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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 30 June 2020)

30 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:

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

South East Asia


  • The Indonesia Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) has engaged Charles Darwin University to assist with the development of e-Learning systems for Madrasa teachers (Madrasa are formal Islamic teaching schools). This type of engagement presents opportunities for Australian education providers to explore with other similar Indonesian institutions.


  • Local schools have rescheduled commencements of final terms from mid-June to late-June due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Education agents are continuing to promote Foundation and Diploma program study pathways to Australian universities for the October 2020 intake as Lao students are expected to complete their academic year in September 2020.
  • Lao students are unique when compared with their regional peers, in that they are unlikely to opt for online study options, due to English language barriers. Instead, they are expected to wait for borders to re-open, so that they can proceed to study on campus.


  • Secondary schools across the country reopened on 24 June for students sitting public examinations (including final secondary school exams), after almost three months of closure due to the pandemic. The new school year for public schools was extended to 17 December, with end-of-year-holidays reduced accordingly. Over 45,000 major exam candidates also resumed classes across 236 secondary schools in Sabah.
  • The Ministry of Education (MOE) declared all public and private preschools and kindergartens reopened from 1 July.
  • With easing of restrictions to the higher education sector, international students at private and public institutions and schools in Malaysia are now allowed to return to the country to resume their studies. Registration with the Education Ministry or the Higher Education Ministry is required. Students can choose to either undergo the COVID-19 screening in their own countries, or upon arrival in Malaysia. Similarly, Malaysians who need to travel abroad for study purposes must produce letters to prove that overseas travel is required before departing the country.
  • Malaysia is considering opening its borders to six green zone countries: Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea. Additionally, the local tourism lobby has urged that neighbouring countries like Thailand, Vietnam and China be included in the proposed travel bubble.
  • As a regional education hub, Malaysia is looking to reopen its borders for international students, which will help the broader education sector (i.e. English language training, education agents, English examinations, enrichment centres, etc.). The Malaysian government is conscious of the continued interest (from both current and future Malaysian students) to travel to study destination universities.


  • The Ministry of Education (MoE) stated that more than 5,600 high-schools will be reopened on 21 July. Middle schools will be opened in second week of August and primary schools in third week of August.
  • MoE also stated that the National Curriculum Committee is conducting an adjustment of the curriculum content of all basic education classes, to accommodate the short teaching period due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Ministry mentioned that 20 per cent of the curriculum will be changed to a home-learning format.
  • In addition, the Health and Sports Minister said the government will approve private nursing schools, in order to meet increased demand for nurses in the country’s fast-growing healthcare sector. Current nursing schools are run by the government, and the rising demand for nurses in Myanmar’s healthcare sector has been fueled by the pandemic. The Healthcare industry will also be a priority sector after COVID-19.

The Philippines

  • One of the major Philippine telecommunications companies PLDT, with its flagship educational program “Gabay Guro” (Teacher Guide), provides free online training for teachers nationwide through a recently launched campaign — “Learning Never Stops”. To date, the Gabay Guro Facebook Page has 13 e-learning programs uploaded that teachers can access for free. Topics of the live training and recorded webcasts include life learnings from the quarantine, virtual teaching 101, flipping the classroom, improving students’ reading and comprehension, as well as teachers’ mindset improvements in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Philippine telecommunications and IT companies have increased efforts to develop educational technologies, to provide remote learning opportunities for teachers and students while schools are closed.
  • The Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is exploring STEM learning through radio and online. Natural disasters, and recently even public health crises have almost brought all educational activities to a complete halt, with most schools reducing the academic curriculum to home assignments, readings, and home-based activities. The DOST-Science Education Institute is collaborating with the Department of Education to enhance STEM learning for elementary students, through their RadyoEskwela sa Siyensya (Radio-learning for Science) and high school students through the TuklaSiyensya sa Eskwela (Discover Science in Schools) programs, to be rolled out for the opening of the school year in August 2020.
  • TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) training activities will resume soon in the Philippines, pending approval by the national COVID-19 Task Force Agency. Learning modules developed by TESDA, have been found to be different from school and higher education curriculum, wherein modules are highly individualised, self-paced and practical. TESDA aims to ensure that face-to-face interactions will be conducted, and will observe strict compliance to public health standards and in consultation with local government units, regional health offices and the National Task Force.
  • As of 25 June 2020, the Philippines has recorded 34,073 positive cases of COVID-19.


