Hong Kong, Pandemic, and Education. What to Expect in the 2020-2021 Academic Year?

We are surely living in an extraordinary time. With the current pandemic, it is now a part of the new normal to question the pandemic situation and quarantine measures of countries that play a role in our lives. And if you are studying in Hong Kong, or willing to study in Hong Kong, Hong Kong is no exception. Therefore, as a student who has been in Hong Kong throughout the pandemic period, I would like to share some information regarding the coronavirus measures in Hong Kong; and how it has affected universities.

As of writing this post (July 30, 2020), Hong Kong has had 3003 cases. And as of now, we are entering a ‘third-wave’ with nearly a hundred new cases each day. The numbers may seem relatively safer compared to most other countries. But, for a place like Hong Kong where there is a great effort put in containing the virus, the numbers seem overwhelming. To better understand, let me quickly go through the historical development of the virus and the measures the government has taken so far.

Initial contact, and new measures

source: fortune.com

Hong Kong, as a place close to Wuhan, was one of the first places to report a virus case (23 January 2020). And after a couple of days, the viral outbreak was declared as an “emergency”. Places like amusement parks, museums, libraries, were closed. And the border with Mainland China got tightened. Social gatherings got limited. Sanitizers were placed in many places. Masks were worn by almost everyone. Eventually, people coming from outside were required to go through a 14-day quarantine period. And such measures led to a 21-day streak of no new local cases, until recently.

Fighting the virus together

source: deccanherald.com

There was never a lock-down. I did not feel major changes in my lifestyle, except gaining new habits such as wearing masks. I believe Hong Kong is well equipped to fight the virus, both as a government and people. This could be due to past pandemic experiences such as SARS. So far, the government was rather responsive to provide updates and announce new policies; and the citizens were willing to cooperate and follow the new measures. Although, with the stricter measures now, where people are urged to stay at home more than ever, it will be interesting to see how things turn out. At the end of the day, with the efforts put in, people wish to return to days with no local new cases, as soon as possible.

How did the universities respond?

Before Hong Kong’s initial contact with the virus, we students were already on holiday due to the Chinese New Year. And there was never a return to campus. The universities temporarily dismissed classes. After a couple of weeks, the universities announced the switch to online teaching, before most other countries. Initially, I had felt anxious about the new way of teaching and had a lot of doubts and questions whether it would work out. But I believe that the adaptation was quick with the guidance of universities. The universities were responsive by providing technical support and guidelines to how the classes and exams would be conducted. Also, universities offered Pass/Fail options to graded courses, to further assist students in adapting.

What to expect in the upcoming academic year?

source: instagram.com/hkust/

With the recent announcements, it seems like the next academic year (at least until the second term) will also consist of online teaching. Some universities, like HKUST, already announced online teaching to all the courses in the Fall 2020-2021 term. And universities, such as CUHK, has closed hostel applications for local students and asked the freshman students to not come. Whether there would be a mixture of face-to-face teaching and online teaching is an open question. Further updates depend on how the situation develops in Hong Kong. So it is best to check the news and announcements of specific universities.

Written by: Huzeyfe K. ????????

A 3rd-year Anthropology student at The Chinese University of Hong Kong

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