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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 5 May 2020)

05 May 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


  • The Minister of Education and Culture has issued a circulation Letter No.4 2020 stating:
    • National Exams for High School students (grades 6, 9 and 12) are cancelled, including competency-based exams for Vocational High School students.
    • Learning from Home’ programs for all primary and secondary students should be implemented, with a focus on life skills including religion, society and culture, as well as COVID-19 prevention and health awareness classes.
    • Final School Exams (for grades 7, 8, and 11) are cancelled. They will be replaced with online assignments and tasks with school completion certificates and class marks being assessed based on these grades.
    • Bantuan Operasional Sekolah (or Education Operational Aid) — a modest government fund to support schools’ operational costs — can now be transferred directly from Ministry of Finance to schools to assist them with basic COVID-19 prevention.
  • Indonesia’s Association of Private Higher Education Institutions (APTISI) found that 80 per cent of Jakarta’s 312 private higher education institutions are facing difficulties in paying salaries. APTISI has petitioned central government for emergency funds from the Ministry of Education.
  • A survey conducted by Indonesia’s Child Protection Commission (KPAI) showed nearly 77 per cent of 1,700 students from various levels of education are struggling with online learning. Key findings indicated it was less interactive, and less effective, and that teachers were giving too much homework with unrealistic deadlines. Slow internet connections and additional costs associated with internet usage have also become key concerns.
  • The Governor of DKI Jakarta Anies Baswedan has noted that there are still violations of large-scale social restrictions (called PSBB), including companies that still have employees coming into their offices. In Surabaya (East Java), and surrounding areas (Sidoarjo and Gresik), PSBB will be enforced until 12 May 2020.


  • On May 1, Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the easing of the Movement Control order (MCO) to a conditional MCO commencing 4 May to allow most industries and economic activities to resume with standard operating procedures set by the authorities. The announcement comes in light of the economic hit, incurring some RM63 billion in losses, since the MCO first started on 18 March. The PM stated in his 1 May address that if the partial lockdown continued for another month, losses would reach RM100 billion (AUD 36.7 billion).
  • Schools, sites for public gatherings, and recreational sites including cinemas, will remain closed. Interstate travel is still locked down, except for work purposes.
  • For a list of the kinds of business and activities still banned during the MCO period, more news articles on the issue are available online.
  • Foreign travellers — with the exception of diplomats, permanent residents and expatriates working in essential services — are still not permitted to enter Malaysia despite the relaxation. For those exempted, travellers must undergo 14-day self-quarantine upon arrival in Malaysia.
  • The Malaysian public are divided over the early easing of restrictions. A petition urging the government to maintain the MCO has collected more than 300,000 signatures within 17 hours of circulation. Some states, including Sabah and Sarawak, will not be adopting the conditional MCO while other states have relaxed only a few restrictions.  
  • The Ministry of Education indicate that online may be the ‘new normal’ for 2020, though this is pending the country’s infection rates.
  • There has been mixed sentiment around online learning by Malaysian students enrolling in various courses and programs in Australia. Some students have opposed the online learning provision, and have opted instead to defer to 2021 — preferring an on-campus experience.
  • Other students from Malaysia however are willing to commence their studies online.


  • The Philippines has 9,223 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of 4 May, 2020.
  • All inbound international passenger and commercial flights have been suspended from 3 May to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Only cargo flights, medical flights, utility flights and maintenance flights are exempted from the suspension.

Competitor update

  • EducationUSA has been active in social media. They held a virtual fair and webinars on picking community colleges, enhancing English proficiency and a webinar with the Philippines Commission on Higher Education on internationalisation in the past month.


  • As of 3 May, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health confirmed a total of 271 cases of COVID-19 with no new community-transmitted cases reported in the past seventeen days. 219 affected patients (81 percent of the infected cases) have recovered with no recorded deaths.
  • Vietnam has eased social distancing guidelines on 23 April, though restrictions continue in some high-risk areas. While social isolation guidelines in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have also eased, closure restrictions remain in place for bars, clubs, spas, theatres, sports centres and other entertainment facilities. Restrictions continue on private gatherings of more than 20 people, and of more than 10 people in public.
  • The Ministry of Transport has allowed an increase in the frequency of domestic flights on the Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh City route as well as the reopening of other domestic routes.
  • High schools and universities will reopen on 4 May, while secondary schools, primary schools and kindergartens are expected to reopen a week later. 
  • 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 examinations will now be held in August.