  • Singaporean students are reconsidering overseas education due to the pandemic, as reported by Singapore’s The Straits Times, 14 June 2020. Each of the six local universities received up to 550 applications during a special second admissions exercise held in May, to cater to late applicants impacted by COVID-19. While some of the late applicants have cancelled their overseas study plans due to health and travel concerns, there are other applicants from the polytechnic sector who have decided to forgo their job search and instead pursue a local degree, as the job market weakens.
  • Austrade Singapore confirmed with a number of education agents that while overseas education has taken a hit from COVID-19, there is still a significant amount of interest from Singaporean students to study in Australia and the UK. Australian institutions are encouraged to continue delivering virtual recruitment seminars and activities to engage with the polytechnics and junior colleges here in preparation for the February 2021 intake.
  • The Singapore Government has called for an election, scheduled for 10 July, 2020. Austrade will provide an update on any changes to the education policies (if any) stemming from the election results.


  • Thailand’s COVID cases remain steady, with no local transmissions recorded in the past month. The government has introduced its fifth and final phase of restriction easing, which includes allowing entertainment venues to re-open. The government will continue to require body temperature screening, the use of face masks, social distancing, regular cleaning, and one-month of surveillance camera footage to facilitate disease investigation. Schools and other education institutions will be returning to face-to-face teaching, when the official Thai school year recommences in July, with appropriate social distancing and hygiene measures.
  • Talks are ongoing within the Thai government about when foreigners will be allowed to re-enter the country. While no formal decisions have been made about the protocols, consideration is being given to business travelers, skilled specialists, teaching and medical staff, and tourists from COVID-safe countries. Travel between countries with no or low virus numbers is not expected to start operating before August. Thailand’s medical community remain concerned about any second wave transmissions in the country.
  • Private vocational colleges in Thailand have experienced declining numbers of student enrolments. Due to financial hardship, more students are opting to enrol in government vocational colleges rather than private ones. There are now 470 private colleges across Thailand, down from 490, with many closing due to low student enrolments.


  • As of 25 June, Vietnam has been 70 days without any community transmission cases. 328 affected patients out of the 352 confirmed COVID-19 cases have recovered, and now have been discharged from hospitals. The most recent 212 confirmed cases are people arriving in Vietnam with COVID-19.
  • According to Vietnam’s Minister of Education and Training, online teaching will be recognised as a formal teaching method. The ministry will soon finalise the online teaching regulations for schools and education institutions. This presents opportunities for Australian international education to share expertise, experience, best practices in delivering technology curriculum in the schools sector in Vietnam.
  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) gave a grant of US$4.65 million to the Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) to help further goals of achieving international accreditation. USAID will also help FUV develop executive education and other programs, through which FUV will build partnerships with Vietnam’s technology, manufacturing and service sectors.
  • On 22 June, UK Visa Application Centres reopened in Vietnam, after a temporary suspension during the pandemic. The resumed UK visa operations in Vietnam marked an important step in restoring travel and business activities of the Vietnamese community to the UK.


  • The European Commission has prepared a list of selected non-EU countries with a ‘safe’ epidemiological situation, with a view to determining who will be able to enter the region once the proposed gradual reopening of the EU’s external borders starts from 1 July. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Thailand are among the countries to be included in the initial list. Other countries will continue to face entry restrictions. The list is advisory only however, as the final decision regarding the opening of their external borders to non-EU citizens rests with individual EU governments.

