Much of the world’s attention has been on China for the past several weeks as a result of the rapid spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus that first appeared in the city of Wuhan. There are several different strains of coronavirus, but this specific coronavirus causes fever and respiratory symptoms and can vary widely in severity.1 (An official name for this specific coronavirus is expected to be announced soon.)2 Because it appears to pass easily from person to person even before an infected person shows symptoms, China has opted to use quarantines and school closures to slow or stop the spread of the virus. As a result, the coronavirus is currently having a significant impact on education in China.
The impact of the coronavirus on education in China cannot be overstated. The virus’s rapid spread happened around the Lunar New Year holiday when students were off of school, and many people were traveling for the holiday. The new school term was originally scheduled to start by the end of January. Still, as the coronavirus became more widespread and it became clear that it could be passed quickly from person to person, China’s Ministry of Education announced that the Spring Term would be postponed.3 The Ministry of Education has stated that reopening dates will be decided by local governing bodies, so different regions will likely reopen schools at different times.4 There are not yet any reopening dates scheduled in Mainland China, and in Hong Kong, it has been decided that primary and secondary schools will not reopen until March 2nd at the earliest.5 Older students are likely home, as well, as many colleges and universities have also opted to extend their winter holiday due to the coronavirus.6
In an effort to provide entertainment and education to children forced to stay home, the Chinese education authorities and after school training providers are working to offer free online courses to students. The Ministry of Education has stated that these courses will focus on “infection prevention, mental health, and educational activities and content, rather than subjects that put extra pressure on students of primary and secondary schools.”6 The Ministry of Education has also asked that schools and training centers not use online platforms to teach their regular curriculum prior to the date schools were scheduled to restart.7
ALO7 is proud to be part of the effort to help students continue to practice their English even when their brick and mortar schools are closed and is offering “virtual offline” classes to students and partner schools.8 Students and teachers will be able to use ALO7’s platform to conduct the lessons that would normally be taught in person. The first month of these classes will be free for students and schools as part of ALO7’s contribution to fighting the coronavirus.
The Ministry of Education is working to put together a website for students to use to continue their education online. The National Online Cloud Classroom will be available to students starting on February 17th so that they can continue their studies even with school closures. It will have courses for students ranging from 1st through 12th grade. Because people in more rural areas of China may have limited internet access, China Education Network Television will also broadcast courses and other educational resources.9
Many children may notice changes in addition to being forced to stay home. Their parents are also likely to be home, as most workers are being advised to work from home. Cinemas and parks are likely not available as many businesses are closed, and people are being told to stay at home and avoid large gatherings. Children may also note some changes in their meals as the prices for some food items have increased significantly.10 Grocery stores remain open in most areas, but the selection may not be what children are used to. Children may be sad or worried as a result of their missed celebrations and concerns about sickness. The Ministry of Education is ensuring that mental health support is available to students impacted by the virus and is setting up hotlines to provide mental health services.11
It is clear that the relationship between the coronavirus and online ESL classes is complicated. While many online classes have been postponed to correspond to canceled or postponed offline classes, online platforms also present an effective way for educating and interacting with students when it is not safe for them to attend classes in person. Groups ranging from the Ministry of Education to training schools to ALO7 are working tirelessly to find ways to use the internet to connect with students despite the coronavirus.
Citations for The Impact of the Coronavirus on Education in China:
1 “Coronavirus.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, February 1, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/index.html.
2 Taylor-Coleman, Jasmine. “How the New Coronavirus Will Finally Get a Proper Name.” BBC News. BBC, February 5, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51371770.
3 “China Postpones School Semester amid Novel Coronavirus Outbreak.” Xinhua. Accessed February 5, 2020. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-01/28/c_138738646.htm.
4 宗政 . “Press Releases.” Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. China Ministry of Education. Accessed February 5, 2020. http://en.moe.gov.cn/news/press_releases/202001/t20200130_417069.html.
5 “Schools, Kindergartens in Hong Kong Closed until March 2 over Coronavirus.” South China Morning Post. South China Morning Post, January 31, 2020. https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/education/article/3048305/hong-kong-universities-suspend-classes-until-march-china.
6 “China Postpones School Semester amid Novel Coronavirus Outbreak.” Xinhua. Xinhuanet. Accessed February 5, 2020. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-01/28/c_138738646.htm.
7, 8 “China Offers Students Free Online Courses during Winter Break.” Xinhua. Accessed February 5, 2020. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-02/04/c_138754800.htm.
9 “China Offers Students Free Online Courses during Winter Break.” Xinhua. Xinhuanet. Accessed February 5, 2020. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-02/04/c_138754800.htm.
10 Zhong, Raymond. “$9 Cabbages, Emergency Pork: Coronavirus Tests China on Food.” The New York Times. The New York Times, February 4, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/04/business/china-coronavirus-food-prices.html.
11 宗政 . “Press Releases.” Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. China Ministry of Education. Accessed February 5, 2020. http://en.moe.gov.cn/news/press_releases/202001/t20200130_417071.html.
Lauren Krystaf has been teaching with ALO7 since 2017 and loves having the opportunity to teach English from anywhere with an internet connection. She enjoys traveling, reading, hiking, and spending time with her family.
Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from SUNY Buffalo and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from Drexel University. She also has a 120 hour TESOL certificate. Lauren is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Beta Phi Mu honor societies.