  • While a number of countries are gradually starting to ease some restrictions, many borders remain closed with travel restrictions still in place. Some countries also continue to have restrictions on domestic travel.
  • Many countries that have experienced high incidences of COVID-19, are considered to have passed the peak stage.
  • Careful monitoring will continue to take place during the first phase of gradual reopening to avoid a second wave of infections. Many reopening strategies remain subject to change, pending the trends in infection levels.


  • Schools remain closed until 24 May (although this may be extended). The Year 8 exam has been rescheduled to 16-18 June and the Year 12 exam has been rescheduled to 8-29 June (this will only include the written component, as verbal exams have been cancelled this year).
  • Universities remain in online mode until further notice.
  • The Fulbright Commission is recruiting in Central Europe for their Cybersecurity in universities study visits to the US program, which includes a three-week visit to the US in September 2020. The deadline for applications is 10 May. The timeframe for the visits, as well as the deadline for applications, will be adjusted as needed. Recruitment for other scholarships for 2020-2021 is also in progress.
  • Recruitment for the European Union’s ERASMUS+ 2020/2021 program is in progress. The application deadline has been extended and it is only possible to apply online.
  • The Polish National Agency for International Mobility is organising a series of webinars to support international students who stayed in Poland. The sessions cover dealing with isolation (Students alone at home emotions under control), as well as local themes such as Polish discovery, Polar adventure. The program was launched a month ago with weekly webinar sessions that were initially targeted to international students in Poland, but surprisingly the webinars have been watched by 35,000 students in 25 countries.
  • The Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange offers financial aid to the holders of the Agency’s scholarships who have found themselves in a difficult financial situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Czech Republic

  • Czech university students can now access libraries in small groups, and groups up to a maximum of five people can attend university for the purpose of consultation, testing or clinical and practical teaching.
  • Secondary school students nearing graduation should be able to meet teachers to prepare for exams from 11 May, however children aged 11 to 15 will not re-enter schools before the end of the academic year (30 June) and will continue online learning.
  • Entrance exams to secondary schools and universities, and baccalaureate exams, should take place in early June. 
  • Austrade’s Prague office continues to receive concerns from education agents who are in a critical situation and considering closure of business should Australia not open borders for international students within a couple of months. They say the uncertainty about when the borders will open makes it impossible for them to plan or even assess whether they can overcome the situation and stay in business.


  • Although Slovakia has had a very low incidence of COVID-19, with only 1,396 positive cases and 23 deaths as at the last week of April, all schools and universities have been closed since 16 March and have moved to online learning.
  • At this stage schools are expected to reopen on 3 June.
  • School leaving/graduation exams (maturita) will not take place and will be formally compiled as a calculated average of the grades received at the end of each academic year (all grades) and mid-term (the last two grades); final grades are subject to the student’s consent. If the student disagrees with their final grades, he/she will need to take the usual (physical) school leaving exam (which will take place from 25 May to 13 June).
  • Admission exams to universities will be managed digitally.


  • The Russian Government extended the national non-working month and lockdown until 11 May, due to daily rises in coronavirus infections.
  • Citizens of the Russian Federation who also hold second passports or a valid document that proves their permanent residence in a foreign country are permitted to leave Russia during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Russia has extended its entry ban for foreigners until the situation improves. Special arrangements will apply for certain categories, including technical specialists entering Russia to carry out the adjustment and maintenance of imported equipment.
  • The Moscow International Education Fair, organised virtually by the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, attracted education specialists from across the country. Among the highlights was a statement by the Education Minister about the importance of digital technology, which has not yet become an organic part of the educational process, but remains vital to also support the export of Russian education services. The Deputy Minister underlined the importance of improving the system of continuing professional education for development of the labour market. Teacher training and education for retirees, and competencies in the field of the digital economy, medicine and agriculture are included as priorities in the National Projects.
  • The Ministry of Science and Higher Education of Russia is considering the use of the proctoring procedure for graduate exams and the 2020 admissions campaign. Universities are concerned that if proctoring is approved, some institutions will not be able to introduce it due to lack of procedures and technology. The situation with international students also remains unclear, given the students must pass entrance exams at Russian campuses.

United Kingdom

  • The Education Secretary has indicated that pupils in England will return to school in phases, but many will not resume classes until the autumn.
  • The UK government is looking closely at other school re-openings in Europe, particularly Germany and Denmark.

