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Austrade regional market update on the impact of COVID-19 (as at 9 June 2020)

09 Jun 2020

Austrade will provide weekly regional updates on the progression and impact of COVID-19 around the world, to support the international education sector as the situation continues to evolve. These reports are compiled using the latest on-the-ground information and advice. The following updates include markets and regions for:

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

Association of South East Asian Nations


  • President Joko Widodo has tasked his staff to benchmark Indonesia’s education system with countries that have successfully pivoted their education systems to meet the needs of the future — including the implementation of big data, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT).
  • Australia’s early childhood education sector is seen as best practice, and has been specifically highlighted for inclusion in this benchmarking.


  • The Primary Education Department in the Education Ministry will build temporary classrooms at schools across the country as needed in order to satisfy social distancing requirements. There will be a total of 9.7 million students in primary education schools for the coming academic year. Myanmar has over 47,000 basic education schools (primary and secondary), around 2,500 private schools and some 1,500 monastic schools. There are over 400,000 teachers in public schools, nearly 15,000 in private schools and some 7,700 in monastic schools.
  • The Union Election Commission (UEC) announced that the 2020 general election will be held in November as planned.


  • The Ministry of Education has released the guidelines/standard operating procedure (SOP) for reopening schools on 4 June upper secondary classes. All school employees are expected to return to work when schools reopen though no date has been set. All others school years including students of international schools will continue home-based learning until further notice.
  • Last week saw a number of collaboration announcements between Malaysian and foreign universities such University of Cambridge, UK, and Yale University, US, on how to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Malaysian institutions are keen to increase collaboration, including with Australian institutions. There is particular interest in the medical research collaborations, as COVID-19 continues to impact the population.


  • Starting 1 June, Metro Manila has been under general community quarantine (GCQ).
  • The Philippine government is tasking broadcast networks to support distance learning as part of the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Learning Continuity Plan. Broadcasting educational programs on at least two private television networks will help in reaching as many students as possible. DepEd is also planning to distribute printed learning materials to students who do not have access to digital resources.
  • The governor of Cebu, the second most populated province in the Philippines, planned to replace their local dialect (Cebuano) with English as the medium of instruction in public schools. Preparation to procure English-based learning materials was delayed because the local government needed to shift their focus towards the pandemic.
  • As of 6 June, the Philippines has 20,626 COVID-19 positive cases. The testing capacity of the Philippines has reached 42,000 tests daily but actual testing remains at 10,000.


  • Singapore’s Ministry of Education is reviewing its strategies on the use of education technologies in its public schools and the feasibility of implementing blended learning as an integral part of the curriculum. Compared to the international schools, public schools in Singapore have not been as progressive in technology consumption, and virtual classrooms were not the default mode of learning. The sudden reaction to COVID-19, where students have no choice but to undertake home-based education, has opened up more discussions on how Singaporean schools embrace learning technologies.
  • For Australian edutech companies that are keen on expanding into Singapore, this may present an opportunity to connect with education stakeholders in the coming months.
  • Singapore has announced an arrangement with China to implement a ‘fast lane’ immigration process for Chinese travellers entering the country for essential business and official activities. The arrangement will start on 8 June 2020 and all approved travellers must undertake a COVID-19 swab test 48 hours before departure. The six provinces selected for this pilot are Shanghai, Tianjin, Chongqing, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Apart from China, Singapore is in negotiations with a number of other countries to establish similar "reciprocal green lane" arrangements.


  • The COVID-19 situation has improved in Thailand.
  • A number of virtual education exhibitions are planned for July by foreign government agencies and education agents to promote study in Australia, UK, Canada and New Zealand, in preparation for next year intakes. Meanwhile, Education USA fairs have been less common during the rallies that have been taking place across the US.
  • The UK Visa Application Centre in Bangkok reopened from 1 June, offering full services despite ongoing international commercial flight restrictions at Thailand’s airports. UK specialist education agents in Thailand have indicated that no new students are lodging visa applications during this period, only continuing students or individual travellers for visitor visas.
  • Online tutorial courses have been advertised competitively via social media channels, to encourage Thai parents to purchase a course for children studying at home in June, prior their return to school on 1 July. The most popular have been English language programs, including IELTS and TOEFL test preparation courses.
  • The International School Association of Thailand (ISAT) is still waiting for approval from the Thai government to ease restrictions for international schools to re-open before 1 July. Resuming classes in July would mean it will be too late to hold exams as it is the final month of the term as school holidays usually commence in mid/end of July. Meanwhile, the official reopening for all Thai schools nationwide has been confirmed for July 1 according to the Education Ministry. Education institutions have been categorised in the ‘high-risk’ category of organisations, for re-opening as part of Phase 4 of the lockdown easing.


