Reflection on Town Hall Webinar and Impact of COVID-19 on Secondary Schools

Reflection on Town Hall Webinar and Impact of COVID-19 on Secondary Schools

By: Ning Deng
Vanke Meisha Academy

Changing hats from an audience member to first-time panelist, the COVID-19 International ACAC webinar marked a personal milestone. Of course, I never expected this switch to happen in such a challenging time—the outbreak of COVID-19 spurred my engagement in the Town Hall discussion as an Advocacy & Outreach Committee member. As Christmas is to Westerners, Spring Festival is for Chinese the time to travel home, celebrate and enjoy festivities, and hang out over nice cuisine. However, the “STOP” button was pressed for the 2020 Spring Festival when Wuhan locked down on January 23rd, a day before China’s New Year’s Eve. Life changed for students and teachers at every school in China, unable to return to campuses and with no clear return date. Consequently, new buzzwords of “cancellation”, “online learning”, “college admissions impact” spread quickly among concerned students, parents, and counselors.

A first impact on students has been online learning, which started mid-February with technology support from Zoom, Teams, Dingding, etc. In the webinar, panelists shared counseling best practices such as periodical online counseling workshops/classes/one-on-one counseling sessions with students, virtual parent meetings, WeChat sharing, E-documentation—all of which are keeping students informed and prepared. Panelists also fielded tough questions about online learning quality and assurance measures and how to maintain engaged learning and quality services during this difficult time.

Another impact discussed was the cancellation of TOEFL/IELTS/SAT tests in February and March for Chinese students. We encouraged students to schedule a new test plan later this year, to consider Duolingo as replacement for TOEFL, and to closely watch how AP tests in May will operate (a critical concern for International programs using AP-curricula).

The third impact has been seen on summer program enrollments. The inaccessibility of English proficiency tests, the ambiguity of when school semesters will end, the scarcity of visa appointments in May have all brought difficulties to summer program plans. Even worse, will a chain-reaction begin after Johns Hopkins University cancelled its summer program due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19? In the long run, will this disease impact family savings, reducing the affordability of overseas study and the number of international students in colleges/universities in Western countries?

On the bright side, there have been quick and innovative responses from colleges and counseling platform providers, like CIALFO, whose webinars to counselors, prospective and admitted students on different topics have substituted for the typical college fairs and travels which were cancelled this Spring. In addition to American universities, universities in Japan, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and others have actively engaged in webinars. As college counselors share the information nationwide through their virtual networks, webinars have increased the efficiency of college outreach activities and expanded its accessibility all around country.


This rapidly evolving situation has currently impacted over 70 countries, and we really appreciate International ACAC’s advocacy for international students’ interests, and hope cancelled events, like the community events and college fair in Kunming, could be rescheduled later in the year.



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