How will Chinese education respond to COVID-19?

By Andrew Myers

A professor with appointments at Johns Hopkins and in Hong Kong edits the first series of peer-reviewed papers exploring China’s nationwide effort to support education through the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the United States still amid an unexpected crisis from the COVID-19 pandemic, educational experts, community leaders, and families are rightfully wondering what American educational system will look like months—or even years—from now amid the dramatic realignment of the pandemic.

One lodestar is to examine the Chinese response—a nation four times the size of the United States with a head start on recovery. To answer such question, Alan Cheung, PhD, an adjunct professor at the Center for Research and Reform in Education (CCRE) and also a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, recently served as editor-in-chief of a special COVID-19 edition of Best Evidence in Chinese Education (BECE), the leading journal of evidence-based educational reforms in China.

BECE is published in English as part of Best Evidence in Brief, a co-production of Johns Hopkins’ CCRE and the University of York’s Institute for Effective Education in the UK, whose mission is to offer authoritative, critical surveys on the current status of Chinese education. Best Evidence in Brief differs from other education newsletters by peering behind the headlines, providing readers with practical facts on what actually works to improve schools.

Even with most of the world still embroiled in the pandemic, in this issue Cheung has assembled an early series of peer-reviewed papers that examine responses from across China. The journal was published in Chinese on March 15 and Cheung oversaw translation of the issue into English.

The issue kicks off with a brief editorial posing the question: “Can a Deadly Virus Stop Education?” calling for a national response to ensure that quality education not only survives, but grows stronger from the lessons learned in this unique moment in time.

The issue then offers six in-depth evidence-based examinations of key aspects of the Chinese response to lockdowns and recovery, including “A Six-Step Online Teaching Method” and “School’s Out, But Class’s On,” about the transition to online learning. The latter paper takes part of its title from the name of the nationwide initiative aimed at keeping education moving forward during the pandemic. Another paper explores the key role school-family cooperation played—and will play—in maintaining a sense of community and continuity through the crisis. And, last but not least, two others look at the correlated topics of home schooling and how kids learn autonomously.