The Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted all industries and sectors. But it can be said that one of the worst-hit sectors has been the educational field. Schools have been closed for almost a year while debates are going on about reopening dates and times all over the world. Higher educational institutions like colleges and universities have been hit worse since online classes are not enough to supplement hands-on lab work.
Many have also claimed that teachers’ ongoing online courses aren’t enough since the teaching standard is sub-par. Such issues have prompted international students to ask the Chinese government to reopen their borders to enter the country and resume their University life.
This pushback has been more substantial in recent weeks since China indeed opened its borders, but only to its international residents. The doors remain shut for the people holding student visas. So, due to the lack of institutional support from their home and host governments, these students are stuck in the middle of a deadly pandemic.
What Is The Reality Of International Students Who Can’t Return To China?
China is a popular destination for international studies. It became known as the third-biggest international student destination globally after 492,185 total students chose it as their educational host country in 2018. But the pandemic has made the situation difficult for this sizeable global student population.
However, students aren’t blaming only the sudden pandemic for their problems. Some are frustrated due to the lack of communication from their universities. One Pakistani student studying in Wuhan said that his University fails to respond to messages. He expressed disappointment that Chinese students could head to the UK and other countries for studies, but he and his other international peers were still at home.
Apart from international students, Chinese students studying abroad are also anxious to return home. The Beijing Overseas Study Service Association reported that around 86% of students studying in foreign nations wanted to return to the country. Further on, the association also said that about two-thirds of them felt that their host nations were not taking enough steps to prevent Covid from spreading.
In this survey, a large chunk of interviewees was involved in various courses. The survey was centered around students studying in around 20 countries. About half of the surveyed population were undergraduates, while approximately 11% were less than 18 years old. A large chunk of the students was studying in the UK (27%) and the US (30%).
Even Chinese Students Studying Abroad Want To Return Home
The main concern of Chinese students in foreign nations is the virus, both on their health and education. Some Chinese students studying abroad have also reported facing racism, and other micro-aggression as the virus has continued spreading. The lack of support from their universities due to such discrimination coupled with worry for their families at home has made many want to return home.
But the government not opening its borders and the lack of returning flights are significant roadblocks in returning. Apart from these issues, 94% of surveyed students say that they cannot afford the cost of going back. The rest say that they are not interested in going back.
But the Chinese government isn’t leaving its foreign studying students behind. To ensure that they remain safe, 8000+ students have received medical kits and disease guides in multiple countries, including the UK.
What Is The Response Of The Chinese Government On The Issues Raised By International Students?
Wang Wenbin, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China, was asked about all the issues raised by international students during a press briefing. There he mentioned that all the questions had already been submitted multiple times and given a response every time. He stated that:
“I would like to recap our position. First, as [the] Covid-19 situation remains severe, all countries are taking prevention and containment measures based on their conditions. This is to protect the safety and health of all citizens, including students. I’m sure everyone will understand this. Second, we hope the international community will strengthen anti-epidemic cooperation to win the fight as soon as possible so that students can return to campus sooner rather than later.”
Wang Wenbin continued with a third point and said that:
“Third, on the precondition of observing containment protocols, the Chinese authorities will study in a coordinated manner the matter of allowing foreign students to come back for their studies and maintain communication with relevant parties.”
Students Not Satisfied With Online Studies
The China International Student Union was recently formed to express its members’ grievances and all those they represent. This student body is a coalition from 200 major universities situated all over China. They have argued that the online education they are receiving isn’t of high quality or standard. There have been allegations and frustrations regarding teachers not delving into the subject properly. Instead, the educators seem to be showing pre-recorded lectures with PowerPoint presentations.
The situation is worse for students in medical courses. After all, the added worry that their qualifications might be rejected in their nations is if they continue the online-based learning. Medical students are also worried about incomplete labwork since it could derail their education and job prospects.
When asked about the government’s response, the union said they were glad for the reply, but it doesn’t address their problems concretely. All these vague answers from the government are only causing stress and frustration. Students call for a fee boycott in the new semester in response to the Chinese government’s inadequate reply.
Overall, it’s clear that the situation is dire for international students studying in China. They can’t return to their universities and feel like their time is in limbo. Also, the online classes aren’t enough for various final year students. One can only hope that the students get some concrete response from the government soon.