China’s Regulations on the After-School Tutoring Sector – Should ESL Teachers be Worried?

Summary

Recently the Chinese government has issued policies to regulate its after-school private tutoring sector. In June 2021, China’s Ministry of Education created a new department to oversee the private tutoring market and bring regulatory oversight to private teachers and curricula. If you are teaching English to Chinese children, should you be worried? This blog is an analysis of what some official policies exactly say, what is the context of these policies,  and how and why they impact ESL teachers’ careers.

Overall context

  • Tutoring has become a huge profit-seeking business in China. Due to its tradition to value education, combined with increasing disposable income of rising middle-class families, Chinese society has seen an exponential growth of its private tutoring sector. This adds a burden to families financially and stresses to children physically and psychologically.
  • China launched its new three-child policy in 2021 in order to encourage the birth rate. This policy is supported by measures to reduce the cost of raising a child for average Chinese families including their tutoring costs.
  • China is also increasing the role of skill-based vocational training which has historically been undervalued. Conventionally parents prefer an academic path for their children. As the country aims to move towards a knowledge economy, it is looking at some countries’ successful vocational training models (e.g., Germany’s dual system) to make practical skill-based education more attractive.

It is in this context that some new regulations, as well as the new regulatory body for the private tutoring sector, have been formed. The purpose is to make private tutoring part of a healthy education system, restoring its role in providing students with personalised choices, not to shut down the whole tutoring industry indiscriminately.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/116508911/English-by-YandexPraktikum

Different tutoring products

It is important to understand the different after-school tutoring products, as the new regulations aim to clamp down certain types of tutoring services instead of discouraging all of them.

  • Tutoring as childcare: Many parents are both working so they don’t have the time to pick up children after school. They use (in-person) tutoring classes as childcare services. In this case, the tutoring class provides a safe place for a child to snack and play. If he/she can learn a little, that is a bonus. The government is trying to have public schools fulfill this role, therefore these services from the private sector will likely decline.
  • Tutoring as exam-factory: In the past decade, there has been a trend for children to learn curriculum ahead of what is normally expected. There are tutoring companies to prepare year-1 children for the year-3 curriculum or offer kindergarten children with the primary school curriculum. Parents buy these classes due to peer pressure. This is the exact service the Chinese government is trying to regulate as it is entirely unnecessary and unnatural cramming.
  • Tutoring for personalised learning: A student might get extra tutoring specific to his/her needs and I have not seen any official policy to ban this type of tutoring.
  • Tutoring for whole-person education: A student might get extra tutoring unrelated to school subjects and I have not seen any official policy relating to sports, art, music or similar tutoring.
  • Tutoring to prepare for overseas study: A student might get extra tutoring to prepare his/her pathway to study overseas, for example, IELTS or TOFEL tutoring. Again, I have not seen any official policy to ban this.

Therefore, I suggest that instead of saying ‘China bans after-school or private tutoring’, we should be more precise in reading and understanding some policies officially announced by the government.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/121560055/Summer-Reading

What are facts and what are some simplified statements? What do the official policies say?

 

It is important to point out that the Central Government usually issues guidelines for general directions. As the country is vast with provinces far from each other, it is usually up to the local provincial government to come up with interpretative measures, loose or strict.

Simplified statements – China is banning weekend and holiday tutoring!

Facts

  • In January 2020, Cheng Du Municipal Government issued ‘Measures to foster healthy private tutoring education’ 《促进民办教育健康规范发展若干措施》, forbidding group teaching and training of children to of school curriculum during public holidays. This policy targets tutoring as exam-factory.
  • In June 2021, the Ministry of Education issued a ‘Note to expand some regions’ compulsory education offering’ 《关于推广部分地区义务教育课后服务油管创新举措和典型经验的通知》, selecting 23 public education institutions in several provinces and cities to offer after-school activities until at least half an hour later than average working parents’ working hours. This policy is experimenting in engaging the public sector instead of the private sector to offer tutoring as childcare. (It is not stated how much teachers shall be paid for this extra work)

Simplified statements – China is banning tutoring for preschool children!

Facts

  • In June 2021, a revised ‘Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors’《中华人民共和国未成年人保护法》 states that it is illegal to teach primary school curriculum to kindergarten children. Staff at the Ministry of Education during the press conference said that they make it a priority to stop such situations (this has become popular in recent years).

Simplified statements – China is banning the marketing of tutoring companies!