Republic of Ireland

  • The Health Secretary indicated that the government is considering opening schools for one day a week as coronavirus restrictions start to relax.
  • The Health Secretary also suggested students could pick up books, meet teachers, get their homework and meet friends, while observing safe social distancing protocols.


  • After two months of strict lockdown conditions, Italy began the initial steps of their phased re-opening strategy on 4 May.
  • While university studies will continue online for the remainder of this academic year, exams and the presentation of theses will take place in person, as will laboratory work and research activities, provided strict social distancing measures are in place.
  • School studies will also continue via distance learning, however graduation exams will be undertaken in person in accordance with appropriate health and social distancing requirements.

Middle East And Africa

United Arab Emirates

  • As a result of COVID-19, UAE parents reluctant to send their children abroad for studies are now considering options for higher education within the country. There is a concern that prospective international students may miss a year of study due to flights not operating in the immediate term or if border closures remain in place.
  • There are concerns that if students commence online courses offered by international universities, there is no guarantee of a visa being granted. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety concerns are also factors for making decisions on the location of study.
  • The UAE Ministry of Education is working on an approach to recognise online degrees that meet particular high quality standards. Currently, the Ministry is looking at the top 200 institutions (as per global rankings) for consideration on the list of approved/recognised universities for prospective students in the UAE.
  • A core consideration is quality of learning and quality of the institution providing the online course, which most Australian universities are recognised for.


  • On 29 April, the Turkish Minister of Education announced that distance education will be extended until the end of May 2020. There are currently over 1 million students from year 11 and 12 that are registered on the online education system.
  • Local University entrance exams are planned on 25 and 26 of July, and 2.5 million students are expected to take the exam.


  • All schools in Nigeria still remain closed, no re-opening dates have been announced.
  • Students in Nigerian have free access to the follow e-learning portals: SchoolGate and MobileClassroom. MobileClassroom is based on a partnership between the Federal Government in Nigeria and mobile operators and coordinated by Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC). Prior to this, 15 states had already commenced electronic learning for pupils on their local television and radio channels.
  • Private schools in Lagos also use digital learning platforms. Some use free platforms such as Google and Microsoft, while others have invested in paid subscriptions for Seesaw, Edmodo and EducationCity.


  • 21 day lockdown and restrictions on movements in the capital of Accra and other parts of the country was lifted from Monday 20 April. Ghana's borders both land and the airport remain closed during May.
  • All schools through to tertiary remain closed until further notice.
  • International education enquiries/interest have not reduced, agents are still engaging students, parents are still planning for study post COVID-19 across all countries — including UK, US, Australia and Canada.

North Asia


  • The Ministry of Education has announced that schools will start offline classes in phases from year 12 students possibly either on 11 or 19 May.
  • More than half (52 per cent) of 193 private universities will resume offline classes in the first week of May in phases.


  • Most universities have delayed the start of their new term until 7 May. Traditional preferences for paper-based materials and face-to-face meetings are being challenged, although many institutions are struggling to establish alternative online programs and teaching modules.
  • Digital learning is more prevalent among private education companies, than at schools and universities. However online overseas study holds limited attractions as parents and teachers see the value-add in terms of overseas lifestyle experiences. Therefore, an uptick in overseas study will likely only occur after travel restrictions have been lifted.


  • High schools in Wuhan welcomed final-year students back to class on 6 May as the COVID-19 epidemic situation improves in the city.
  • As of March, the number of online education users in China had reached 423 million, up 110.2 per cent from the end of 2018, according to a report issued by the China Internet Network Information Centre. Noting that the opening of schools across the country was postponed during the epidemic, the report stated that 265 million students switched to online courses, bringing the number of daily active users on multiple online education applications to more than 10 million each.
  • According to an announcement made by the Ministry of Education (MoE) in April, the Ministry will select 32 demonstration regions and 96 high schools to pilot a new high school curriculum for the next three years.  Every province will have one demonstration region and three demonstration sites. The new curriculum will see more foreign languages added to the current selection of English, Japanese and Russian. Students will also be given the option to take compulsory and elective subjects to encourage diversified development.


  • Due to closure of schools and universities, over 950,000 students are taking online classes for three months.
  • The National Emergency Commission is currently discussing whether or not to gradually re-open vocational training centres.

