Will Individual tutors stand to win from China's clampdown on after-school training?
2021-07-09 19:42:17

The summer vacation for schools has come. In the previous year, China's leading education companies launched marketing campaigns in almost every setting to attract more customers and gain market share. This year, the battle did not further intensify, and it did not even begin as expected - the once high-profile players kept low-key and acted discreetly. 

On May 21, China issued guidelines to alleviate the burden of homework and after-school training for primary and secondary school students, but the detailed rules have not yet been announced. Subsequently, a rumor that off-campus tutoring on weekends, winter, and summer holidays will be banned was widespread and caused considerable controversy. After-school education companies are uncertain and stressed about their future, and thousands of parents and students are also affected. 

To better understand the views of interested parties such as educational practitioners and parents about the guidelines and measures of lessening students' workloads and regulating the private tutoring industry, on June 19, JMDedu launched a survey through two channels. As of June 23, we collected 8,485 completed forms: 822 from Tencent Questionnaire and 7,663 from WeChat Official Account. Some participants are professionals in the education industry, and some are parents concerned about how the burden relief policy would impact their children's learning.

What are their opinions about off-campus training institutions not offering classes on weekends, winter, and summer holidays? Is after-school tutoring a must-have for parents and students? According to data from WeChat:

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We note that the statistics from the WeChat channel are closely consistent with the Tencent channel. For convenience, in the following analysis, JMDedu will deep dive into the survey using the data from Tencent Questionnaire. 

More than 70% of parents oppose banning off-campus training institutions from offering courses on weekends, in winter and summer holidays


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Participants' woking industry distribution

Chart 1 by JMDedu

Among the 822 participants, 441 work in the education sector, accounting for 53.6% of the total. The remaining 381 participants are from the Internet, culture, finance, commercial trade, government institutions, and other sectors. 

74.7% of participants are parents, totaled 614. Among parents, 411 have the only child, and 203 have two children or more, accounting for 50.0% and 24.7% of the total participants. The remaining 208 participants had no children, accounting for 25.3%.

Regarding children's school stages, 81.9% of parents' kids are at the K12, among which 27% are at kindergarten, 54.9% at primary school, 13% at middle school, and 7% at high school or above.

Screen Shot 2021-07-09 at 5.48.54 PM.pngOpinions of participants from different industries towards "should the regulation for after-school training institutions be tightened?"

Table1 by JMDedu

When asked should the regulation be tightened for after-school training institutions (online and offline), the overwhelming majority of participants (91%) believed it should, and only 4.9% responded "Shouldn't"; 4.1% picked the option of "Not sure". We noticed that the responses have similar distribution whether participants worked in the education sector or not. "Although the policy is too aggressive, it is better to overcorrect," someone who identified himself as the founder of an education company that provides OMO services commented, "good and responsible companies will survive."

For the question "Should after-school training institutions (online & offline) be banned from offering classes on weekends, winter and summer vacations?" 76.5% of participants said it should not, 17.8% answered "Should be banned", and 5.7% were "not sure". Among the 614 parents, 308 with the only child and 154 with two or more children chose "Shouldn't be banned", accounting for 75.2% of the total number of parents. 

One participant expressed concern in the comment, "What if parents can't help their kids when the children have questions or are interested in deep learning about a subject?" Another mother working for a foreign company worried that she would have no one to help her child's study if the after-school training institutions did not offer classes because she often works overtime. "What's more, kindergarten children are at a good time to learn languages, and I don't want to give up."

More than half of parents would still send their kids to after-school training institutions if the school enrollment lottery were fully adopted

The "Double Burden Reduction" policy proposes to reduce the after-school academic burden on primary and secondary school students, so cram schools become the center of attention.

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If after-school training institutions (online and offline) were forbidden to offer courses on weekends, in winter and summer holidays, would it reduce students' burden?