Facts

  • In May 2021, Beijing Haidian District issued a ‘Note for educational training industry’s advertisement content’《教育培训行业广告发布重点内容提示书》. According to the note, companies can’t use words such as ‘celebrity teacher’, ‘celebrity school’, ‘enrolment rate’ and can’t use any teacher’s image in their advertisement.
  • In June 2021, the State Administration for Market Regulation issued penalties to 13 private tutoring companies such as Wall Street English, DaDa ABC for untrue content and untrue pricing in their advertisements.

Simplified statements – China is banning after-school tutoring!

Facts

  • In April 2021, the Ministry of Education published a ‘Note to better manage K-12 students’ sleeping time’ 《关于进一步加强中小学生睡眠管理工作的通知》requiring after-school in-person tutoring to be no later than 8:30 pm and online live streaming tutoring to be no later than 9 pm.
  • Some regions have their own interpretation, for example, In May 2021, Zhejiang Hangzhou City held an internal meeting to restrict the after-school tutoring/training to between 8:30 am to 8:30 pm.

Should ESL teachers be worried?

  • If your tutoring is mainly providing a child-minding value, you might be worried as the government is trying to use public schools to fulfil this function.
  • If your tutoring is about cramming school curriculum to children so that they can learn school subjects ahead of what they are expected to do, you have reasons to be worried as this is seen as unhealthy and unnecessary.
  • If your in-person class is scheduled for later than 8:30 pm, or your online class is scheduled for later than 9 pm, you might want to change your class schedule to avoid any trouble.
  • Otherwise, I do not see a reason for immediate panic facing the new regulations. The best strategy can be just to carry on what you are doing and at the same time keep a very close eye on the ongoing development of the sector.

The Chinese government has shown a track record of using a cookie-cutter approach rather than customised policy solutions. Therefore, it is possible for some of the policy enforcement in some regions to treat various situations indiscriminately. That is a risk all the tutors/tutoring companies might face. It is my hope that in long term, the private tutoring sector will restore to a healthier position and good quality tutors and companies will establish premium brands and improve the overall quality and reputation of the industry.


Action

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By |2021-11-04T16:25:17+00:00June 25th, 2021|4 Comments

Chinese Traditional Festivals – How to Celebrate Them with Your Students

Summary

Chinese traditional festivals connect with nature and seasonal changes. They are usually celebrated with (extended) family and with a wider community. Most of them are associated with food and social rituals. Some are also celebrated in Japan, Korea and some southeast Asian countries.

If you are teaching English to Chinese students online, traditional festivals are a good topic of conversation. Students can practice English with familiar topics and you can learn about traditions and customs.

This blog gives you a cultural context of nine traditional Chinese festivals in four seasons: when it is, what it is about, what are some festival traditions and what can be a good conversation about it. Last but not least is how these festivals inspired China’s neighbouring Asian countries.

Chinese Traditional Festivals in Spring

1. Tomb Sweeping Festival (Qingming Festival)

Chinese Tomb Sweeping Festival

Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/120887937/

When is it?

It is usually at the overlapping period of late spring and early summer, based on Chinese lunar calendar. It falls on the first day of the fifth solar term of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. This makes it the 15th day after the Spring Equinox. The exact date for the Gregorian Calendar can be the 4th , 5th or 6th of April each year. Please click the Chinese traditional festival calendar for the exact date.

What is it about?

It is a festival to worship and pay respect to ancestors.

What are some festival traditions?

The family will get together for a field trip to clean the tombstones (burial site) of their ancestors.

What can be a suitable discussion topic?

Since it is a festival to remember one’s ancestors and roots, it is appropriate to talk about one’s hometown and some family traditions.

Is it celebrated in other countries?

It’s also observed in other countries with large Chinese communities, like Malaysia and Singapore.

Chinese Traditional Festivals in Summer

2. Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival)

Chinese Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival)Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/102891301/Poster-of-The-Dragon-Boat-Festival-Chinese-Festivals

When is it?

It is on the 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar, a date when it’s believed that the sun is exactly at the centre of the sky. Usually, it is sometime in June for the Western calendar. Please click the Chinese traditional festival calendar for the exact date.

What is it about?

It is mainly to worship the dragon and to get rid of evil spirits.

What are some festival traditions?

There are two popular activities during this festival:

• Attend a dragon boat race: dragon boat racing is the Chinese version of rowing. A team is usually made of 18 people and it probably derived from fishermen’s leisure activities.