  • As of 4 June, Vietnam has seen 302 patients out of the total 328 confirmed cases recover from COVID-19. Vietnam has gone through 49 days without any new coronavirus infections in the community.
  • According to the latest World Economic Outlook report on 2020 GDP growth in Vietnam, the International Monetary Fund forecast Vietnam would slow at 2.7 per cent, but would remain ahead of other countries in the region while the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank were more optimistic, predicting expansions of 4.8 and 4.9 per cent respectively.
  • If the pandemic is controlled before September, the Vietnam National Administration for Tourism aims to ask the Vietnamese Government to relax restrictions, and re-launch promotional activities to attract international visitors. In this scenario, Southeast and Northeast Asia will be the priority markets to target the promotion programs in Q4 2020.
  • The Ministry of Education and Training has confirmed the high school examination will be held on 9 and 10 August. Local universities and vocational colleagues can use the exam results for recruitment.
  • During the pandemic, many higher education institutions have proactively invested in online education. By end of April, there were a total 98 higher education institutions deploying online teaching. Universities will continue to focus on the application of advanced technologies in the management and organisation of training activities while the Ministry of Education and Training will work on building a legal framework to enhance e-learning and development of open learning materials.
  • For vocation education and training, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has asked vocational training units to invest in building up e-learning systems and digitalise learning content as well as drafting methods for online payment of tuition fees.
  • Vietnam will further accelerate the implementation of Vietnam Qualification Framework in vocational education and training, moving forward to the implementation of Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) among ASEAN countries. In May, the Directorate of Vocational Education and Training called for a meeting, seeking the inputs of VET policy experts on the roll-out of this framework and the ASEAN Qualification Reference Framework in 2020. This will become a new opportunity for Australian VET providers to leverage the MRA for promoting partnerships with Vietnam and ASEAN countries in VET sector.


  • A number of European countries have commenced plans for re-opening their internal borders throughout the month of June. The EU’s external borders currently remain closed, however the EU Commission has advised that external borders should start reopening from July.


  • Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin instructed the Consumer Protection Agency, the Russian Ministry of Defence, the Federal Biomedical Agency and the Presidential Administration to develop proposals related to strengthening the sanitary-epidemiological service to support the biological safety system of Russia. Trained personnel, improved facilities and the research component will become vital for the service.
  • According to Minister of Science and Higher Education, Russia’s participation in international research projects, including XFEL, FAIR, ITER, remains a priority for the Government. Some long-term projects, particularly in physics, have not been as impacted by COVID as the academic mobility side. The latter however is under pressure, also due to the expected decrease in international student enrolments.
  • VirtualIFTE-2020, International Forum on Teacher Education, is being hosted online by Kazan Federal University, which ranks top-100 by THE subject ranking 2020 for ‘Education’. More than 900 participants from 30 countries are taking part in the event, including teachers from the US, Sweden, Germany, Canada, China, Israel, Uganda, among others. One of the hot topics is digitalisation of teaching training and education.

Czech Republic

  • Elementary schools will reopen for children aged 11-15 on Monday 8 June on voluntary basis.  Online learning will prevail as the main form of learning until the end of the school year (30 June) and in-class attendance is primarily designed as consultation sessions only a few times a week.
  • A survey conducted by the Czech School Inspectorate estimates that some 10,000 children have had no access to distance learning due to a lack of IT equipment/Internet connection and/or social/family situation (the largest percentage was among children aged 11 to 15). These children had zero contact with the school during the period schools were closed and are likely to perform worse when they resume in-class learning in September.


  • To date, Polish universities have been able to reopen labs, archives and libraries, subject to social distancing regulations. The majority of classes are delivered online. It has been decided that students will not return to universities before the summer holiday period and examination sessions will be conducted online. In some cases the summer semester has been extended into July.
  • The Ministry of Science and Higher Education will provide additional funding of A$ 91 million for 99 public universities, to compensate their losses related to COVID-19.
  • Admission schedules for universities will need to be adjusted in accordance with the revised schedule for the matriculation exams for 2020. The introduction of new (delayed) dates for these exams will result in an extension of the admission process. In justified cases, in order to guarantee proper organisation and completion of the admission process, a slight delay in the commencement of the new 2020-21 academic year may be possible.
  • The Polish National Agency for Academic Exchange has announced a new program – NAWA Chair. The program offers universities and other scientific institutions a long-term financial package from NAWA that will cover the stay of a foreign scientist of world renown, as well as funding for fundamental research, which will be financed by the National Science Centre.

