For almost two years, China has enacted a Zero COVID-19 policy to try and contain the virus and its devastating effects. Since March 2020, China has closed its borders, particularly to international students.
While the closing of its borders has resulted in less than 5,000 deaths since March of the last year, this has brought about a somewhat controversial impact on international education. International students who have been wishing to pursue their higher education in the country have been clamoring for the border policies to be eased.
The outcry has been seen from vocal student groups and even on social media. The China International Student Union now has around 7,000 followers on Twitter. In the real world, a group of Bangladesh students protested in Dhaka in the hopes of hastening the opening up of China’s borders.
China still isn’t giving in, citing reasons such as helping to keep COVID-19 cases down, as well as saying that this is its political response, specifically since its health care system cannot handle a high volume of cases (especially in rural hospitals). Nonetheless, such policies are taking their toll on the higher education sector.
Apart from the apparent decreasing number of international student enrollment, even domestic education is beginning to suffer. Many are having a hard time coping as weak internet connection hinders them from fully maximizing the tools needed for better learning.
In addition, many medical students are unable to pursue clinical training, thus putting their acquiring professional accreditation at risk.
As we move into 2022, many are hopeful that China will ease up. This is fueled by events such as the Beijing Winter Games in February and the Communist Party Congress in October. Yet, at present, China officials don’t seem to be budging on their current border policy stand.
China ranks second in international education, following the United States. And while it has expressed its desire to become a hub of international education, its present stand on closing off its borders to international students seems to contradict its rhetoric.
Whether China opens up its borders soon remains to be seen. Something that the world will be closely watching way into 2022.
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