Individual tutors targeted in China’s education crackdown

Authorities in China have increased scrutiny of after-school tuition offered by individuals, as tutoring service providers change tactics amid high demand and a government crackdown on private education enterprises.

During a recent inspection, one individual and six institutions were punished for offering unlicensed after-school tutoring that violated government regulations, the Beijing Municipal Education Commission said in a statement on Monday. The individual, surnamed Gong, was found “organizing unauthorized tutoring on curriculum subjects” in a cafe in the city’s Pinggu district, the statement said.

Last month, the State Council, China’s cabinet, issued new rules ushering in sweeping changes to the after-school tutoring industry to reduce academic burdens on students from school and additional tutoring, known as “double reduction.” However, as parents still feel the need to provide their children with additional teaching resources, some have turned to those who offer one-on-one courses or small group tutoring.

The new government rules bar local authorities from approving new private education companies that offer tutoring on curriculum subjects to elementary and middle school students while requiring existing ones to register as nonprofit entities. After-school tutoring courses should not be held on weekends or national holidays, the State Council said.

The strict rules have plunged the private tuition industry into turmoil, with some companies laying off employees and others closing their doors.

However, some private tutoring providers have switched to small-scale tuition to meet the demand from parents, who are willing to pay high prices for additional courses for their children.

A tutor who holds a master’s degree from the Harbin Institute of Technology told Caixin that he usually charges 1,500 yuan to 2,000 yuan for a two-hour session, while some popular tutors with an education background from top universities could charge fees as high as 4,000 yuan to 5,000 yuan for a class.

The crackdown carries the risk of driving tuition providers underground, making it more difficult for authorities to supervise the sector and for low-income families to access such services, said Tian Zhilei, a researcher at the China Institute for Educational Finance Research.

An after-school training institution in Beijing

Dong Shengzu, dean of the Non-Government Education Research Institute of the Shanghai Academy of Educational Sciences, told local media in a recent interview that one-on-one tutoring should be closely regulated to prevent it from becoming a new norm.

Education authorities have also increased scrutiny of schoolteachers, barring them from organizing after-school classes or taking part-time jobs at private tutoring institutions, according to the Ministry of Education.

However, Ma Xuelei, vice president of the research branch of the China Association for Non-Government Education, noted that besides the crackdown on after-school tutoring, it is also important to solve other core problems in compulsory education, such as unequal distribution and access to educational resources as well as intense competition in school admissions.

“If the strong demand for tutoring on curriculum subjects still exists, the ‘double reduction’ policy would certainly fail to meet its goal,” he said.

Authors: Huang Huizhao, Cai Xuejiao, Caixin Global

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