TAIPEI (The China Post) — From the initial outbreak at the beginning of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has since raised a range of unsettling issues in the fields of education, economy and society.
With lockdowns still in place in many countries, the approaching school year has led many to worry about the “new normal” education-wise.
According to UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres, “We face a generational catastrophe that could waste untold human potential, undermine decades of progress, and exacerbate entrenched inequalities.”
The aftershocks of the pandemic could leave around 23.8 million adolescents ranging from pre-school to university level displaced and lacking access to school for the next year.
Guterres stated, “The decisions that governments and partners take now will have a lasting impact on hundreds of millions of young people, and on the development prospects of countries for decades to come.”
Nations such as Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan benefit from high levels of efficacy which boost the public’s communication and response to authority.
Taiwan’s people are receptive to and possess a strong faith in their ruling government. Their ability to adopt public policies demonstrates that Taiwan has a healthy civil society.
While the rest of the world is nosediving into an education disaster, Taiwan will quite possibly be smooth sailing into the new academic year.
Certainly, the island doesn’t have perfect policies but the fierce mutual respect that Taiwanese citizens have for each other creates a systematic and calm environment.
The disruption in Taiwan’s educational system was kept to a minimum with approximately 5.3 million students savoring an extended Chinese New Year break in February before returning to classes 2 weeks later.
These missed 15 days of school were then adjusted in the semester subsequently shortening the summer break.
Schools and universities also implemented rigid policies to ensure the safety of their students. Hand sanitizers were kept at school entrances, classrooms and hallways.
Students and staff had to wear face masks and maintain a clean environment. Temperature-checking was a meticulous but strictly enforced process that occurred at the school entrances every morning.
At universities, students’ temperatures were checked before entering any building and their hands were then stamped to signify they were permitted to enter.
From the students’ perspective, attending class during a pandemic was disconcerting, to say the least.
It was absurd that millions of students were displaced and had to attend class online, while they were still in class and not social distancing.
This was worrying for numerous students as they were uncertain whether their daily environment was safe. Many of them complained and believed that they were being put at risk and that the government wasn’t being considerate.
Despite the divided reactions, Taiwan’s government stood its ground and with sound policies in place, they somehow managed to recover.
This greatly contradicts the dilemma that the US is facing now. There are mixed opinions on whether or not they should reopen schools in the fall.
This is a decision that will impact millions of domestic and international students and their families.
On the other hand, though Taiwan has produced satisfactory results so far in preventing community spread of the virus, its somewhat unprecedented approach has been met with mixed results.
While the government may have evaded an educational crisis, they must publicly address the several new COVID-19 cases that are arising within the region.
Reports show that Taiwan had survived 110 days without any new domestic cases; however, after health authorities were unable to trace the contact source of a Belgian engineer who tested positive for the virus and had been freely traveling in Changhua, Taipei, Yilan and Taichung, alarms were raised once again.
The issue is that it’s unclear whether these people are getting infected here or are considered imported cases. Several immigrants that have flown back to their home countries have also tested positive.
This, in turn, raises many questions in the local and especially foreign community in Taiwan. Authorities must address these concerns before they escalate into misinformation.
Regardless, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC, 中央流行疫情指揮中心) must remain transparent with the cases and testing should still be carried out on a large scale.
Since schools will reopen for the new academic year, Taiwan may see an influx of thousands of international students.
Fortunately, the island’s geographical advantage allows it to control one hundred percent of the people that enter or leave. However, the intricate and systematic measures need to remain in place to prevent mass panic.