Chart 2 by JMDedu

"If after-school training institutions (online and offline) were forbidden to offer courses on weekends, in winter and summer holidays, would it reduce students' burden?" Of the 822 participants, 68.5 % said it would not work, 21.7% answered "it would", and 9.9% were not sure. 

Among the 614 parents, 279 with the only child and 140 with two or more children considered it would not work, together accounting for 68.2%. 22.2% said it would work, and 9.6% chose "Not Sure". 

Since parents and children are generally stressed with examination and school admissions, the demand for off-campus training would be unlikely to decline significantly. Extra tutoring is regarded as a must for achieving higher scores in the school entrance exams, enabling students to squeeze into elite primary- and middle schools, as well as helps prepare for the high school and college entrance examinations in the long run. Facing manic competition, parents have to advance the pressure and make plans for their kids from the phase of kindergarten.

If the enrollment lottery for primary and middle school were fully implemented, would parents still send their children to take subject-based classes in after-school tutoring institutions? According to the survey, 62.4% of the participants chose "Yes", 19.8 % picked "No", and 17.8% selected "It depends on the situation". Of the 614 parents, 259 with the only child and 145 with two or more children chose "Yes", accounting for 65.8% of the total number of the parents. 19.7% of parents picked "No", and 14.5% selected "It depends on the situation".

Even if the lottery for school enrollment were widely applied, parents would not be off the hook and scale back their goals. A participant said: "Although the lottery for entering middle school has been put into effect, yet students remain motivated to attend extracurricular tutoring courses as they still have to achieve high scores to gain admittance to a 'key class'. Otherwise, it is nearly impossible to be selected only with what they learned at school. Key classes gather all the good teachers, so everyone wants to be there. " Another stated: "If there are many super high schools, can the burden alleviation be really realized? What the parents are ultimately fighting for is the scores for the college entrance exam." 

If institutions were forbidden to offer classes at weekends, in summer and winter holidays, the demand for private tutors would increase 

The discussion about private tutoring is heating up as China is stepping up measures to clamp down on the after-school training sector.

In Zhihu (a Chinese question-and-answer website), under the question of "what do you think of the Ministry of Education's establishment of an off-campus education and training supervision department?", one answer talking about the crackdown of South Korea's after-school tutoring companies receives many thumbs up. It pointed out that while after-school training institutions were banned in South Korea, hiring individual tutors in private became prevalent for well-off families, which undermined educational equality.

If China did not allow after-school education companies to offer classes on weekends, winter, and summer holidays, would it create a demand for individual tutors? According to the survey, 62% of the participants said they would turn to individual tutors if training institutions could not provide courses, 23% answered "It depends on the situation", and 15% chose "No". 

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Participants' demand for individual tutors if after-school training institutions could not offer classes on weekends, winter, and summer holidays

Table 2 by JMDedu

Additionally, we spot that parents are more inclined to select "Yes" than those participants who do not have kids. 

Should individual tutoring be regulated and managed if it rises? 72.7% considered it is necessary, 12.4% said not necessary, and 14.8% picked "Not sure". We've learned that participants have three major concerns about individual tutoring:

  • How to verify individual tutors' qualifications if there is a lack of institutions' endorsement?

  • How to ensure students' safety in the private tutoring space? 

  • How to make sure that public teachers do not privately provide courses after class? 

Even though K-12 after-school tutoring that features standardized operations dominates the current market, individual tutoring, which has a longer history than the former and often hires college students, still has its place.

Some public school teachers are also prudently involved and are most popular with parents; some even provide small and large-sized tutoring classes outside school, both of which are not allowed by China's educational policy. However, individual tutors have not been mentioned in regulatory rules on after-school tutoring issued this year.

"The ban on after-school tutoring during weekends, winter, and summer holidays would benefit wealthy families who can afford to pay for one-on-one tutoring, which would trigger educational inequalities, " a participant said. 


Note: the survey is only for reference due to the limited sample size.

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