Latin America


  • Social, preventive and compulsory distancing has been extended until 10 May.
  • The Federal Government has enabled state government to accept exceptions to social distancing in their jurisdictions — subject to specific health conditions.
  • The Ministry of Education signed an agreement with Buenos Aires’ town halls and 10 other federal states to deliver 135,000 netbooks and tablets for high school students to secure education delivery and reduce the digital gap in the less-favored areas of the country.


  • On Friday 1 May, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 87,364 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 6,017 fatalities.
  • 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 after this. However, it is predicted the city of Sao Paulo, the most affected city in the state and the entire country, will be extended with stricter restrictions.
  • The Brazilian Association for International Association (FAUBAI) has launched the initiative TOMORROW: Global Perspectives for Higher Education Internationalisation to celebrate the FAUBAI 2020 Conference that was postponed. The idea is to offer contributions on the challenges for higher education internationalisation in these changing and complex times.
  • There will be brief expert statements from all around the world, including a statement from Betty Leask, Professor of Internationalisation and Pro Vice-Chancellor Teaching and Learning at La Trobe University in Australia. The videos will be available on FAUBAI’s website.


  • The Ministry of Health announced 423 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 7,668. In addition, it reported 16 new fatalities, reaching 340.
  • The national government has determined that schools will be suspended at least until 31 May.
  • The National Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences published a statement expressing serious concerns about the implementation of virtual education in Colombia and challenges in connectivity.
  • Colombian Higher education has seen a drop in university enrolments in recent years, compounded now due to COVID-19. The suspension of classes, virtual classes and the economic crisis could break several institutions in the country for the second semester.


  • The Ministry of Health has declared 36,976 COVID patients to date. 4,978 people are in intensive care and 1,051 fatalities.
  • The National Council for Science, Technology and Technological Innovation (Concytec) launched the observatory of opportunities for national and international funds, destined to research or develop innovations to face the pandemic generated by COVID-19.
  • CETEMIN – a well-known licensed institute that provides technical education in the mining industry has been working on its new E-learning Program through the conversion of its face-to-face courses into virtual courses, incorporating the best online learning practices.


  • The country is still on Phase 3 with 20,739 infected up to 1 May 2020 and 1,972 deceased.
  • TV/online courses are broadcast on free-to-air and subscription TV and internet.


  • Thus far, there have been just 270 recorded fatalities,. 980 new infections announced on Monday 4 May, brings the total number of cases to 20,643.
  • New Areas of Santiago will enter total lockdown, starting on Tuesday 5 May, Cerrillos, Quilicura, Recoleta and Santiago, which will affect over 1.8 million people.
  • The Chilean Government announced that it will suspend the International Postgraduate Scholarship (Only Master's Degree) Becas Chile for the 2020 period, mainly due to the restrictions for international travel and reallocation of funds of the National Research & Development Agency (ANID) to battle the COVID-19 Pandemic and increase testing capabilities.

North America

The US and Canada now have more than 1,082,000 and 54,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.


  • The Canadian Federal Government has changed their student support package slightly over the previous week. The CAD$9B package, known as the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), will increase the monthly payment from CAD$1,750 to CAD$2,000 for student caregivers or those with a disability. An incentives package will be developed to attract students to jobs related to “regional economic stability and food production”.
  • The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) has been one of the major stakeholders involved in Canada’s international education response. In addition to hosting weekly virtual discussion forums and webinars, the organisation has now launched an online dashboard. The site provides access to the latest data, updates, support available and more.
  • The Canadian government has announced that it will lift work limits for international students whose jobs provide an “essential service”, in a bid to support the country’s workforce in key areas.