• Make and eat Zongzi: Zongzi is a pyramid of glutinous rice dumplings in bamboo leaves. They can be sweet (using sweet paste as fillings) or savoury (using port meat as fillings).

What can be a suitable discussion topic?

It can be fun to talk about dragons, dragon boat racing and Zongzi.

Is it celebrated in other countries?

Some other countries in Asia, like Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia also celebrate it with some different features.

3. Double Seventh Festival (Qixi Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day)

 

Double Seventh Festival (Qixi Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day)Source: http://dy.163.com/v2/article/detail/ELBAECH105439V05.html

When is it?

It’s on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. Translated into the Western calendar, it usually falls on some date during August. Please click the Chinese traditional festival calendar for the exact date.

What is it about?

It is a festival to celebrate natural astrology. It is also known as the Chinese Valentine’s Day as it celebrates the romantic legend of two lovers, a weaver girl and a cowherd. They will cross a bridge built by magpies to meet each other on this day of the year. Therefore, people sometimes call this the magpie festival.

What are some festival traditions?

Young couples often use this opportunity to do something romantic.

What can be a suitable discussion topic?

If your students are a little young to talk about romance and love, you can ask about the child’ love for his/her parents instead.

Is it celebrated in other countries?

The Qixi festival inspired the Tanabata festival in Japan, Chilseok festival in Korea, and Thất Tịch festival in Vietnam.

Chinese Traditional Festivals in Autumn

4. Mid-autumn Festival (Zhongqiu Festival)

 

Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival

Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/101787699/Mid-Autumn-Festival-packing-illustration

When is it?

The festival is held on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, with a full moon at night, corresponding to mid-September to early October of the Gregorian calendar. Please click the Chinese traditional festival calendar for the exact date.

What is it about?

It is a festival to worship the moon, as well as a day when people connect with their families.

What are some festival traditions?

This festival is called mooncake festival as people eat moon cakes together. Mooncake is a rich pastry typically filled with sweet-bean or lotus-seed paste. Children’s modern-day favourite is ice cream mooncake.

What can be a suitable discussion topic?

A good topic could be the moon. Does it look different in other countries? Is there a full moon everywhere on this date? Another could be favourite foods.

Is it celebrated in other countries?

This traditional festival is also celebrated by many East and Southeast Asian people. The celebration is called Chuseok (autumn eve) in Korea, Tsukimi (moon-viewing) in Japan and Tết Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival) in Vietnam

5. Double Ninth Festival (Chongyang Festival, Senior’s Festival)

 

Chinese Chongyang Festival

Source: https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E9%87%8D%E9%98%B3%E8%8A%82/128301

When is it?

It is on the 9th day of the 9th month of the Chinese calendar. Please click the Chinese traditional festival calendar for the exact date in the Gregorian calendar.

What is it about?

It is a festival dedicated to senior citizens.

What are some festival traditions?

Usually, people will visit their elderly relatives and enjoy Autumn activities with them. These include appreciating the blossom of chrysanthemum, or a light hike.

What can be a suitable discussion topic?

Talking about their grandparents can be a good way to connect. As it is quite normal for grandparents to help with childcare, children usually will know their grandma and grandpa well.

Is it celebrated in other countries?

In Japan, the festival is known as Chōyō but also as the Chrysanthemum Festival (菊の節句, Kiku no Sekku) . In Korea, the festival is known as Jungyangjeol (중양절).

Chinese Traditional Festivals in Winter

6. Laba Festival

 

Chinese Laba Festival

Source: https://stock.adobe.com/search?load_type=search&native_visual_search=&similar_content_id=&is_recent_search=&search_type=usertyped&k=laba+festival&asset_id=406176205

When is it?

It is a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the 8th day of the 12th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Please click the Chinese traditional festival calendar for the exact date in the Gregorian calendar.

What is it about?

It has an origin from Buddhism religion as the enlightenment day of the Buddha.

What are some festival traditions?

The tradition is to eat Laba congee, or rice porridge(腊八粥), also known as the everyone’s congee. (大家粥). There are at least eight ingredients (eight is considered a lucky number for Chinese culture) for the congee. They can be various mixed grains, dried red dates, longan, chestnuts, peanuts, water caltrop, walnuts, raisins, melon seeds, etc.

What can be a suitable discussion topic?

Food is always a popular topic. Does your student like congee? What is the ingredients in his/her congee? Any favourite flavour?

Is it celebrated in other countries?