United Kingdom

  • Bristol University has announced that all lectures will be online until the summer of 2021. The institution has suggested that seminars and tutorials will be held in person ‘where possible,’ but there will be no change in tuition fees. The Universities of Manchester and Ulster have indicated that all lectures will be online until Christmas 2020.
  • A Times Education Supplement survey of 5,000 school heads indicates that 25 per cent of teachers will not be returning to the classroom this week despite the opening of most primary schools from 1 June.


  • The association of academics at US university centres in Italy is concerned some centres may be at risk of closing permanently as a result of the pandemic. Around 165 international institutions have a presence in Italy, primarily in the areas of Rome and Florence. The majority are US institutions, such as John Cabot, Syracuse and New York University. Hosting around 35,000 students a year and employing around 11,000 staff, including lecturers and administrative staff, the international university centres were closed during the lockdown period and students were recalled to their home countries. Summer courses have been cancelled and there are concerns the potential reduction in enrolments and funding at the home universities in the US may impact the future of the centres.

Middle East and Africa

United Arab Emirates

  • The UAE Ministry of Education has announced that the academic year 2019-2020 will end for public and private schools on 2 July 2020. The new academic year for students will commence on 30 August. The decision to open schools or continue e-learning programs in the new academic year, is still under review.
  • With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the two main concerns for prospective international students from the United Arab Emirates and Oman for commencing studies online in Australia, are the uncertainty of obtaining a student visa once borders reopen; and eligibility to apply for the post-study work visa. These two aspects will be key decision factors for students to commence online studies with Australian institutions.

Saudi Arabia

  • The Saudi Minister of Education has announced a number of changes and new appointments at the leadership level in the Ministry of Education. This is considered a strategic announcement to help support and achieve Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 education and skills priorities.


  • The Prime Minister has called on all authorities to understand “critical circumstances” which required 20 per cent spending cuts to address the current economic conditions. The Cabinet has approved the Finance Ministry’s proposals not to increase budgets of independent government authorities, institutions and funds for five years, as well as reducing budgets by 20 per cent for fiscal year 2020-21.


  • The closure of all academic institution (schools, colleges, universities) in Pakistan will continue until 30 June 2020. The Pakistan Higher Education Commission (HEC) has asked universities and degree awarding institutes to continue teaching and learning during the interrupted spring semester 2020, by using a variety of distance learning approaches, e.g., Internet; one-way or two-way transmissions through open broadcast, audio-conferencing.
  • Education agents have started opening offices (partially) to engage with students and in-country universities managers, handling admission and other inquiries of existing and potential international students. There are a number of international students holding conditional admission offers, subject to IELTS scores.


  • Schools are now conducting end-of-year exams. Most of them are online, except for grades 9 and 12. Their IELTS exams took place on 21 May, after a three month delay.
  • The Deputy Higher Education Minister announced that it is up to universities to decide whether to conduct end of year exams in person, or on-line. He pointed out that the priority is students, professors and staff health. If universities can comply with all health protocols, they can conduct in-class exams.


  • There has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases (2,862 as at 8 June 2020) and the government has continued to restrict movement for the three highly affected counties/states, which includes the capital Nairobi. Social gatherings are also banned until 5 July when further directives will be given.
  • Schools will remain closed to September. A new school calendar is expected mid-August, as well as direction on the national examinations.
  • Enthusiasm for online International education is still low with most agents indicating that students are preferring to defer studies.

North Asia


  • Universities from the Chinese mainland have for the first time secured the top two spots in the Times Higher Education (THE) Asia University Rankings. Tsinghua University, the first Chinese university to achieve the top place in last year's ranking, maintains its position at number one this year, while Peking University rises from fifth to second. This strong performance of Chinese institutions continues in the top 50, with 13 Chinese mainland universities ranking at 50 or below. With nine other universities qualifying for the ranking compared to 2019, the Chinese mainland has recorded its largest-ever number of ranked institutions this year with 81 listings, ranking second only to Japan in the number of ranked universities.
  • A global Chinese language learning platform launched in October, 2019, as a mobile app, by the Chinese Government, has attracted 647,000 users from 152 countries and regions by the end of May.
  • According to the 2020 Government Work Report, this year and next, China will provide more than 35 million vocational skills training opportunities to its citizens and grow enrolment in vocational colleges by 2 million to upskill the nations’ workforce in key development areas.


