Last Updated on February 23, 2024 by asifa
The Chinese are big on education. Parents want the best for their children and it includes sending them to good schools and even better extra-curricular activities to get a head start. Many of these after-school classes cater to the student’s academics as Chinese parents wish for their children to enter renowned tertiary institutions for better prospects.
English as a Second Language (ESL) classes were hot in demand and for many private institutions, tuition had been a thriving industry until recent clampdowns from the Government.
This year June, the Chinese Government released a statement announcing a newly set-up Department of Supervision of Off-Campus Education to regulate the industry of private tutoring classes targeting primary and middle school students.
The regulations come as a cooling measure to provide checks and balances in an industry that has witnessed uncharted growth, attracting foreign and local investors and a stark appreciation in share prices.
In China, extra-curricular education plays a pivotal role in shaping the academic journey of students. Beyond the traditional classroom setting, students engage in a myriad of activities designed to complement their formal education. From language classes to arts, sports, and STEM programs, these extra-curricular pursuits offer a holistic approach to skill development and character building. In a highly competitive academic landscape, students often partake in additional courses to excel in subjects beyond the standardized curriculum. The emphasis on extra-curricular education reflects a commitment to well-rounded development, nurturing not just academic prowess but also fostering creativity, teamwork, and leadership skills. As China continues to evolve, so too does the importance of these extra-curricular endeavors in preparing students for a future that demands versatility and adaptability.
Coupled with COVID-19, tuition classes pivoted and hopped online. This provided more teaching opportunities to foreign teachers tutoring remotely without the need for relocation, making access to ESL jobs in China even easier.
Table of Contents
Government intervenes in Chinese Tuition Industry
As such, the Government has stepped in to ensure the industry does not burst a looming bubble or mitigate further upset to any unchecked scales. Some of the new policy changes include local governments to cease approving new tuition institutions, mandatory converting existing companies to non-profit organizations, stamping out weekend and holiday classes, and putting a ban on incoming foreign investment directed at tutoring companies.
With a slew of strict measures in place, this regulation aims to keep classes after school hours more geared towards enrichment and less on academics which has ridden on the culture of competition and paranoia among parents.
More recognition is given to classes that cultivate hobbies and broaden students’ minds through subjects such as music, arts, and IT which will be monitored under a different category.
What does this mean for the future of private tutoring in China?
Whether you teach in Beijing, Shanghai, or anywhere in China, it is certain that there is an overhaul in the approach towards education.
Chinese pressure cooking
The Chinese Government has stated one main reason triggering the reformation in the education sector. It is largely hinged on encouraging increasing birth rates and
tackling the pressure of raising a child that is often cited as the underlying reason for the decrease in desire for bigger families among couples.
After-school classes are equally important to the core schooling curriculum. Parents prize their children’s future and invest in them through tuition classes. Many work hard to provide their children the academic enrichment which may come at added financial costs. The upwards demand of classes proportionally increases the prices of tuition and in turn, adds pressure to the students with parental expectations and financial pressure on parents.
It was reported that families can spend up to US$43,500 or an average of US$17,400 a year on extra-curricular activities. However, the national average annual disposable income hovers below that expenditure at about US$6,500. For cash-strapped families who also share the same desire in developing their child’s academic excellence for a brighter future, there is a financial exertion of their end.
The lack of finances forces some parents to take on more jobs which contributes to some level of neglect and stress on the child. During school vacations, children may be sent away to academic camps to catch up or gain vantage points acing examinations. For those who do not want their children to lose out but also cannot afford, the struggle only increases for them.
Through the latest curbs implemented, the policies hope to reduce pressure overall so that couples can prioritize building a family instead of worrying about the pressures and expectations in raising a child. China has upped its family policy from one, to two, and now three, as birth rates are at a ten-year low.
Interim programmes spearheaded in Beijing
Partial bans have been implemented in provinces such as Beijing that stop all weekend academic classes and limiting the number of extra-curricular classes per tuition package. This is abrupt and bad news for private tuition centers that are predominantly focused on academic enrichment.
Many famous institutions, backed by investments, have gone public with their closure of operations or announced stoppages of lessons. It has been reported that millions worth in job opportunities have been affected but it is only a fraction of the billions of dollars the tuition industry churns.
However, in early July, participating Beijing city schools are part of a pilot programme that allows schools to open their libraries for students to freely use and organize non-academic activities. Teachers in primary and middles schools are likely to helm the movement of encouraging balanced and healthier development of a child.
How to pivot moving forward?
Tuition centres will have to pivot and offer non-academic extra-curricular classes that aim to foster a balanced student. This may give rise to growth opportunities to classes that, for example, still teach science through technological or experimental approaches, or craftwork and invention classes that still require math and science but explore it differently.
These kinds of curriculum will help students discover new skills and perhaps set them on a path of self-discovery and ignite new passions. Classes may still be conducted in English which will still see a demand in English subject. However, the lesson plans are not solely aimed at acing the entrance exams to tertiary institutions.
With this, ESL jobs in China in academic sectors will see a fall as tuition centers that are unable to adhere to the new guidelines will announce their closure but an increase in other non-academic segments such as sports, IT, arts, music, and many more.
In the meantime, private 1-on-1 tutoring has seen a surge as parents who are not financially constrained have snapped up the appointments of private tutors.
Teaching English, or any subject for the matter, in China is undergoing some radical changes. As a ESL teacher, you will have to consider if you can adapt and overcome the short-term challenges or explore other opportunities still in Chin without wasting your job experience.
Either way, with clever strategy and redeploying of skills, the ESL job future in China may be bleak for the time being, but also rife with more untapped opportunities.