korea, which also closed and opened its country in sections, but Chile has far less testing capacity and is not tracking mobile phones of those infected.
  • The virus has spread out of the affluent areas where it first appeared as people returned from summer holidays in Europe, and into the high-rise blocks in central Santiago and poorer regional cities. Chile started mass testing in narrow alleys of one area of south Santiago, this week after a spike in cases.
  • Classes are scheduled to return by mid-May, but it is still unclear in what format.

Colombia

  • President Iván Duque announced that the mandatory quarantine in Colombia will be extended until 11 May. Among the actions that the head of state confirmed, is the restriction of international flights in the country until the end of May, with the exception of humanitarian aid and those carrying food or medical supplies.
  • Protocols will be in place to enable some sectors to resume activities. The construction and manufacturing sectors will be reactivated with strict protocols and requirements when entering the workplace.
  • The director of ICETEX, assured that 48,934 people have benefited from the aid provided by the company throughout the COVID-19 crisis. For almost 22,000 of these, aid services are being provided free of charge.

Mexico

  • The country officially entered Phase 3 of the pandemic, with 11,633 official cases and 1,069 deceased. The quarantine has been extended until 30 May.
  • The Study at Home program for public schools was launched successfully. The distance learning program covers kindergarten and elementary school (K1-K6). Students have the chance to either take the courses online or via TV (public and cable). Students are expected to go back to school on 17 May in areas that have been mildly affected by the pandemic, and on 1 June for the areas where higher cases of COVID-19 have been reported
  • Tec de Monterrey (ITESM) and the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) developed together a ventilator for COVID-19 patients. This ventilator design is assembled with local materials at a very competitive cost.

Peru

  • The Government confirmed that a complete shutdown will remain until 10 May, 2020
  • The Ministry of Health has declared 21,648 COVID-19 patients to date – 3,194 people are in intensive care and 634 deaths recorded so far.
  • In order to strengthen online classes, the Ministry of Education will buy more than 840,000 tablets with mobile internet for school children in remote rural and urban areas.
  • The Government will also purchase a further 719,000 tablets with mobile internet service for students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades of primary and all secondary levels in rural areas in addition to 123,780 for students in urban areas. In areas where there is no electricity, tablets will be delivered with solar chargers
  • In addition, the Ministry will allocate approximately 14 million soles to support public universities with strengthening plans, technical assistance, and financing to meet their training objectives during the health emergency.
  • Furthermore, technical assistance will be offered for the implementation of virtual courses.
  • Teachers will advise on the adaptation of courses and to monitor and accompany the students. The aim is to enhance the effectiveness of virtual courses, a monitoring system and a design evaluation instrument for the set of virtual activities.

New Zealand and Pacific

Papua New Guinea

  • The vast majority of long-term Australia Awards Scholarships awardees from PNG are continuing their study in Australia.
  • Australia Awards in PNG (AAPNG) is monitoring the 215 long-term awardees and providing targeted assistance as required, in conjunction with host universities.
  • A small number of awardees plan to return to PNG for family or personal reasons.
  • Due to COVID-19, the deadline for the 2021 intake of long-term scholarship applications has been extended to 30 June. 
  • AAPNG and Austrade are working together on promotional activities, including a possible digital roadshow in late 2020.
  • Other AAPNG activities — In-PNG Scholarships, Short Course Awards and alumni engagement — are also continuing, with appropriate adjustments for COVID-19, including remote collaboration where possible

Fiji

  • There are a total of 107 Australia Awardees (new and ongoing) currently studying in Australia. Most of them are currently undertaking online studies.
  • Awardees have two options: to continue their studies, or return home. This would mean they would have to suspend their studies.
  • Awardees have agreed to remain in Australia in order to continue their studies. So far no student has requested a suspension of studies due to the COVID-19 crisis

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 880,000 and 43,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.

Canada

  • The Emergency Student Benefit was announced to help students and recent graduates who have seen their education and job prospects hampered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

United States of America

  • 41 states, 3 US territories, and the District of Columbia have ordered or recommended school building closures for the rest of the academic year.
  • The US Department of Education made a second round of federal relief available for colleges, a total of $6.2 billion that they can use to cover expenses related to the coronavirus. It is reported that only a quarter of the nearly 5,000 colleges and universities eligible to receive the stimulus funding for emergency grants to students, have applied for the money.
  • The Illinois State Board of Education has released its Remote Learning Recommendations During COVID-19 Emergency. Spanning 62 pages, the document provides information and clarification to districts, schools, leaders, teachers, students and parents as they design and implement remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • A survey by Tyton Partner showed that 50 per cent of teacher participants are unprepared for remote learning, particularly among elementary school professionals; while only 30 per cent of teachers believe remote teaching is effective.

