How Chinese teachers are dealing with coronavirus and helping keep its student’s futures alive

400+ people have died because of the coronavirus in Mainland China. To curb the spread and contagion, the government had to shut down the schools. Whole semester are getting delayed and those students who were preparing for college entrance examinations are left in fray and frenzy.

But like always, China has a way out of their biggest viral problem and unsurprisingly, it involves technology. China’s Ministry of Education issued a statement last week to push schools to use internet platforms as an alternative way of teaching students amid the suspension of the new semester.

Schools are now teaching its teachers to live-stream their classes. Alibaba Group’s DingTalk is one such tool that allows them to keep teaching the children who are no longer permitted to attend the schools. Many older teachers are now having a tough time learning the new generation tools as they strive to keep teaching the traditional subjects to the younger generation.

As per South China Morning Post,

Suddenly, the spotlight is on China’s online education market, which grew 25.7% year on year in 2018 to 251.7 billion yuan (US$35.9 billion), according to iResearch Consulting Group. The previous forecast of annual growth of between 16% to 24% in the subsequent three to five years may now need to be revised upwards.

Companies are also stepping up to deal with the crisis.

TAL Education announced free live-streaming courses for all grades to “minimise the influence on study due to the outbreak” while VIPKID, which specialises in teaching English online, said on Weibo it would offer 1.5 million free online courses to children aged from four to 12.

As of Sunday, more than 220 education bureaus in 20 Chinese provinces had joined the free-of-charge DingTalk homeschool programme, covering over 20,000 primary and secondary schools and 12 million students, according to state media Xinhua.

Meanwhile, many Chinese students who are studying abroad may be safe medically but are worrying for their families back home. Recently, a Chinese girl from Wuhan (which is where the coronavirus started) who is now living in HongKong took to Twitter to appeal to the world to be kinder to the people from Wuhan who have been facing wrath from the media worldwide.

Tensions may be fraught between the United States and China, but there are still 370,000 Chinese students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. My own alma mater, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign houses nearly 6000 of them. They are filled with anxiety as every day brings them news of more deaths of their dear ones or new travel bans.

When such contagion arise at this scale, we suddenly realize how powerless we are. And I believe its only technology and entrepreneurship that can help survive these challenges. No, I am forgetting the important thing – the indefatigable human spirit.

China is not surrendering. Its students & teachers are fighting back one video at a time.

Click to read the referred article on SCMP here.

What is happening with H1B – should I apply for MS?

Ever since Trump was elected, there have been articles that blamed his policies on H1B for Indians being forced to exit US. Let us focus on facts and discuss how it impacts your MS plans.

Relevant Anti H1B Bills proposed so far-

  1. Increase in minimum wage requirement to qualify for H1B
    1. A bill called Protect and Grow American Jobs Act was introduced to amend the original Act that created the H-1B program. It asks to raise the minimum salary requirement for H-1B workers to $100,000 a year, up from $60,000, and remove the Master’s degree exemption that allowed the replacing of American workers with foreign workers with master’s degrees. The House Judiciary Committee approved it in November 2017 but it is far from becoming a law at this point. Tech lobby is so strong, I’ll be surprised if this passes ever.
  2. Revoking work permits of H1B spouses
    1. A rule is proposed to revoke work permits of H1B spouses – popularly called H4 EAD. It is currently in “final clearance and review” process.

Bills approved and made into law so far-

None

Other impacts of Trump’s anti-immigration stance:

  1. Employers were wary of what rule might be proposed and hence, were more cautious in rolling out H1B applications for new employees. I have heard Amex managers etc thinking twice before hiring internationals.
  2. In October 2017, the USCIS made it so that H1B extension applications are subjected to the same level of scrutiny as on fresh visa applications. Earlier, if anyone made a mistake in the application, they could get an RFE (request for evidence). However, now USCIS can outright right reject with no obligation to send RFE.
    The ground reality is that some people are seeing a tougher time getting their H1B renewed especially if their real day to day work doesn’t justify the reasons for which the H1B was filed in the first place. If they are doing routine mundane tasks and not requiring higher skills, they are likely to be questioned and may even see revoking of H1Bs.

Who will Trump’s bias really impact? – outsourcing firms who are sending people on client side for no real reason. This was also reflected in the fact that the number of approved H1B petitions filed by Indian IT firms (Cognizant, Infosys) declined in 2017 whereas those by leading tech companies such as Apple, Amazon increased (as reported by NFAP).

Outsourcing IT firms have realized that they cannot bulk file for H1Bs now and there will be tighter scrutiny on applications. As a result, they are also more cautious and not filing too many H1B petitions now.

Quoting verbatim from the above NFAP report-

Emerging technologies, such as driverless vehicles, may also be increasing the demand for people with high levels of technical skill, including foreign-born researchers. Tesla (207 approved new H-1B petitions in FY 2017), Uber (158) and General Motors (179) all employ individuals in H-1B status.

It indicates a shift in preferring to grant H1Bs to direct employers rather requiring more sophisticated knowledge of technology than outsourcing IT firms.