  • This year, over 30,000 students will graduate high schools In Mongolia. The Ministry of Education and Science has set the date for the final examination for year 12 students. The exam will be undertaken between 2-5 July under the guidelines to be developed and approved by the Ministry.


  • The government has decided to delay the possibility of introducing any changes to the academic calendar until the 2021 financial year, at the earliest, citing the potential psychological burden on children, and economic impact on households.
  • The Teachers’ union calls for exam reform delay. The All Japan Teachers and Staff Union (Zenkyo) requested the cancellation of planned reforms to university entrance exams in 2021, pointing out that some students would be disadvantaged due to the difference in learning conditions and progress made against the curriculum at different schools. Zenkyo also asked for special measures, to let all students take the exam in a fair manner, including setting exam questions from the compulsory curriculum.
  • Subsidies for EdTech providers announced. The Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) announced a subsidy scheme for Edtech software service providers, to facilitate assistance to schools with education-supporting ICT. EdTech providers must be partnered/contracted with schools, and can apply from early June until mid-July, with nominations announced in late-August.

Latin America


  • On Friday 5 June, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 621,877 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, with 34,212 deaths. Brazil now has the third highest COVID-19 death toll in the world. São Paulo state, the epicentre of the virus in Brazil, began its gradual return to work this week, following over two months of quarantine. Stricter isolation measures may be adopted if the situation worsens.
  • In order to honour the 2020 school year, interrupted by the pandemic, Brazil’s education ministry has allowed schools to increase their teaching hours including Saturdays and during holidays. The government proposed the emergency adoption of distance learning activities which may or may not include the use of technology.
  • The Brazilian Edtech peak body, Future Education, launched a guide on the New Normal and the Future of Education in Brazil after COVID-19. A perspective on post-COVID-19 education in Brazil, the guide includes case studies in educational innovation, tools, insights and possible ways to navigate during the crisis.
  • Austrade Brazil is conducting a local PR campaign to enhance Australia’s brand and reputation as a provider of high quality education and training, delivered online during and post the COVID-19 crisis, with the Future Learn x Study with Australia initiative, as a part of the call to action. As a result of this work, enrolments from Brazil have increased by 70 per cent over the last week, bringing it up to third globally with nearly 13,000 enrolments made through the Future learn platform to date. The top 5 courses among Brazilians are data-analytics-using-excel, applied-big-data-analytics, introduction-sustainability-development, professional-resilience and educational-neuroscience. The localised PR campaign will end on 30 June.


  • As at June 5, the total number of confirmed cases in Argentina is 20,197, of which 615 are deaths.
  • To plan the return to on-site classes and the re-arrangement of education activities, the Ministry of Education will conduct an evaluation that includes a survey of 30,000 directors and teachers from all over the country. 2,800 families will also be consulted about the activities carried out from their homes during the period of isolation.
  • The National Minister of Education, Nicolás Trotta, led the first meeting of the Advisory Council for planning the return to on site classes. The meeting was attended by the Secretary for Access to Health, Carla Vizzotti, and various officials from the Education and Health portfolio. In addition, the Executive Council of the Federal Council of Education (CFE), the five educational union organizations, student centres, representatives of private institutions, members of UNESCO, UNICEF and specialists were part of it.The Ministry of Education ordered, through a new resolution, the incorporation of students from private schools into the Progresar program. Progresar is a national scholarship program aimed at securing the successful completion of every education level.


  • As at 5 June, the total number of confirmed cases in the country is 105,680 and 12,545 deceased. During the week of 1-5 June, the pandemic reached two consecutive records of infection. The Federal Government began the gradual opening of the economic activities on 1 June.
  • 5 June was the last day of the school year. On 8 June the digital/tv academic session “Amusement Summer” will begin.


