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Changing course of China's tutoring industry under new regulation

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Chinese authorities have in recent months rolled out a series of strict regulations to deal with after-school training and ease the burden on students undergoing compulsory education.

XinhuaUpdated:  August 9, 2021

Zhong Kaitong, a fourth-grade pupil at a primary school in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, enjoys a much more sparky summer vacation this year.

Instead of the English or mathematics training courses she used to attend, her vacation is packed with fun and laughter, playing badminton and basketball in the playground.

"It's great fun to go back to school and exercise with my friends," said Zhong with a bright smile.

Chinese authorities have in recent months rolled out a series of strict regulations to deal with after-school training and ease the burden on students undergoing compulsory education.

In late May, the authorities ordered the comprehensive management of off-campus training institutions and a tougher crackdown on unqualified operations, false advertising, profiteering, and improper links with schools.

Last month, the central authorities introduced a guideline to ease the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for young students. It details requirements in areas including reducing homework and improving quality of education and after-class services provided by schools.

The guideline stipulated that local governments shall stop approving the establishment of new off-campus, curriculum subject-tutoring institutions for students in compulsory education, and that existing institutions shall be registered as non-profit institutions.

Local educational authorities have quickly responded, with many demanding the suspension of off-campus, curriculum subject-tutoring for children during the summer vacation.

A Xinhua reporter visited several training centers around a primary school in Tiexi District of Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province, and only found empty classrooms and staffers.

Subject-tutoring has been suspended for about a week and will not be available in the whole summer vacation, they told Xinhua.

Some tutoring institutions are actively seeking transformation under the new guidelines. A manager in charge of a major tutoring company told Xinhua that 70 percent of their businesses have been affected, and they are exploring new service areas to adapt to the new policy.

New Oriental Education & Technology Group, a leading provider of private educational services in China, launched new consulting services, off-campus daycare, nursery services, and training of art, sports, science and technology after the new policy. Gaotu Group, a Beijing-based education and training firm, is targeting a new growth point in continuing education.

The Ministry of Education has also pledged to implement full coverage for after-school programs, which provide both enrichment and child care, in compulsory education schools.

Summer has never been so boisterous in the No. 9 Primary School in Shenyang. The kids are running towards each other with open arms in the playground, beautiful melodies float out of the classrooms, and the whole campus is enveloped by a tantalizing aroma of freshly baked cookies.

They are fully immersed in the 27 extracurricular courses, ranging from rock climbing, judo, football, chess and English programming, that are on offer for students attending daycare programs during summer vacation.

"We have also fully expanded students' activity space and opened libraries, reading rooms, playgrounds during the summer holiday," said Hou Mingfei, principal of the school. "Nearly 300 students have signed up for the activities and more than 30 teachers have volunteered."

A brake on after-school tutoring does not mean that the demand no longer exists. In a country where parents prize a good education, excellent grades mean more career options and even fate-changing opportunities.

A survey showed that some parents would arrange on-campus after-school classes for kids, or are inclined to invite teachers to tutor at home.

"I've received calls and leaflets in the past few days, recommending one-on-one or one-on-two tutoring," said Zhang Yuan, a parent in Shenyang whose daughter is a junior middle school student.

Yet the majority of parents are supportive of the new move. "Subject learning is enough at school and we hope to improve the children's overall quality during holidays," said a parent surnamed Zhou, in the city of Guangzhou.

"Some of the training centers have been feeding off parents' anxiety while ramping up pressure on children to drive business. Now the new regulation is a big relief for both parents and children, and is well-received among parents," said Liu Xiaowei, a mother in Shenyang.

In June, the Ministry of Education set up a new department to supervise off-campus education and training.

All these moves have sent a very clear signal, that is, to bring education back as a public welfare and guide the educational training industry to develop in a direction conducive to improving students' comprehensive quality, said Chen Xianzhe, professor at South China Normal University.