As the Wuhan Cornavirus spreads across China, Southeast Asia and other countries around the world, Chinese schools have been forced to jump into “online education” since the Ministry of Education is not allowing students to attend schools at this time.
Indeed, the entire Chinese education system is evaluating its systems and how they should respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
Traditionally, students are cramming for elementary, junior high school, high school, college and university examinations during the lunar New Year holidays and after them as students try to get into schools that will determine their education future.
Normal protocols for the “gaokao” national university exams, which take place at the beginning of June, call for students to attend a variety of prep-classes and lectures before taking the examinations.
On average, more than 10 million students are expected to take the gaokao and the Ministry of Education is aware that it needs to make a decision in the very near future.
If the coronavirus outbreak is seen to peak and eradication, or a vaccine for the virus is found within 4 ~ 6 weeks, then physical examinations in June may go ahead. However, if the outbreak extends into April then the Ministry of Educations faces two alternatives; reschedule exams and even school entrance dates, or administer the tests online.
Online education isn’t new to China, and the online education market grew 25.7% in 2018, compared to 2017, and is estimated at $26 billion USD in size. Before the coronavirus outbreak, online education was expected to grow at a 15% per annum rate for the next three to five years.
The surge in online education through different education institutions is also forcing teachers to expand and upgrade their communications and media technology skills. A female teacher in Chengdu city said that she needs to learn new skills such as speaking naturally in front of a camera, using a digital red pen during PowerPoint presentations, and engaging students via online written comments.
A male teacher at a school in Beijing complains online that he doesn’t Look “good enough” online and doesn’t think he’s attractive enough to keep the attention of students with his lectures.
Across China, many schools and teachers have begun to use Alibaba’s “DingTalk” to conduct live-streaming courses but one teacher noted that, “It’s not easy for some older teachers to learn how to do live-streaming courses.”
China’s Ministry of Education issued a statement last week that encourages schools to use Internet platforms as an alternative way of teaching students amid the suspension of the new semester.
The ministry also plans to launch a national Internet cloud classroom on February 17, that will provide a full range of teaching materials and courses for students in junior and senior high schools.
Various online teaching companies are also using the coronavirus outbreak as a marketing opportunity and offering their services for free during the outbreak.
One example is TAL Education, which says that its offering free live-streaming courses for all grades to “minimize the influence on study due to the outbreak.”
Another learning platform, VIPKID, which t teaches English online, said on the Chinese social media site, Weibo, that it would offer 1.5 million free online courses to children aged from four to 12.
According to statistics from Alibaba, more than 220 education bureaus in 20 Chinese provinces had joined the free-of-charge DingTalk homeschool program. These 20 bureaus are responsible for the education of 20,000 primary and secondary schools, and 12 million students.