United States

  • The US Department of Education is making $307.5 million in discretionary grants available to states through two competitions designed to inspire innovation during the coronavirus crisis.
    • The $180 million Rethink K-12 School Models Grant is meant to facilitate innovative ways to expand student access to K-12 education and meet learning needs during the coronavirus pandemic and future disruptions.
    • The $127.5 million Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant program is aimed at postsecondary and work-based learning programs focusing on preparing future employees for a new workforce, as well as supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses.
  • 43 states, 4 US territories, and the District of Columbia have ordered or recommended school building closures for the rest of the academic year.
  • The American Council on Education (ACE) has written a letter to lawmakers, asking for more flexibility in loans administered by the US Small Business Administration (SBA).
  • Alliance for International Exchange members are helping to coordinate exchange program responses as up to 5,000 exchange visitors remaining in the US have been left in limbo due to the swift escalation of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Strada Education Network provide an interactive weekly dashboard reporting on how COVID-19 is impacting Americans’ attitudes and experiences related to education and work. Their survey results show that an estimated 28 million Americans have cancelled education plans.
  • The National Association of Colleges and Employers provide a weekly report on how employers and colleges are adapting their plans and operations in response to the pandemic. 99 per cent of college career centers are continuing to connect with their students virtually and the percentage of schools holding on-campus career fairs is falling.
  • An ABC Insights survey of presidents from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU), showed that
    • Presidents are most worried about enrolment (42 per cent), finance (27 per cent), duration (20 per cent), uncertainty (14 per cent), completion (9 per cent) and access (5 per cent).
    • Presidents believe that the sense of morale on campus is good (43 per cent) or fairly good (26 per cent). Around 3 per cent reported poor morale.
    • Communicating is tiered from students, faculty, staff, board, to alumni.
    • Presidents anticipate taking the following actions: reengineering operational processes (96 per cent), providing room and board refunds (85 per cent), hiring freezes (83 per cent), implementing furloughs (57 per cent), laying-off staff (55 per cent), increase part time faculty (30 per cent), increase non-tenure faculty (28 per cent), draw down endowment principle (27 per cent), cut benefits (21 per cent) and provide tuition refunds (12 per cent).
    • 70 per cent of Presidents expect revenue decreases of 10 per cent or more in FY21.
    • A top priority will be administrative cost cutting, with academic cutting taking place to a lesser degree.
    • A vast majority of institutions expect to maintain tuition levels.  
  • A study by Northwest Evaluation Association, showed that students who lack steady instruction during the coronavirus school shutdown might retain only 70 per cent of their annual reading gains compared with a normal year. Projections for the so-called COVID-19 slide in math look even bleaker.
  • Incoming college students consider taking a gap year instead of school during COVID-19 as organisations, such as Cardinal Education and Command Education, show increases in the number of students wanting to take a gap year. This is on top of the 40,000 high school seniors who take normally a year off before their freshman year in college, as reported by the Gap Year Association.
  • Navitas Ventures reported edtech investment in the United States reached US$0.2M in Q12020 after China and India.
  • Edtech software providers are seeing a boost in share price and user-base as schools close, particularly companies with remote learning capabilities. Instructure and Blackboard, both learning management solution providers, are working towards increasing bandwidth to handle the spike in its user base.

South Asia


  • India’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown has been extended by two weeks, to 17 May. The extension will see some relaxations which will be regulated based on the spread of the virus in the districts, identified as red, green and orange zones. The government is taking incremental steps to slowly reopen some business sectors and provide relief for small businesses.
  • University Grants Commission (UGC) has released guidelines for academic measures to be taken by colleges and universities for the current and the next academic session. The college sessions will begin in August for current students and September for new ones. The exams for final semester students will be conducted in July and intermediate semester students will be graded based on internal assessment of the present and previous semester. The Indian universities have been given autonomy to decide whether to conduct exams online or offline keeping in view the support system available with them and ensuring fair opportunity to all students. Complete guidelines are available on UGC website.
  • Education Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, hosted a webinar on 5 May via Twitter and Facebook to address student queries related to COVID-19 impact on education. Students could ask questions using the hashtag '#EducationMinisterGoesLive' on social media. Austrade will be following social media to gather students concerns.
  • An insight piece calls for a mindset change in online education in India, and suggests that institutions must use artificial intelligence and emotional intelligence in nurturing a creative learning environment. Online centric education is sought as an alternative to continuing the courses amid the coronavirus pandemic. It is set to drive the learning experience forward for Indians but crucial elements are to ensure its adaptability to India’s education market and behavioural changes for both for the students and for the facilitators as reliance on Edtech alone is not feasible.


  • The government has decided in principle to extend the ongoing shutdown of all public and private offices till 5 May to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country. The Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority has extended a ban on passenger flights to 7 May. The ban will remain effective on flights to and from 16 countries.
  • PM Sheikh Hasina stated educational institutions would remain closed until September if there was no improvement in the coronavirus situation.


  • Minister for Education, Science and Technology Giriraj Mani Pokharel stated that schools will not resume activities anytime soon and is taking consultations on how the exams of higher classes should be held. He advised to adopt alternative teaching methods to continue teaching-learning activities, keeping in mind the coronavirus-lockdown.

Sri Lanka

  • Colombo and two other districts which continued to have curfew imposed, will be back to normal from 11 May.
  • Schools and universities will remain closed until then.

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