Impact of Coronavirus


Living in far-off, exotic lands, International Educators often feel somehow exempt, even insulated from a lot of what’s going on in the world. Time and distance have a habit of providing a false sense of security that does not apply to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

To date, China alone reports 92,290 confirmed cases, resulting in 3,130 deaths. Iran, Italy, South Korea, Japan, France, United States, Philippines, Australia, Thailand and Taiwan have reported deaths due to the Virus. Yet this is not the complete list of impacted countries as the Coronavirus has reportedly spread to 66 countries and every continent.

ISR Asks:  What effect is the Coronavirus having on International Educators? Will Recruiting Fairs continue to attract large numbers of educators when the future of an offered position is uncertain? What about Contracts already signed for China and other areas where the Virus is prominent and spreading? Will there be financial compensation for educators who may find themselves jobless? How are those International Educators currently in areas with stringent quarantines and school shutdowns coping with the situation?

In an effort to keep each other informed, ISR encourages Members and readers to use this space to ask questions, recount experiences and offer sound advice based on their first-hand experiences.

Please scroll down to participate in this Discussion

30 thoughts on “Impact of Coronavirus

  1. Hi Folks: Now with the possibility of mandatory quarantine in China (not referring to self-quarantine) for those of us attempting to come back to the country and the risk to personal health that it infers, I’m wondering if anyone has retrieved primary documents regarding labor law and requisite salary for strictly online teaching. The documents I’ve read seem to be geared to the local Chinese population and not the western expats. Many of us have spent a ton of $$ no doubt to be in a temporary “hold” pattern to see where this progresses. If there are mandatory quarantines, that could be a legitimate “deal breaker” on coming back to China anytime soon. Many of us are wondering how this will affect our income and our legal rights associated with that? I’m really surprised no one has posted this question in association with the academic piece of international education!

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    1. Social media has our names on it. Since this is anonymous, I will tell you that I am not going back to Shanghai. My school does not know that yet though.

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  2. At my small private school in Mongolia, where communications are poor at the best of times, we started late on Google Classroom, and have now been asked to *immediately* switch to GSuite. I learned later that this is due to haranguing parents, and though it will be tough to do, we must be willing. Our principal said we were allowed to go ‘home’ to work, and that’s where I am now- in Seattle, which is so far the worst hit city in the country for the virus, while Mongolia has 0 cases. None of us really think school will open this year, and I’m glad I left when I did, because tickets to US getting harder and harder to come by, and prices rising..

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    1. I’m curious as to why you think school will not resume this year. It’s hard to predict here in Beijing. We are working very long hours with online teaching, but the most stressful part of this is the uncertainty. So I’d like to hear your reasoning to see if it applies to us.

      In theory, the BJ government could tell us tomorrow that we’ll be going back to school next week. But it seems likely they will not resume classes until several weeks after the last case in the city has been resolved. Best case scenario, as far as I can see, that would be mid to late April. Except for an anomaly of 11 new cases about 10 days ago, BJ seemed to have this pretty much under control. However, in the last week we’ve had about 10 or 15 new cases from people returning from abroad. So the government has advised teachers and students who are abroad to stay away. So far, no one is banned from returning, though.

      The weather is already warming up here and these things usually can’t survive in the warmth, so I suspect there will be fewer and fewer cases every day. There already are fewer and fewer each day in China. We know that schools in Qinghai province are returning this week and Guizhou schools are returning next week.

      We have about 15 more weeks before school is out for the summer. I was here for SARS but though the death rate was much higher for SARS, things were very different then. We never closed school. But by about mid-March, early April, nearly half our student population had evacuated, maybe more. However, by early to mid-May, most of them had returned. That makes me think it will be early to mid-May before we return. But who knows!?! That’s what’s stressing me out.

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    2. News just out that Mongolia has its first case and this is horribly serious due to the isolation and poor med infrastructure. I got out last week and glad I did as it is in full lockdown- no flights out, I think, until end of the month. Also xenophobia now because the carrier was French, so whiteys told to keep a low profile. Now the school says we will open in mid-April instead of the 2nd- I’m very sure it will not. But this in Mongolia with first case just now. Not the same as the rest of Asia, for sure.

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  3. My dear teachers whom I care about,
    These questions are so important to me. I have never taught on line and may need to. I am very interested in any feedback any one has to give. You are reaching and helping many of us that are stuck in an unpredictable situation. Much gratitude sent your way.

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  4. These viruses are going to keep coming up overseas and now is a nice time to return back to the USA. Countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Thailand all lie about the number of cases. Not worth working in these locations anymore.

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    1. Lol, the United States won’t tell you how many people have been tested. And the CDC has to speak through the White House’s approval.