It corresponds directly to the Japanese Rohatsu and the South Asian Bodhi Day.

7. Chinese New Year’s Eve (Chuxi Festival)

 

Chinese New Year Eve (Chuxi Festival)

Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/113747629/Chinese-New-Years-Eve-2020

When is it?

‘Chu’ means remove, ‘Xi’ means evening so Chuxi is the last evening of the year based on the Chinese calendar. Please click the Chinese traditional festival calendar for the exact date for the Gregorian calendar.

What is it about?

It is a night to celebrate with your family, to end the current year on a high note and to welcome the new year.

What are some festival traditions?

Take a look at my blog ‘Six Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year for Your Online Classroom

What can be a suitable discussion topic?

Oh, there is so much to talk about: food, red pocket, fireworks, etc. The atmosphere is full of joy and food.

Is it celebrated in other countries?

It is one of the most important holidays in China, and has strongly influenced Lunar New Year celebrations such as the Losar of Tibet (Tibetan: ལོ་གསར་), and of China’s neighbouring cultures, including the Korean New Year (Korean: 설날, seollal), and the Tết of Vietnam. It is also celebrated worldwide in regions and countries that house significant overseas Chinese or Sinophone populations, including Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines, Mauritius, and Canada as well as in North America and Europe.

8. Chinese New Year ( Spring Festival)

 

Chinese New Year (Spring Festival)

Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/111898247/happy-new-year

Chinese Spring Festival is a two-week celebration right after the Chuxi festival, the last evening of the old year. It is the biggest festival of the year ending with Lantern (Yuanxiao) Festival (see next paragraph)

It is so significant that I wrote a separate blog about its traditions and customs, with suggestions for games you can play with your Chinese students relating to this festival.

9. Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao Festival)

 

Chinese Lantern Festival (Yuanxiao Festival)

Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/114154425/-Happy-Lantern-Festival

When is it?

The Lantern Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month in the lunar Chinese calendar. Following much feasting for two weeks after Chinese New Year Eve, it is the first date of the year to see a full moon. Please click the Chinese traditional festival calendar for the exact date for the Gregorian calendar.

What is it about?

It is about enjoying the moon, the food, family time and the lantern before everything goes back to normal.

What are some festival traditions?

People usually eat Yuan Xiao, a ball-shaped dumpling made of glutinous rice flour. In the evenings, they will go to watch lantern displays on the streets. In some cities, there are riddles on these lanterns for people to solve.

What can be a suitable discussion topic?

You can talk about Yuan Xiao dumplings with your students and prepare some riddles for them too.

Is it celebrated in other countries?

In Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Indonesia, it is commonly known by its Hokkien name: “Chap Goh Meh”. In Japan, the Lantern Festival is commonly known as koshōgatsu (小正月 (こしょうがつ)). In Korea, the festival is known by several names, including “정월대만월 (正月大滿月)”, “정월대보름 (正月大보름)”, “상원 (上元)”, “원소 (元宵)”, “원석 (元夕)” and “오기일 (烏忌日)”. In Vietnam, the festival is known by several names, such as in “Rằm Tháng Giêng (𠄻𣎃𦙫)”, “Tết Nguyên Tiêu (節元宵)” or “Têt Thượng Nguyên (節上元)”.


Conclusion

Festivals are happy times when people enjoy good food and memorable rituals with their families and communities. I hope you enjoy talking about them with your students.

Do you celebrate other festivals with your language students? Feel free to share in the comment box.


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By |2021-11-04T16:27:08+00:00June 16th, 2021|0 Comments

China’s Three-Child Policy, Opportunity or Threat to Online English Tutoring?

Summary

The new three-child policy issued by the Chinese government, with supporting measures, will have a big impact not only on Chinese families but also on China’s booming tutoring industry (including the online English language learning industry).  If you are teaching English online to Chinese children, it means either a threat or an opportunity, depending on your teaching styles and ability to adapt.

China three-child policy

Source of image: http://nimg.ws.126.net/

The three-child policy

In May 2021, the Central Chinese Government announced a decision to allow couples to have up to three children, a major shift from its one-child policy from 1978 and two-child policy since 2016.

Chinese parents appear reluctant to embrace this population policy shift. Chinese social media has shown three reasons for their lukewarm responses:

  • It is too costly to raise one child, not to mention three.
  • There’s a lack of early child caring infrastructure to support young families.
  • It is very hard for a mom to balance her family and her career.