Czech Republic

  • Following two large conferences and a series of 17 roundtables in 2019, the Minister of Education presented “The Strategy of Education Policy of the Czech Republic until 2030+”. The key topics of the Strategy 2030+ are the development of digital competencies, vocational education and training, safe environments in schools, the change of the content and ways of learning/teaching (in response to modern technologies, AI, robotics, IoT). The Strategy also aims to increase the funding of the education sector to align with the OECD average.
  • Qatar Airways will resume flight connections from Prague to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth (via Doha) as of 1 July.


  • The Minister of Science and Higher Education announced that 14,500 additional state-funded places will be allocated across regional universities. These additional places were budgeted by the Government prior the COVID pandemic, to reflect a continuing increased interest in higher education from Russian students.
  • The Ministry of Science and Higher Education will develop scientific and educational centres under a national project "Science". With a total budget of 215 billion rubles (AU$4.5 billion), by 2024 the Government plans to create 15 world-class research and educational centres, 14 competencies centres, as well as scientific and research centres.
  • A recent survey among 2,600 Russian adults, conducted by the portal Work.ru, reports that 40 per cent of respondents believe a brand of an institution — and its status — will help with employment. In addition, 26 per cent underlined the importance of experience at a work place, while 36 per cent believe employment success depends on the profession.

United Kingdom

  • A survey by the peak body for universities, Universities UK, indicates that 97 per cent of universities will be offering some in-person, on campus teaching in autumn. The survey also found that 87 per cent of universities would offer in-person social opportunities to students ‘in line with government and public health guidance.’
  • The report showed that 95 per cent of institutions would provide the ‘full range of student support,’ including mental health support and careers advice, via both online and in-person services.
  • Some universities are offering local and international students delayed start dates (between October 2020 and January 2021) due to travel restrictions or visa approval times.


  • A study undertaken by Italian association Svimez has estimated that enrolments in Italian universities could drop by almost 10,000 for the 2020-21 academic year, as a result of the economic effects of the COVID crisis. Approximately two-thirds of the decrease is expected to occur in the south of Italy.
  • In order to address the risk of a decrease in enrolments, the Italian Government has proposed raising the cap for the maximum family income level below which Italian students can study at local universities without paying fees, as well as reducing fees for those in the next lowest income level. An increase in the number of scholarships available to students in need has also been proposed, to support studying at local universities.

Middle East and Africa

Saudi Arabia

  • Education Ministers from G20 countries have committed to work collaboratively to address COVID-19 disruptions in education, and ensure learning continuity for all, during a special virtual meeting organised by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, chair of the G20, on 27 June 2020. In a statement issued for the meeting, G20 Education Ministers recognised the importance of blended learning approaches, and committed to building resilience and recovery plans into education systems to prepare more effectively for future disruptions.


  • Universities do not expect to start face to face classroom education earlier than November 2020. Distance education is expected to continue over the next six months, subject to the rates of COVID-19 cases. Private schools (K-12) are prepared to transition to blended education — part face-to-face in schools and part online.

North Asia


  • China’s Ministry of Education (MoE) jobs platform “24365” has listed more than 13 million jobs for Chinese university graduates since its launch in March. In addition, a total of 29 special online job fairs have been held on the platform since it commenced operations, offering nearly five million job vacancies, in fields ranging from strategic emerging industries to health care. The platform has been established to assist university graduates entering a difficult job market due to COVID-19, with China’s unemployment rate at 5.9 per cent in May. The number of university graduates this year is expected to reach 8.74 million, according to the MoE.
  • China’s Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has released guidelines on establishing special institutes to accelerate training of software professionals in key basic software and more large-scale industrial software. The move highlights China’s need for specialised software experts, to meet development demands and promote progress in key software technologies, with both the education sector and private enterprise encouraged to facilitate the training and development of software experts.
  • A survey of Chinese perceptions of Australia ranked Australia as the most desirable country for studying overseas, ahead of the UK, Germany and Japan. The survey was conducted by the Global Times and the Australian Studies Centre of Beijing Foreign Studies University and surveyed respondents from 10 major cities in China.