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    2. Neither of you are completely right. We are obliged to share rumors sometimes because ‘the truth’ often cannot be known easily, not because of cover-ups (though some countries do), but poor communication flow. My school has a chat group and everyone has been asking wtf, especially when we were asked to change from Google Classroom to GSuite mid term, with no prep time. It seemed an unreasonable demand until someone (who spoke the native language) found out that the principal was being harangued by parents- not an uncommon scenario. Sometimes ‘guesses’ are all we can do, after chatting with everyone and ‘gathering’ that while we are supposed to go back April 2, the chance of this is slim to none.

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    3. Right…I live in Beijing and was thinking about returning to Seattle to avoid the whole virus thing. Oh, wait…

      (not to mention Trump’s “hunch” that the WHO is wrong.)

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    4. I fled out of Mongolia a few days ago (which has 0 cases because they are doing everything right, and it’s so isolated anyway) right into the eye of the storm in Seattle. I’m working online here and fine with it, but would have to spend at least 2 weeks in quarantine if I returned to start again April 2. Fortunately, though, I think it is highly unlikely we will start back this year at all.

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  5. I live in Norway and am in home quarantine after being on an SAS flight I was on included a passenger who was later found o be positive (this was the first case in this country, now the numbers are 83 only a week later!). So I have been teaching using Skype, while the relief teacher manages projecting the work I sent. I agree it was far more preparation, but teaching-wise it is OK, because so far the students are very cooperative and engaged.

    It might be different if this goes on longer, however!

    I would recommend all teachers test their Skype for their ability to screenshare now, though, in order to prepare. (For some reason this is not working on my version)

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  6. I’m in week five of online teaching. I actually had already decided to leave my current position and accept one in a different city in China. I have questions about enrollment and what that could mean for new hires, but I am at peace with my decision to leave where I am regardless of what happens with the new position.

    I too have gotten quite a few posting sent to me by recruiters over the past few weeks, I am wondering if some people have choosing to back out of contracts or if the applicant pool is just tiny.

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  7. In Hanoi, we are one of the last remaining schools to be open just for teaching staff to host online calls.

    We are using Google Hangouts to hold online (calls) lessons for all year groups.

    It is not ideal as some student grades have dropped and it is difficult to know or see if students are listening?

    Regular assignments are proving to be worth the time setting up, this provides evidence if students are working or not.

    We have used many different platforms and some are really good. Many IT companies are providing free online platforms, but after using so many we are sticking to what we currently use.

    Parents are working closely with school and they understand the situation and support online lessons, I know of colleagues working for families at weekends to support school work, this is obviously an extra income for those teachers who teach EAL and English.

    Overall, the virus has been halted compared to other countries and life is generally the same as it was before, there will probably be travel restrictions being imposed soon.

    Many teacher here are on long contracts, so not many people are ready leave in a hurry. Its just a question of carrying on and do the very best job that you can with what you have.

    As long as students and parents are happy, we will continue to use online lessons.

    The upcoming IGCSE exams are going to be difficult as there is no word from Cambridge yet, so I am sure all schools are waiting for a response?

    We are working as normal and expect to see students on their exam days?

    I hope that things get better soon.

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  8. Just finishing the 4th week teaching online. I went back after the vacation, did my two weeks quarantine, got the stuff I needed from the school, couldn’t put up with the terrible internet and left. I live on the west coast of the US so I teach Sun. to Thurs. evenings. Internet is good. Except for the fact that I teach instrumental music/ band!!! and not all my students even have their instruments, it’s going pretty well. Teaching online takes a lot more prep for me.

    They kids are all anxious to get back to school but we’ve just been informed by the Beijing Education board that we’re not even permitted to come back into the country until an opening date has been announced and that is still up in the air. Since I’m in my home I’m fine, but for my friends who are still in hotels this adds up. No word on whether they’ll get any compensation or help covering additional costs.

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    1. We have staff returning to Beijing now from overseas and they are being put up in a hotel for 2 weeks as we live on campus at our school. It’s all good here but I think they are worried about people bringing the virus back from overseas more now.

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    2. Yes, we have returning staff, too. We just did receive a note from admin that there may be new info forthcoming regarding restrictions on returning flights. Fun, fun! Makes me glad I didn’t leave.

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    3. My school still pays everyone who is at home in their home countries. We will have to make up the teaching time in our spring break because the parents expect proper teaching for their money. Many of us still take pity on the bored children and stressed families and continue to teach online but we are not required to . If we don’t get to go back to school soon I cannot imagine that parents will continue to pay fees. I hear that in some countries like Uzbekistan teachers have no medical insurance, hospitals are inadequate to say the least, expensive by any standard. I wouldn’t like to be there. In Beijing the authorities have acted most responsibly and I believe it is a very safe place compared to places with little governance or control of the situation.

