Though the coronavirus breakout in China was in 2020, 2022 has been the most intense year of covid-related restrictions thus far. The restrictions first began in March, with delays in logistics and many places shutting down. Such delays would only get worse in the following months as China imposed its zero-covid policy and citywide lockdown in Shanghai. During this time, students finished the school year online. If you are thinking about a school trip to China sometime in the next year, you may want to take a look at the way Chinese schools are handling the current covid wave first.
After several months of mass testing and continued restrictions, the Chinese government has decided to abandon its zero-covid goal altogether. The government’s original plan was for schools in Shanghai to stay open and in-person, but the initial resurgence of covid cases after the cease of covid tests caused quite a flurry. Since schools can be one of the major hotspots of disease spreading, kindergartens and childcare centers in Shanghai have once again moved to online classes for the next foreseeable period. When this school year began in September, students were actually required to do daily covid tests.
Students in Guangzhou who were already doing online classes are continuing to do so. Pre-schoolers who were preparing to return to school in the spring semester are now required to do online school. Some schools ended early for winter break whereas others will continue through to January 17 before closing for the Lunar New Year holiday. It is best to avoid traveling during these peak times even without covid to keep away from big crowds during your school trip to China.
How Chinese Schools Are Handling The Current Covid-19 Wave
An epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports a three-wave pattern over the next three months, with the current wave being the first one which will run through mid-January. The second one is predicted to be from during late January to mid-February when citizens head home for Lunar New Year celebrations. The third wave is foreseen to be from late February to mid-March when citizens head back to work.
There has been no official announcement on when students are to return to in-person classes, but it will most likely be after the third wave. The sentiment around online schooling has been divided among parents. Some parents believe it’s the safest option while working parents find it inconvenient. Other parents are skeptical about the efficacy of online learning.
Perhaps the biggest concern though, is that scientific models have predicted a 6-month high-case time frame that would reach “112 million symptomatic cases, 2.7 million intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and 1.6 million deaths.” A school trip to China may not be the best idea for now, but it’s because China has yet to experience the level of drastic COVID-19 waves that other countries have gone through, which is why the numbers are so high.
Not to mention it is the most highly populous country in the world. Other countries have built up immunity as a byproduct of their high cases over the past two years, and this is clearly reflected in the statistics of the confirmed cases. The peak of cases over the past month is significantly higher than the one in April.
Schools are now online to slow down the spread of covid cases since some staff was already calling in sick. Keeping schooling online also protects the elder generation. A third of citizens aged 60 and older have not gotten their booster shot and the government has declared them to be a high-risk group. China’s ICU capacity is dangerously low for the number of people it may need to accommodate in 2023, which is why these measures have been taken.
Online learning may feel like a thing of the past with all the Zoom school days of 2020 for you in the US, but it is still very much a reality here. Perhaps it is something your students can discuss with the locals when you do take your school trip to China. According to a 2020 study on user satisfaction with online education platforms in China, there was a bit of a lag when transitioning over to online education. Chinese schools are using platforms such as Ding Ding, Fanya, Tencent Class, Chaoxing Learning, and Chinese MOOC.
Students experienced technical issues and found that the type of learning they were used to in the classroom does not have the same effect when learning online. The findings indicated a strong need for interactive learning models to promote knowledge acquisition and the quality of learning.
In 2022, a study found that there are three levels of a digital divide in online learning in China: equipment and network conditions, students’ adaptability, and the changes in learning outcomes. Some students did not have access to the best equipment for online learning while others did but also experienced poor network conditions. Family members using the internet at the same time also made things difficult for some students. Secondly, the capacity of material absorption varies widely from student to student with different learning styles, personalities, and levels of self-discipline.
Thirdly, it appears that students who were already experiencing difficulties at the first level were disproportionately affected at the third level. Additionally, students of a lower family socioeconomic status were at a disadvantage. It is one of the things for your students to ponder when they do take a school trip to China.
Before students physically head back to school, there is a new covid variant to watch out for: XBB.1.5. It is a mutated version of Omicron and is a main source of worry for 2023. The symptoms are similar to the common flu and are highly contagious. Ever since the zero-covid policy was lifted, hundreds of people began to contract it. XBB.1.5 is different from Omicron and other variants in that it affects people who’ve previously developed immunity in the same way.
This variant has already spread to rural areas and is predicted to rise rapidly when people head home for Lunar New Year in a few weeks. The world is worried about China’s public health infrastructure not just because of low ICU capacity, but also because China has only used domestically produced vaccines. There’s a concern that these vaccines may not be as effective. What’s more, this covid surge may lead to another dangerous variant. According to NPR, one of the major things the Chinese government must do now is to minimize the spread of misinformation and assure citizens that the vaccines are safe.
You may have been discussing how covid has affected the US over the past two years, but looking at how it has affected another country could help students develop their critical thinking skills. China’s covid restrictions and subsequent lift of the zero-covid policy have several implications not just for the immediate future, but the future of several generations to come.
Of course, this would be in addition to all the other amazing things that you and your students will get to see on your school trip to China. Though it looks like things are far from settling down here, it is never too early to start planning your school trip! Our team would be delighted to hear from you and listen to your needs for your school trip to China. Simply reach out to us via phone or email to get a quote.
Sources: How Chinese Schools Are Handling The Current Covid Wave