Realising this policy alone wouldn’t automatically translate into a higher birth rate, the Chinese government has prepared further measures so parenting can be less painful, stressful and costly. (see blog The New Chinese Education Policies Every ESL Teacher Ought to Know)

Supporting measures to regulate the Chinese tutoring industry

To make parents’ lives easier, the government is considering prolonging mandatory maternity leave, putting in place paternity leave, and revising labour laws so the rights of working mothers are more protected.

The government also sees the urgent need to bring down the cost and stress of education for Chinese families in order for the policy to be effective.

High regard for education (see blog Chinese Education System Explained), paired with the right disposable income of middle-class families, has spurred a flourishing private tutoring industry.

Parents send their children one tutoring class after another, learning subjects such as arts, science, and languages. Often, children are asked to learn content ahead of their expected age. It is not uncommon for a pre-school child to learn a grade 1-3 curriculum so that he/she does not fall behind at the starting line. (不要输在起跑线上)

Fall behind at the starting line - Chinese saying

Source of image: https://www.sohu.com/a/59552023_350572

Since 2020, several measures have come out with the aim to reduce stress for children and their parents, in both public and private education sectors. (see blog The New Chinese Education Policies Every ESL Teacher Ought to Know)

In April 2021, the Ministry of Education gave guidance forbidding the introduction of the primary school curriculum into kindergartens.

In May 2021, the Beijing local government issued a notice to control how private tutoring companies can advertise their educational products. Any promotional message which adds anxiety or has misleading information will be banned. In short, companies are banned from selling anxiety and stress.

In June 2021, the law on the protection of minors was revised. One of the changes is to forbid educational institutions (public and private) to impose a primary school curriculum on pre-school children. The Ministry of Education announced in the same month that schools can no longer rank students’ academic results.

These latest measures and regulations are to reduce the burden of education on average children (of all ages) and their parents. So, what do they mean for the tutoring industry? More important, you might ask ‘if I teach Chinese students English online, what do these policy changes mean to teachers like me?’

Short-term impacts of Chinese education and population policies

  • The major online English teaching platforms will have to reduce significantly their marketing efforts. The burgeoning tutoring industry is nicknamed ‘money burning ground’ as most platforms spend an average 60% to 85% of their revenue to compete for students. The new measures put very strict restrictions on how companies can market their products. Either they lose students, or they spend the money on improving their learning products. My verdict on how this will impact online English teachers is ‘neutral’.
  • If you are ‘stuffing’ school curriculum to pre-school children in advance without adding much educational value, this is probably a threat to you. Not only is this approach discouraged/forbidden by the Ministry of Education, but also it can be seen as unnecessary when a family cuts its education investment budge per child as they have more children. Actually, many such tutoring companies are laying off their staff in anticipation of a sharp decline in what they offer and what they are not allowed to offer in the future.
  • There are, however, opportunities with new skills to learn and teach. Growing up as a single child is completely different from growing up among siblings. Children need to learn peer-to-peer support and communication if they are expected to live with siblings. Social skills are becoming more important and valuable than before. Any company or teacher with understanding and experience in fostering soft skills (such as collaboration, communication, active listening, negotiation) shall find themselves facing a new and unmet market opportunity.

Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/81862381/VALE-BRINCADEIRAS-Editora-Mol

Long-term impacts of Chinese education and population policies

 

  • If the three-child policy fails to be effective, it means a declining population for society in the future. I see this as a neutral signal for educators:
    • For teachers, it suggests fewer students to teach. Yes, it will be a threat. But as the world’s most populous country, China still has a vast absolute number of people so online English tutors might not feel its impact too strongly.
    • On the other hand, this might also cause a change in China’s mainstream education approach. With rising living standards and less labour coming through the pipeline, the government might make further strategic decisions to move towards a knowledge-based economy. This means transforming its current cookie-cutter method into a more personalised method to encourage divergence in skills and talents. That can be an opportunity for good teachers.
  • There are also opportunities in changing ways of teaching and learning for teachers who know how to do so with their Chinese students online. The Ministry of Education continuously pushes incorporating a well-rounded education in the curriculum and assessment system. In their recent notice to kindergartens and primary schools, they call for pedagogies that are explorative and experiential.  This not only brings a new way to teach students but also a possibility to train other teachers who need to familiarize themselves with more engaging, innovative, and meaningful ways to teach.


Action

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By |2021-11-04T16:27:41+00:00June 4th, 2021|0 Comments