China education: amid coronavirus and tutor ban parents use boot camps to learn how to teach children themselves

  • Child-parent education courses, long a fixture in the West, have come to China as more parents find themselves teaching their children at home
  • China’s double reduction education policy and the coronavirus mean many parents are often their child’s primary educator

As China’s culture of various aspects becomes increasingly competitive, children’s education is a top priority for many families. Worried Chinese parents are enrolling themselves in various communication boot camps on parent-child relationship to learn how to interact with and teach their children better.

Ming Xu, 42, mother of three children, aged 3 to 10, felt concerned and perplexed after her second child’s kindergarten teacher warned her that her son, then five years old, easily lost his temper. Xu enrolled in a boot camp on parent-child relationships after conducting extensive research.

“After attending the classes, I realised that my child’s emotional problems were caused by a temporary lag in the development of the brain area responsible for emotional control, due to preterm asphyxia,” Xu said. “I was able to better accept his emotions, be more patient with my children, and provide a calming environment for them as a result.”

The boot camps Xu participated in are called Zhang Yiyun’s Emotional Intelligence Studio and are run by Zhang Yiyun, a Chinese psychologist who focuses on emotional intelligence research and promotion. Due to the pandemic, Zhang relocated her in-person summer boot camp programmes online two years ago.

The “children’s emotional intelligence education guide” training session is their main course. They also offer four-day beginner boot camps on parent-child communication. According to Zhang, sign-ups for these camps have been around 200 people per programme.

The four-day programme includes topics such as emotional intelligence, child comprehension, and effective communication. According to the course website, the communication camp costs 299 yuan (US$47) per participant.

Most participants are mothers having difficulty controlling their temper when communicating with their children. There are also a few fathers who are frustrated by their children’s refusal to communicate with them due to their busy work schedules and lack of a strong connection with their families. In some cases, grandparents who want to learn how to bridge generational divides also attend the course.

With after school tutoring bans and schools often closed due to the coronavirus, China’s parent’s are increasingly the primary educator of their children


Anxiety has often been a dominant factor in the lives of younger Chinese parents when raising children. According to a 2016 report on the Current Situation of Parent-Child Education in China issued by the education department at Beijing Normal University, 87 per cent of parents reported having anxiety, with about seven per cent suffering from severe anxiety.

After the pandemic broke out and schools closed last year, parents began to spend more time with their children and home-schooling them. Meanwhile, another noticeable shift Zhang has observed is that after China’s “double reduction” strategy to ease excessive academic pressure and ban after-school tutoring came into effect, parents have been more concerned. And more people have consulted her about courses for better connecting with and teaching their children.

“Parents become primarily responsible for their children’s education after the ‘double reduction’ policy had substantially cut down the number of out-of-school training courses,” Zhang said. “So they feel more pressured than before.”

Zuwei Qin, 43, has participated in six different parent-child relationship boot camps, including the emotional quotient instruction boot camp and the four-day communication skills camp, run by Zhang and her team.

“People around me are the main reason that I register for such boot camps because I noticed that no matter how successful they are, child education is their main worry,” Qin said.

While boot camps of this type are new to mainland China, they have a long history in Western countries. Dr Thomas Gordon, an American clinical psychologist, devised the “Parent Effectiveness Training” programme in the 1960s, which is widely regarded as the first home-schooling skills training course for parents.

According to Zhang, she and her team took a concept from the West and blended it with challenges faced by Chinese parents, such as single-child family and the pressure from high school and college entrance examinations.

“We did a lot of real-world research before we built our own education system for Chinese families,” Zhang said. “Curriculum design that does not fit the Chinese context will be unsuitable.”

Author: Yingjie Wang, SCMP

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