We’ve waited for a few weeks to publish this article. We hoped that the situation would have improved but in light of the most recent news on the outbreak globally, we thought that it was time to address the impact of COVID-19 on your children’s education. While we are experiencing less disruption in Singapore because of the early containment measures, there are a growing number of concerns that we want to address.
What if the Singaporean government announces the temporary closure of schools?
Facing an accelerating spread of Covid-19, Italy and Japan have closed schools to impede the epidemic and yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a shutdown of all schools and universities nationwide. While not considered in the early stages of the outbreak, Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong announced on March 10 that the Singaporean government was currently considering further social distancing measures, including school closures and suspending activities such as public events and religious services.
While hoping for the best, here are a few things you should be doing to prepare for the temporary closing of schools. While all children will be impacted by such measures, the impact will be stronger for students in Grade 11 and 12 as their university application timeline will be disturbed.
- Contact the academic team of your children’s school to better understand what their contingency plans are (e.g. online courses, distance learning, assessment deadline extension, etc.). For IB curriculum students, please refer to the comprehensive update from the IBO.
- Prepare your children to get used to a different routine – adapting to distance learning will be the biggest challenge they will face and the earlier you communicate and discuss with them, the better the outcome will be.
- Try to arrange study-groups with their friends and their parents to keep a certain level of normality – it will also allow you to share the additional workload by splitting it across.
- Ensure that their learning curve is not impacted. We have already witnessed a slight decrease in co-curricular activities, and you could use this extra time to have them taking additional online courses on topics they have shown an interest, have them read more books, or even get ahead in the school curriculum. This might allow them to take on other activities later in the year if things change.
Is COVID-19 going to negatively impact their university applications?
The short answer is no. Universities will naturally take into account the current situation in their assessment. For instance, with the current public health situation, it is understood that shadowing a doctor or completing an internship in a hospital has become almost impossible. As a matter of fact, the situation has already affected clinical rotations for med school students in the United States. Nonetheless, it would be great for students to find small ways in which to help the community, particularly the disadvantaged members of the community, cope in these difficult times. That is a good way to show that you care.
We also do not expect universities to lower their admissions standards much and Admissions Committees will expect students to maintain high academic performance and it will be more important than ever for you to support your children in their studies. Because of the lack of visibility, it is hard for anyone to foresee how the situation will be by summer 2021 but we can anticipate that the situation will either be resolved (hopefully) or contained. Importantly, we should all act with that in mind. It is possible (albeit unlikely) that schools and universities remain closed in 2021, but planning should not be based on this worst-case scenario.
In terms of current trends, 30% of U.S. tertiary education institutions recently reported that students had postponed their study abroad plans to later in 2020 and 29% did not yet know what students’ plans were. In other words, there is a growing concern and a certain number of international students will not be applying to U.S. universities in 2020. We expect similar trends for the U.K. and Australia. In other words, the admissions process may be slightly less competitive for the 2021 intake. Having said that, we are 8 months to Early Decision deadlines and 10 months to Regular Decision deadlines and market trends could swiftly alter course.
But is COVID-19 going to impact the students’ overseas study lives?
With the recent travel bans and shutdown of schools around the globe, there is little doubt that COVID-19 will impact their overseas study life. Recently, 37% of U.S. institutions reported that some students were unable to come or return to the U.S. campus from China because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Universities have adapted very swiftly. 100% of institutions have reported being in contact with those students to discuss flexible study or distance learning, leaves of absence, refunds, or other opportunities. Similarly, U.S. universities and business schools have recently communicated to incoming students that their offers (including scholarship) will be valid for the 2021 intake as well if their visa was to be denied and/or if the public healthcare situation imposed nationwide school’s closing. An increasing number of universities and schools have recently moved their classes online – Harvard University being the most prestigious institution to have done so over last week – and it is possible that your children start their undergraduate education online (but that will be true for local universities as well).
Should we consider a gap year?
Not yet. As of now, students should focus on applying per usual. If needed though, be open to the idea of a gap year. Keep calm, and continue studying!