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    4. I don’t think the Ministry has forbidden teachers and students from returning yet, only “advised” they do not.

      I am riding it out here in BJ. The city is beginning to come back to life. I actually saw people eating at restaurants and cars on the roads. Still not the typical traffic, but there isn’t the eerie emptiness as a few weeks ago.

      I know a few schools in BJ have given their staff emergency funds, but I don’t think our school will be doing that. However, we are being paid and since I’m here, I can still transfer my salary back home. I feel for my colleagues who haven’t been able to transfer funds since before CNY!

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  9. It’s difficult knowing what is coming up in the Asian international school market. Some schools could be forced to close, the Chinese government may politically use the situation as an excuse to close down international schools. It just emphasises the need to keep one’s CV up to date and always ready to go.

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  10. I am teaching math in Shanghai and expect this situation to give me much more leverage than usual in negotiating a renewal or another job. I already have recruiters adding me on LinkedIn and sending me many job announcements in various parts of China with salaries ranges that are higher than before. My school normally renews in April, which usually annoys me since that is late in the season, but this time it will be me delaying the process so I can have more time to shop around and/or have offers from other schools to show my principal and expect them to match these offers if they want me to renew. If he refuses then I am willing to lose the security of the job I have had for four years and wait for late offers in the summer. I usually get these every summer anyway and always tell them “sorry I already signed my contract for the upcoming school year” but this time I expect more of these late offers with even more desperation. I would bet that I could probably even convince a school to let me work afternoons only for a full salary (I really hate mornings, much more than most teachers). I have close to an ideal schedule now with only a couple days per week with classes before lunch, but after teaching for 21 years (11 years in the US plus 10 years in 3 cities in China), I am really ready to semi-retire with a more relaxed schedule. Now I may finally have the leverage to get it. Another nice thing about the virus situation is that I am now in Thailand, teaching just a few hours per day online. All schools in China are only operating online now so far this semester, so I never came back from winter vacation. Most of the foreign teachers at my school are still outside China with no definite plan to come back yet, even though our Chinese principal “strongly advises” that we come back before April.

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    1. Well not knowing Mike’s actual situation, it is important to note that many Stateside districts offer partial contracts to keep good teachers from retiring. This is especially true in shortage areas like math, SPED, etc.

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    2. Sorry Steve, it’s a business decision as much for Mike as his livelihood is at stake. I’m interested to hear more about different platforms being used by teachers teaching remotely right now

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    3. I am using mostly Kahn Academy which is great for high school math, especially my AP classes. I also conduct scheduled live sessions with a wechat group (two 90 minute sessions per week for each of my three classes). Most of the teachers at my school are using Dingtalk but I find it hard to use since the English version has some functions only in Chinese.

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    4. Where did Steve’s comment go? Unfortunately Steve needs to pull his head out of the sand. Teachers are in education for different reasons, all of which are valid given their own circumstances. You can be a terrible teacher even if you’re willing to work over and above contracted hours and the opposite of this is most definitely true too. That was a very narrow minded comment for an international educator, probably why it has now been removed…

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    5. I guess Steve doesn’t believe in semi-retirement, and thinks I must be a terrible teacher since I don’t want to work full time anymore. But I think there will be many schools in China that will have a difficult time recruiting western math teachers, especially those who are good at teaching AP Calculus and AP Statistics. And they may be happy to have such a teacher even if just for the afternoons. I also think that some schools will be willing to pay over 35K USD per year for this which is the typical full-time salary for a foreign, experienced subject teacher in a 2nd/3rd tier international/bilingual school in a 1st/2nd tier city. Yes I know I could make much more in a better school if I was willing to work a longer day, but that is not my goal anymore since I have been frugal and saved almost half my salary for more than 10 years (and invested it well) so I am no longer motivated by just a high salary. My last job near Guangzhou paid me over $55K per year but I quit after years since they expected us there as early as 7:30 am and as late as 8 pm which they thought was ok for us since we had a long lunch break (a time when most Chinese teachers slept but most western teachers stayed and worked). Maybe Steve would be happy there but I am glad I left that job like 80% of my foreign coworkers did during those 2 yeas

      Most schools in China assign us 20 periods per week or less anyway (out of more than 45 periods on the time table), so it is not too hard to have a couple teachers who only teach in the morning and a couple who only teach in the afternoon. Of course we have to be available to the students outside of class time as well, but at most Chinese schools, the students are only free to visit the teachers’ offices during lunch time and after school. So I always come to school before noon, before the lunch period is over, at the time most of the students come to see teachers (and do this even on days when I don’t have to). I doubt the students are even aware that I am not in the office in the morning since they are too busy with their classes to even notice or care.

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