How COVID-19 has impacted education in China
Brief Background (China’s response to COVID-19):
Although COVID-19 originated in China, it is evident that China has handled the situation quite well. China’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus started with the 76-day lockdown of Wuhan. After the virus started to spread, the Chinese government started construction of a hospital in Beijing with 1500 rooms that was completed in 5 days. China managed to keep its cases relatively low despite its relatively large population.
Sources in China have reported the mandatory hospitalization of those with COVID-19. The Chinese Communist Party’s response to the novel coronavirus managed to limit infection rates much more effectively than some other countries. For example, the legal consequences for persisting to partake in habitual social gatherings are more serious in China compared to the US. There have also been reports of government drones equipped with loudspeakers that reprimand those who choose to violate quarantine or forget to wear a mask. Other commands include telling people to return home immediately. This type of regulation is unheard of in the US and would receive media backlash as drones could be used to spy on civilians. These drones prevent people from violating quarantine rules without putting the lives of police officers on the line. While such government enforcement would be highly controversial in America, it has objectively played a role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in China
On top of China’s ability to keep its population quarantined, it also began its vaccine development early. As of December 2020, three separate vaccines from different Chinese companies have been in the final phase of clinical trials.
COVID-19 has become less of an issue in China in recent times, and it seems that life has returned to normal for most. Even in densely populated areas such as Shanghai, students are able to attend school physically and employees are working in physical offices again. While censorship prevents reporters from gaining access to exact information, we have been able to get an understanding of life in China currently through our friends and family.
How COVID-19 has affected education in China:
While conditions will obviously vary in cities and rural towns, all students in China experienced an extended spring break when China closed down all schools. Schools in China converted to online distance learning, which was the first time online learning was permitted as formal education. The Gaokao exam was postponed to July to make up for the one month of preparation at school lost to the pandemic. This is similar to what schools in the US did to adjust to the pandemic, but the same problem that public schools in the US experienced is happening at a greater magnitude in the rural schools of China. Many students in rural schools depend on school for lunch, and students without electronic devices or internet access in rural China are not uncommon. Luckily, online school would not last long, as schools would reopen again in May, and the government prevented schools from introducing new curriculum until the campuses reopened. In addition to the short duration of online school, schools in rural areas could provide devices for students to borrow at home, which further minimized the negative impact of distance learning for students in rural areas. During online learning, schools relied on online meeting platforms such as Tencent Meeting. By September, even schools in Wuhan were able to reopen.
Even after schools reopen, students pursuing higher education will still experience the negative impact of COVID-19. This is because college students typically pursue internships over breaks and the 8.7 million college graduates need to find a full-time job. Due to the pandemic shutting down small businesses and manufacturing plants, China’s economic growth has decreased to the slowest rate seen in 40 years. A declining economy means that consumers are less likely to spend money on nonessential items, which means many companies will experience a dramatic decrease in sales. This means that paid internships and full-time job opportunities will be at an all time low while companies try to lower their expenses to accommodate for their lower income. Millions of workers were laid off at the start of the pandemic in China, so it is unlikely that college students will be able to find job experience opportunities at this time.
When reflecting on the past year’s changes to the lifestyles of the Chinese population, the pandemic’s long term effects on education are still indeterminate. While the pandemic temporarily shut down schools and businesses, it also introduced the possibility of learning and working at home. The upward trend of video conferencing usage in China has shown the world that adaptations are being made to accommodate for the virus while still keeping schools open.