  • Austrade Colombia launched a PR campaign to showcase Australian Universities’ capabilities in online delivery, highlighting the Future Learn & Study with Australia initiative. Last week, a number of articles have been broadcast over different media channels with thousands of engagements.
  • The Colombian Association of Universities (Ascun), which brings together more than 80 institutions from all over the country, calculates that the decrease in students attending second semester would be between 23 per cent and 25 per cent, with this trend likely to continue in 2021 and 2022.
  • With the approval by Bogota’s city council, the creation of the new District Agency for Higher Education, Science and Technology was announced. According to the District's analysis, in 2018, 66 per cent of enrolments in higher education in Bogotá were in university professional training, followed by the technological levels (20 per cent), specialisation (6 per cent), technical (5 per cent), Master's (3 per cent) and PhD (0.3 per cent). Of the total of students, 113,229 are in SENA, 102,575 with places in public HEIs and 576,779 in private HEIs.


  • The Ministry of Health reported that in Peru, to date, there are 191,758 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 9,500 patients are hospitalised.Around 83,000 patients have recovered
  • On the other hand, the coronavirus has killed 5,301 people. After the increase in cases in Peru, the president announced the extension of the quarantine until 30 June. The Peruvian quarantine will be the longest one in the world.
  • In order to ensure that students from private universities and public and private institutes continue their studies, the State - through the National Scholarship and Educational Credit Program (PRONABEC) launched the Continuity Scholarship for Higher Education Studies scholarship, with which PRONABEC will grant 10,000 scholarships.
  • The duration of the grant, which covers tuition and study fees, food, local mobility and stationery, will be for one academic year in the case of annual study regimes or two consecutive semesters in the case of semester study regimes.


  • On Sunday 7 June, official figures from the Ministry of Health report 6,450 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in Chile, increasing the total number of cases to 134,150, with a total number of deaths of 2,290.
  • It is expected the peak of COVID-19 infections in Santiago will be reached by next week. Santiago is still on total lockdown until Friday 12 June, which will likely be extended .
  • The Ministry of Education has not put a formal date on the return to classes. The expectation is that classes for schools and universities will not return until September.

North America

  • The US and Canada now have more than 1,883,000 and 95,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases respectively.

United States of America

  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia have applied and been approved for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which is a grant within the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
  • A Chronicle of Higher Education survey which tracks more than 800 colleges’ plans for reopening in the fall found that over two thirds (68%) are planning for in-person classes.
  • Enrolment in US colleges is expected to rise 2-4 per cent in the fall of 2020, as unemployed Americans seek degrees and training, according to a report out this week from Moody’s Investment Service. In addition, they anticipate that revenues for colleges are expected to decline by 5-13 per cent.
  • A survey by the American Council on Education saw in their May survey with college and university presidents that
    1. The most pressing issues facing presidents were enrolment numbers for summer and/or fall (79%, -7% MoM), deciding on fall term plans (63%) and long-term financial viability of the institution (49%, -15%)
      • 53 per cent of institutions were very likely to resume in-person classes this fall.
      • 51 per cent of institutions were very likely to resume on-campus housing operations this fall.
      • 80 per cent of institutions said that revenue will decrease for the next fiscal year.
      • 67 per cent of institutions said that fall 2020 enrolment will decrease relative to fall 2019 enrolment.
      • 50 per cent of institutions said that it is anticipated that there will be declines of11-20 per cent in fall 2020 enrolment.
  • The Institute of International Education has committed $1 million to aid international students caught in the crossfire of the coronavirus pandemic and seeks to raise an additional $1 million for this effort.
  • A review by the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington found that less than half of the 100 school districts, and four of the 18 charter management organizations in their database were offering summer learning programs for elementary and middle school students. It is their belief that too few districts are capitalising on the opportunity to address learning gaps when schools were closed.
  • McKinsey and Company believe that COVID-19 will further exacerbate the achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students.
  • More than 60 per cent of education conferences and gatherings scheduled for 2020 have changed plans. All events scheduled through August are going virtual or have cancelled outright.

South Asia


  • India now has the fifth highest number of cases in the world. The central government this week announced new rules for allowing shopping malls, restaurants, hotels and places of worship to open gradually following the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.
  • Amid the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, HRD Minister Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal released an 'alternative academic calendar' this week for grade 11 and 12. Alternative tools for imparting education had been suggested in the new academic calendar, including the increasing use of technology and social media tools.
  • The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are offering options to their graduating students to ensure their future plans are not affected due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Early graduation, flexible grading systems, option to appear for exams later and no termination are among the various alternatives being offered by IITs.


  • The government and private offices reopened on Sunday 7 June, on a limited scale over two months after the nationwide lockdown.

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.