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Coronavirus and international schools - an update from the field by Sam Fraser

The field research team from ISC Research are based around the world. We recently shared a blog about the coronavirus in China from one of our consultants in Shanghai. Now, here’s an update from some of the other regions as the world continues to be impacted by the coronavirus:

From Susan Krumrei in California:
In the US, there is mostly online learning with delivery service of hard copies of lessons/activities per grade level. Also, to bridge the digital divide, or where no internet access is available, use is being made of district-vetted television programming as almost all households have a TV. This site shows a map state by state with school closures with a data table below; page is updated at least once a day on weekdays and at least once on the weekends: https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html

In Canada, it’s mostly online learning and that seems to be going well. In Alberta, classes have been dismissed indefinitely. Saskatchewan did the same, and British Columbia followed suit. The province of Quebec had previously stated plans to return by March 30th and Ontario on April 6th, but it is expected they will also use the ‘indefinite closure’ language.  

From Ghada Shaker in Egypt:
The Egyptian government asked the schools to shut down on Thursday 12th March due to bad weather and extremely heavy rain. Then on Sunday 15th March all schools were asked to shut down for two weeks due to the coronavirus, with online learning to take place. Most of the governmental schools were not equipped enough for this step so they decided to dedicate some TV channels to broadcast the lessons for the students. Many international schools are working with Google Classroom. Some teachers know how to use it, and others can’t. 

School closures have been extended up to 9th April with a full lockdown from 7pm to 6am from Sunday to Thursday, and full lockdown for all day Fridays and Saturdays. International school’s Easter break should start on 12th April for two weeks. Nothing is clear yet whether schools will take this break if other schools are back or not. The government is taking its decisions according to the number of infections and deaths on a daily basis. The Minister of Education announced when the first two weeks closure took place that this time is going to be taken from the summer vacation, but after the extension, nothing is clear yet and they haven’t reached final decisions regarding the academic year. Curfew started last week from 7pm to 6am with the closure of all cafes, restaurants, theatres, etc.
Schools in the Middle East are still closed. Some are having expatriate staff return, and some are not.

From Janet Wolpert in Mexico:
Looking at the region in general, news is dismal. Citizens have generally been very conscious of the need to stay home as much as possible. Most international and many private schools closed on March 13th and the vast majority of public schools in the country (serving approximately 26.3 million students 4-15 ages), closed on March 20th.

It’s very difficult, as everywhere, people need to work to have the most basic necessities. There are two factors that play against us in Mexico; approximately 50% of the population are informal workers that don’t have  social/health security, nor do they have a regular salary, forcing them to go out  to work against all recommendations. The other problem we face, in contrast to other countries in the region, is our large population (approximately 130,000,000) only topped by Brazil. So, the truth is that if all continues to move as it has, we will probably be the next Italy. 

For other countries in the region, all schools are closed. 

From Gale Triphop in Thailand:
Schools in Thailand are asked to be closed and to deliver online classes instead. Also, foreigners are banned from entering the country, so it could make it difficult for schools to hire teachers from overseas for now. I’m not sure when this ban will be lifted, but I believe it will last for a while as the situation here is worsening. 

From Rhea Marie de Pedro in the Philippines:
Currently, we are on our third week of a total lockdown here in Philippines, tentatively until 14th April, and we are already expecting that this will be extended for another month. There is  a curfew from 8pm to 5am when only government assigned people can stay outside.

All the schools and establishments here have shut down. Most of the country’s public and private schools had only two weeks left of school, one of which was supposed to be their final examination week, before the current academic year ends (it was said that the next academic year may move its dates depending on the situation). Therefore, the Department of Education released an order for two options for students; taking their final exams online, or having their grades from previous semesters averaged for their final mark. The second option is the majority choice of all students who do not have access to the internet (many students in the public schools). For international schools here in the Philippines, they are all using online learning for the meantime, and most of them are now closed for the Easter holiday.

From Laletha Saba in Malaysia:
Here’s news on the wider region: Vietnam’s rule of ‘no gatherings’ is still applicable. The government has stopped exporting rice as a national security concern. As for Cambodia, the government has taken a ban on certain countries entering the country until April 17th (Italy, US, Spain, Germany and France) and the country is on lockdown period. Myanmar is following suit on its lockdown period. Country borders and movement are still limited.

Online learning is what all international schools across all these countries are using as a means to teach. Google Classroom is certainly very popular among Heads. Some Heads have mentioned parents and teachers have WhatsApp groups to communicate the challenges they face while learning remotely. Heads have highlighted the wellbeing of teachers is concerning due to shifting the methods they teach, particularly for students who need additional support. Schools will remain online learning until they break off for Easter holidays. 

As for here in Malaysia, our quarantine period has been extended until 14th April. On the bright side a huge number of people in my apartment complex have begun to play music  daily from 7pm to 9 pm and we are able to request music and there’s a live performance from their balconies. So, there’s a bright side; I still get to enjoy live band music which is social-distancing-friendly!

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ISC Research continues to closely monitor the impact of the coronavirus on international schools around the world, including updates on country closures and best practice advice which we are sharing on LinkedIn and Twitter, and in the latest issue of International School Leader Magazine.

ISC Research can also help to connect international schools with essential needs right now. For help or information, please contact enquiries@iscresearch.com