Hong Kong

  • There have been no local COVID-19 cases for almost two weeks in Hong Kong, and as a result the Hong Kong government has eased social gathering restrictions in the city. All 250,000 Hong Kong school students (except K1 and K2 kindergarten students) have returned to school and have been attending half-day classes since the 15 June.
  • Although 2,500 secondary cross-border students have returned to school campuses and travel across the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border daily, it’s likely the remaining 24,500 junior cross-border students in mainland China will not return to schools before the summer holidays, due to the complexities of coronavirus testing, border controls and transportation arrangements between Hong Kong and Shenzhen.


  • Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education has postponed the introduction of the English speaking skills assessment test in junior high schools, due to start this year, until 2021. The pre-test will be introduced in 2021 to assess the English speaking proficiency of third year students in metropolitan junior high schools (approximately 80,000 students), with test scores available to use for metropolitan high school entrance exams from 2022. Tokyo Metropolitan Government concluded a basic agreement with Benesse Corporation in June 2019, for it to manage the speaking test. The testing of active skills in English (speaking and writing) is likely to stimulate demand for immersive English language education experiences in order to improve more difficult to acquire skills.
  • The Ministry of Education (MEXT) announced that national university entrance exams (the “New Common Test for University Admissions”) will be held in January, as originally scheduled, after consulting concerned parties including universities and high schools. The New Common Test for University Admissions replaces the National Center Test for University Admissions (used by many private as well as national and public universities since 1990) and is intended to more broadly test applicants’ abilities with less reliance on the multiple-choice format. Individual university’s entrance exams will follow in February. MEXT has requested universities treat students fairly and adjust the content of exams to take into consideration classes missed due to COVID-19. As per above, a more rigorous and holistic testing of English language skills is likely over the longer term to stimulate demand for English language education that can improve competency across the board.

Latin America


  • On Friday 26 June, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 1,228,114 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 54,971 deaths.
  • The state of Sao Paulo has announced plans to resume in-person classes on 8 September. Students will initially rotate between in-person and online classes to allow schools to follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo have developed a new air conditioning system capable of eliminating bacteria, fungi and viruses, including coronavirus from closed indoor environments, using UVC germicidal light.
  • The new Ministry of Education, Professor Carlos Alberto Decotelli da Silva, has been appointed by the President. He will succeed Abraham Weintraub, who, after 14 months, announced his resignation last week to assume the post of representative director of Brazil at the World Bank in Washington (USA).


  • According to the Ministry of Health, the total number of confirmed cases in Argentina is 52,457, of which 1,167 have died. Regarding the confirmed, 1,061 (2 per cent) are imported, 19,202 (36.6 per cent) come from contacts with confirmed cases, 22,078 (42.1 per cent) are cases of community circulation.
  • The Federal Health Council (COFESA) and the Federal Education Council (CFE) met to analyse the progress of the protocols to return to classrooms considering COVID-19 pandemic and to articulate the work of both post pandemic agendas. The protocols outline the return to onsite classes.
  • National universities has developed a website on the measures announced by all the ministries, to improve the socioeconomic situation of associative organisations, entities that support the Social Economy, entrepreneurs and the vulnerable population.
  • The novel ELA-CHEMSTRIP molecular test was developed by researchers from the National University of Quilmes (UNQ) and the National University of San Martín (UNSAM), together with the participation of their technology-based companies. The test identifies the pathogen that causes the COVID-19 disease more quickly and at a reduced expense than others on the market, enabling mass production.
  • According to Daniel Ghiringhelli, head of the UNQ Laboratory of Genetic Engineering and Cellular and Molecular Biology, the test has already received the approval of ANMAT and they calculate that by August they would be in a position to produce and sell hundreds of thousands of kits per month and even export.

