Nebraskans See Boost In English Language Classes As Chinese Kids Stay Home

Christine Brady has worked for VIPKid for about a year. (Becca Costello, NET News)
A middle school 'Moral and Rule of Law Textbook' uploaded to the online cloud education platform. (Credit: bp.pep.com.cn/jc)
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February 18, 2020 - 3:43pm

As Chinese kids spend more time at home to stay away from potential coronavirus infection, American teachers, including some here in Nebraska, are seeing a boost in online English language classes. 


Schools in China have been on winter break since mid-January. They were supposed to be back in school on Monday, but the Chinese Ministry of Education delayed the start date in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19 

And kids aren’t just staying home from school – they’re staying indoors as much as possible.

Teachers like Nebraskan Christine Brady are seeing more appointments to teach kids English via video chat.

"I was getting them kind of halfway booked, seven to eight classes a week," Brady said. "For the last three weeks now I’ve been 100% booked, all three classes, five days a week."

Brady’s day job is as a counselor at Ashland-Greenwood Elementary School. In her off hours she works for VIPKid, a Chinese company that connects teachers like Brady with kids in China learning English.

The company donated 1.5 million math and English classes to students affected by COVID-19. A spokesperson said in an emailed statement priority for the free classes is for students in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, and for the children of medical workers. 

Brady says a lot of other VIPkid teachers have gotten an increase in classes – it’s a constructive way to occupy time when kids can’t go outside.

"One of my other older students, I was asking him if he could play with his friends in the building or not," Brady said. "And he didn’t say much but he definitely got really quiet, kind of put his fingers in his eyes, and you could tell he was getting a little bit emotional…he said he couldn’t play with friends, he had to stay in his own apartment."

There are more than 73,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization – and the vast majority of those are in China.

"Some of the older kids in the beginning were asking, 'have you heard about our illness?' They weren’t sure if we had heard about it here in the United States or how it was affecting us," Brady said.

The Chinese Ministry of Education launched a “National Online Cloud Classroom” this week so students can continue learning without being in class. The website has digital textbooks and a place for teachers to upload video lessons.

"Whilst classes may be suspended, there is no reason to suspend teaching or learning," an MOE official said in a statement. The statement says China Education Network Television will broadcast courses and learning resources in rural and remote areas with "unreliable or no internet connection." 

As kids start more formal online learning, the boost in VIPKid classes may drop off. The company works with more than 100,000 teachers in the U.S. and more than 700,000 students in China.

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