South Asia

Bangladesh

  • The postponed Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) and its equivalent examinations, may begin at the end of next month. The exams slated for 1 April were postponed on 22 March in fear of coronavirus spreading further.
  • Remote education launched on public TV for secondary students, as schools shut.
  • On 19 April, Bangladesh began broadcasting pre-recorded secondary level school lessons after educational institutions were closed.
  • Lessons for students from the sixth to the tenth grade will be aired on the public broadcaster Bangladesh Television (BTV).
  • All examinations including the paper-based and computer-delivered IELTS tests in Bangladesh have been cancelled until 30 April 2020.

India

  • With about a week to go for the lockdown 2.0 to end, the total number of coronavirus cases in India reached 23,000. Maharashtra, Delhi and Gujarat have emerged as the states most affected by COVID-19. Karnataka has eased down lockdown starting 23 April, allowing a limited range of services.
  • University Grants Commission (UGC) has initiated a campaign Bharat Padhe Online inviting suggestions from students and faculty to boost e-learning in the country. Indian government opening up to online education is going to open opportunities for Australian universities to promote their online content in market.
  • University Grants Commission (UGC) has opened applications for Indian higher education institutions who wish to offer skill-based programs from the forthcoming academic year 2020-2021 at the level of Certificate, Diploma, Advanced Diploma, P.G. Diploma, and Research Degree.
  • UGC revised guidelines for Skill-based Education under National Skills Qualifications Framework, which are now available. Eligible institutions will receive financial assistance for developing the infrastructure, setting up of laboratories/workshops facilities, procurement of teaching and learning materials, trainer and guest lecturers. This opens up opportunities for vocational education providers in Australia to collaborate with Indian institutions to offer vocational programs or support with guest lectures.
  • The Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta, one of the premier management institutes of the country was able to secure recruitment of its 442 students for 2020. However, as the business environment has slowed due to COVID-19, many firms are delaying employment while other offers have been revoked. The same is true for the internships.
  • Lenovo launched a SmarterEd education platform in collaboration with eVidyaloka, an Indian not-for-profit organisation to encourage youth to participate in the digital remodelling of the education system. Learners from Grade 6 to 12 are matched with volunteer teachers based on an algorithm, where teaching is central to state curriculum. The platform supports many languages in its chat function, featuring English, Hindi and a number of Indian languages.
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) halted the rapid testing of COVID-19 cases because of massive variations in test kit results, compounding the challenge to check and contain the pandemic. ICMR on 24 April approved the Probe-free COVID-19 detection test, developed at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-D) becoming the first academic institute to have obtained the ICMR approval for real-time PCR-based diagnostic assessment.
  • The R&D enhancement in Indian universities provides the opportunity for Australian universities and industries to collaborate in the Indian market.

Nepal

  • The Nepali government is pushing for a ‘digital education system’ so that the classes can be continued in present times.
  • A proposal has been submitted to conduct school classes via TV channel NTV Plus.

Sri Lanka

  • Despite the controlled situation demonstrated in the last few weeks, the number of confirmed cases in Sri Lanka has jumped to 415.
  • Medical unions have urged the government to reconsider their decision on relaxing restrictions and to increase testing as part of efforts to combat the virus, as the second wave of infections could be devastating to Sri Lanka.  
  • The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka refuted reports speculating a team of Indian army officers were to arrive in Sri Lanka, to support efforts in combatting COVID-19.
  • Tourism to Sri Lanka (which slumped in the aftermath of last year’s 21 April attacks), has declined for the 12th consecutive month in March.
  • The validity period of all types of Visas will be extended for a period of 30 days with effect from 14 March 2020 to 12 April 2020.
  • Accordingly, any foreign national was asked to visit the Visa Division of the Department of Immigration and Emigration to pay relevant fees for visa endorsement.
  • Parliamentary elections in Sri Lanka are scheduled to be held on 20 June 2020.

If you have questions, please contact the offices in market who can direct and assist in your enquiry. You can view Austrade office locations on our website.

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