Frankly, these are the only real things happening. I have seen articles claiming that people are leaving USA because of Trump’s policies and they are cherry picking evidence. The height of irresponsible journalism is when they cite reasons such as – H1B is too restrictive, you cannot work for anyone else, I did not get H1B 2 years after graduation. I wrote a big counter article on that which went viral and you must read it.

Let’s be objective. All this was happening before Trump as well. H1B was always restrictive (you could not start your own company on H1B), it was always harder for people graduating with questionable degrees from questionable schools, who did not learn any real skills.

At Scholar Strategy, I have heard from our students who got internships and fulltime employment at Tesla, Facebook, Amazon, Intel, Qualcomm, Google, Microsoft, Apple etc this very year. So, if you want to extrapolate Trump’s frenzy to a doomsday scenario for people who know their shit, all I have for you is ‘I don’t buy that.’

You may say many deserving people on H1B from outsourcing firms are now at risk. I say – yes, they are. But believe me, if you have good skills and are a good developer, Project Manager, Product Manager, software architect – you will never have dearth of opportunities – yes, you may have to work for it.

I advised a 34 year old woman, who was fed up of the IT firms politics and stagnation in career in India, get into MIT SDM program and she interned at Salesforce as a product manager this year. If she can do it, so can you.

But if you are trying to defend skill-less people sitting as managers in middle management layer in so many IT companies – you cannot. They were and are always at risk of being shoved out (even in India) – its nothing to do with H1B. After all, H1B is not a charity, it is a work visa with a specific purpose for its country.

I am not defending Trump by any means, but I am saying that there frankly has not been a damage to prospects of working in USA for good people. In fact, I would argue that going forward, it bodes well for people with advanced degrees from good institutes because they are the ones that will possess the requisite skills.

Updated thoughts after H1B report came out in Feb 2019-

Is it worth doing an MS in the US after the recent developments in the H-1B visa?

Why is Trump after H-1Bs?

Trump has so much political pressure because of his promises during the elections that he is going over board. This has been worsened by Disney’s lawsuit where an American employee who was laid off sued that tech companies are not hiring foreigners because they cannot find that talent in US but they are hiring them because of low wages. Making it too tough will definitely antagonize Tech industry which itself is a non-trivial lobby. Therefore, I see it as a short term issue rather than long term.

Obviously, its a multi layered issue. Lets take a look-

What are the proposed changes to H-1B visa norms?

As per HindustanTimes, following changes has been suggested in recent bills (some readers have pointed out that some of these are incorrect which shows how misguiding Indian media can be)-

  • Doubling minimum salaries of H-1B visa holders to $130,000 – BAD
  • Earmark 20% of H-1B visas for small and start-up employers
  • Remove ‘per country’ cap for employment visas to ensure equal distribution
  • Firms hiring H-1B visa holders need to make a “good faith” effort to recruit Americans first
  • Give preference to students educated in the US for H-1B visas rather than computerized lottery system – GOOD
  • Crack down on outsourcing companies that import workers for temporary training and then send them back home to do the same job – GOOD
  • Prohibit spouses of H-1B visa holders from working in the US
  • Prohibit companies with more than 50 employees, of which at least half are H-1B or L-1 holders, from hiring additional H-1B employees – BAD
  • Strict audit and vetting by Department of Labor to clamp down on fraud or misuse

Should international students be worried?

Many of these will negatively impact people getting H-1B via TCS/Infosys kind of companies. An international F1 based grad student will only be impacted when-

  1. Min H-1B wage is raised
  2. OPT extension is removed
  3. MS quota is removed

First point here is quite negative and if its raised to 130K as per the latest proposal on 31 Jan, it will be brutal. No doubt. In fact, if they clamp down more on TCS/Infosys scenarios, it might turn out beneficial to other H-1B applicants (including grad students) because of reduced competition!

There has been hue and cry over H-1Bs in the past as well but anti H-1B laws never passed. In fact, OPT 24 months extension was a big boost for international students. But it does not mean that the new law cannot pass. I think we need to wait for what happens with this bill. (as of 1 Feb, 2017)

Assuming it passes and minimum wage is raised to 100K+ will impact recruitment and many employers may cut down on campus recruitment of internationals. As one post here points out about Mech recruitment slowdown even from a school like UIUC – that is possible in other non-IT fields as well. Although to be fair, Mech recruiting has always been more sluggish than CS, EE, MIS/MEM recruitment because many jobs are in defense or state agencies which require American citizenship. It means that a student will have to hustle more for limited jobs. That is harsh reality. So, there is no doubt that circumstances of finding jobs/internships will get TOUGHER if these laws are passed (only if min wage is increased too much, OPT ext revoked).

Now, should you not go for MS in that case?

I would still be optimistic about MS but I will be cautious on financial matters. USA, still, remains a better job market than most other countries. For tech fields, it is worth a hustle. For non-tech fields, yes, be more wary. A better strategy can be to:

  • Apply to schools with chances of funding/lower financial burden.
  • Apply to schools in urban areas, metros such as NYC, Silicon Valley, Boston, Chicago – if companies get wary of recruitment, they stop traveling to interior locations.
    At the end of the day, there will always be jobs for people with strong skills (in in-demand fields such as IT, Analytics etc) but those who are relying on getting an easier pass just by graduating from US may have to bite a bullet.