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 2,549,000 and 105,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.


  • Languages Canada, whose members hosted around 150,000 students in 2019, expects at least a 75 per cent drop in revenue in 2020.

United States

  • The Department of Education will award a $3 million in grants for a program that gives districts flexibility to combine federal, state and local funding streams to educate disadvantaged students. The department is inviting applications from local educational agencies for federal Well-Rounded Education through Student-Centred Funding Demonstration Grants for fiscal year 2020. This is the first time the US Department of Education has offered funding to support a student-centred funding pilot.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education have also identified at least 50,458 employees (+2,372) and 213 institutions (+23) are associated with a layoff, furlough or non-contract renewal resulting from COVID-19.
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education are tracking more than 985 (+35) colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall, with
    • Planning for in-person (63 per cent, -2 per cent)
    • Proposing a hybrid model (18 per cent, +4 per cent)
    • Planning for online (8 per cent, no change)
    • Considering a range of scenarios (7 per cent, -1 per cent)
    • Waiting to decide (5 per cent, no change)
  • NAFSA has requested that the Department of State waive in-person visa interview requirements and put in place video conferencing for interviews, and provide an estimate as to when the suspension of routine visa services might be lifted, and what the process for lifting the suspension will be.
  • Moody’s Investors report that more students will likely opt to attend college closer to home as a result of the pandemic, a shift that stands to hurt institutions that rely heavily on out-of-state enrolees.
  • For-profit colleges are spending vastly more on advertising and promotion to attract students than their non-profit and private peers; to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and boost enrolment.

South Asia


  • IIT Bombay is the first institute in India to declare the ceasing of face-to-face classes and is moving all teaching online to ensure student and staff well-being. Mumbai city is currently the hardest hit in India due to COVID-19, and it is expected that a number of other institutes in India will follow course. Australian universities scoping an engagement with IITB can discuss online semester exchanges or joint virtual delivery.
  • The Government of India has confirmed to Supreme Court, that remaining exams of grade 10 and 12 of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) students will not be conducted, and the same has been agreed by The Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). Students will be given option to appear for examinations when the atmosphere is conducive. Alternatively, based on their performance on their last two internal examinations, marks will be granted, and results will be published by 15 July. Therefore, there will be no further obligation to students to wait for final results on tests not taken, and can apply for future studies to international universities.
  • The University Grants Commission has advised all higher education institutions in India, to revise their existing curriculum to align with Learning Outcomes based Curriculum Framework (LOCF). To facilitate this task of revision, UGC has constituted subject specific Expert Committees. The committees has developed the LOCF reports in different subjects, which are available on the UGC website.
  • Austrade concluded a virtual masterclass series this week, facilitating 30 masterclasses from 15 universities and attracting 66,000+ registrations, from South Asian students and educators. This initiative has promoted Australian education capabilities, and our position as a high-quality education destination.

Sri Lanka

  • The Chisholm Institute has signed a transnational education (TNE) agreement with CINEC Campus and alankaEd to jointly deliver Australian qualifications in information technology, engineering, electro-technology and automotive. Sri Lanka has a favourable and stable regulatory environment, which allows foreign institutions to partner with local providers to establish a joint-venture or have a fully owned campus in the country. This approach has attracted interest from many Australian institutions. These types of arrangements have built new pathways to study with Australia, while also contributing to overall growth in the number of Sri Lankan students in Australia. With limited capacity at government-subsidised state universities, opportunities exists for other Australian education institutes to enter the market.


  • The Bangladesh Government has launched Virtual Class, an online platform for delivery of education to students across higher education and schools. Austrade received feedback from key education stakeholders who state that “this novel initiative is supported by both ministries of education and within ICT. This initiative may provide opportunities for Australian universities to deliver short courses in Bangladesh based on the quality and online delivery experience.”

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