In summary, I am not saying that things are all hunky dory and there is nothing to worry but unless this law gets passed, it doesn’t matter. Just like his ban on 7 nations is still in a state of confusion (with federal court ruling against his ban but executive order still prevailing) – things are murky. Let’s wait and watch. So, please be patient.

What I have heard about campus placements so far?

  1. UMCP MIS has seen decline in companies sponsoring H-1Bs.
  2. A student seeing a decline in campus placements and H-1B sponsorships at NCSU.
  3. Another student was more neutral about her MSBA program at ASU. She will inform once the fulltime recruitment begins this semester.
  4. A student who recently graduated and is on OPT has not reported any negative news in his company yet.
  5. A Harvard CS student is less fearful – ‘I’ve had emails this week from 3 different companies asking me if I’m interested in full-time positions starting after spring. It will definitely have some negative impact, but if you’re good and try hard enough, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find a job.’
  6. One ECE student from TAMU – ‘During career fair last week most of the companies were particularly asking about sponsorship requirement which I haven’t heard that much during the career fairs conducted last semester.’

I am not taking sides yet but bracing up for a tough ride if Trump goes rogue 🙂

I mentor students and have been directly helping MS aspirants at Scholar Strategy but I have tried to keep my views as unbiased as possible. The fact is when I went to attend UIUC and graduated, there was no STEM OPT extension. Lottery happened and I lucked out. I could get lucky only because I had decided to take a chance. So, take a calculated risk, an informed decision. Go for MS – not just for jobs but to build your skills and learn. Once you focus on learning valuable skills, job will find you (if not US, a better place) 🙂

This post was originally posted on Quora.

Should you be worried about Trump’s attack on H-1B?

Why is Trump after H-1Bs?

Trump has political pressure to get back jobs for Americans – can act upon that. This has been worsened by Disney’s lawsuit where an American employee who was laid off sued that tech companies are not hiring foreigners on H-1B because they cannot find that talent in US but they are hiring them because of low wages.

H-1Bs are the most coveted work visas: In 2016, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that they received 2,36,000 H-1B petitions within five days of opening the process, more than thrice the number of mandated cap of 65,000 in the general category.

What are the proposed changes to H-1B visa norms?

As per HindustanTimes, following changes has been suggested in recent bills-

  1. Doubling minimum salaries of H-1B visa holders to $130,000
  2. Earmark 20% of H-1B visas for small and start-up employers
  3. Remove ‘per country’ cap for employment visas to ensure equal distribution
  4. Firms hiring H-1B visa holders need to make a “good faith” effort to recruit Americans first
  5. Give preference to students educated in the US for H-1B visas rather than computerized lottery system
  6. Crack down on outsourcing companies that import workers for temporary training and then send them back home to do the same job
  7. Prohibit spouses of H-1B visa holders from working in the US
  8. Prohibit companies with more than 50 employees, of which at least half are H-1B or L-1 holders, from hiring additional H-1B employees
  9. Strict audit and vetting by Department of Labor to clamp down on fraud or misuse

Should international students be worried?

There has been hue and cry over H-1Bs in the past as well but anti H-1B laws never passed. In fact, OPT 24 months extension was a big boost for international students. But it does not mean that the new law cannot pass. H-1B for international students on F1 is a different case from people getting H-1B via TCS/Infy etc (as is evident from some of the proposed reforms above). That said, what can hurt international students-

1. raising of minimum H-1B wages significantly. This directly impacts recruiting.

2. removing OPT extension.

Making it too tough will definitely antagonize Tech industry which itself is a non-trivial lobby. However, it may take some time before we see the opposition able to make a significant impact or pressurize Trump in the opposite direction. I am more worried short term than long term.

In summary, I am not saying that things are all hunky dory and there is nothing to worry but unless this law gets passed, it doesn’t matter. Just like his ban on 7 nations is still in a state of confusion (with federal court ruling against his ban but executive order still prevailing) – things are murky. Let’s wait and watch. So, please be patient.

What I have heard about campus placements so far?

1. UMCP MIS has seen decline in companies sponsoring H-1Bs

2. A student seeing a decline in campus placements and H-1B sponsorships at NCSU.

3. Another student was more neutral about her MSBA program at ASU. She will inform once the fulltime recruitment begins this semester.

4. A student who recently graduated and is on OPT has not reported any negative news in his company yet.

5. A Harvard CS student is less fearful – ‘I’ve had emails this week from 3 different companies asking me if I’m interested in full-time positions starting after spring. It will definitely have some negative impact, but if you’re good and try hard enough, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find a job.’

6. One ECE student from TAMU – ‘During career fair last week most of the companies were particularly asking about sponsorship requirement which I haven’t heard that much during the career fairs conducted last semester.’

I will keep you updated on what I get to know – I am not taking sides yet but bracing up for a tough ride if Trump goes rogue 🙂

This post was originally posted on our Fb group for MS internships and jobs.