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So far Minji Xu has created 27 blog entries.

A Step-by-Step Guide: How to Create User Profiles for Your Independent Teaching

Summary

You have been teaching students online via platforms. Now you are ready to teach independently. One of the key success factors to be an independent teacher is your thorough understanding of clients. In this blog, I will share an effective way to understand your clients – creating user profiles. After explaining what a user profile is, why it matters, how to create user profiles, I will give some concrete examples so that you can create your own.

Source of original image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/62820317/Vernel-Fabric-Softner

What determines the success of an independent teacher?

Working with platforms, a teacher only needs to teach.

Now as an independent teacher, you face the task to manage everything – getting new students, building a website, managing payment, managing customer service, doing accounting and budgeting. To be successful, you need to manage every aspect of the business adequately.

But all of these depends on one crucial foundation – your thorough understanding of target clients and your ability to attract more of them.

If you know who your target clients are, what they are looking for, you will be able to create the right marketing content, build an appealing website, and design a productive learning experience for them. Without this foundation, it is hard to channel your energy and resources for the most effective use.

This is where the exercise of creating a user profile comes in. It is a key process to help you further understand your target client and their essential needs.

Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/122408979/Teacher-stickers-pack-for-Telegrams-and-Instagram

What is a user profile? Who are the users?

 

A user profile is a collection of settings and information associated with a user.

If you are teaching adults, then the user is the student.

If you are teaching children, then you have two types of users: (1) your teaching client: the student (2) your paying client: the career of the student, and most likely, the parent of your student.

User Profile Template

This is an example of Mom H’s user profile. This is based on a real interview done with a real VIPKid English user.

Why do we create user profiles?

 

Having a clear picture of your user can help you understand

  • What are some common characteristics they share:

For example, mom H is in her early forties living in Beijing. She had spent 10 years studying and living in the US. Now she is working full time as a college lecturer and is very involved in her boy G’s education.

  • What problem they would like you to help solve:

For example, mom H would like her son to learn English and she is particularly keen on his pronunciation at this stage. Also, she said her son is not very interested in in-person English classes as he feels these classes are too long and too boring.

As an educator herself, she sees how important it is to develop an effective habit of learning and understanding, rather than just repeating.

  • How you can identify, discover, and connect with more of them

For example, three times a week, mom H listens to an English podcast when walks to her office. When she is cooking, she listens to some stand-up comedy show radio program (with English tutoring service advertisement). She is in a few moms’ social media groups that organise sports activities for families in Beijing during weekends. Every Saturday she takes her son to a swimming club nearby.

  • What solutions best suit them in terms of a learning plan, lesson package, and price

For example, mom H and her son live in the campus area, so they are home from 5 pm in the afternoon. During the summer, winter holidays, she is traveling to visit her own family in other cities. She is very keen for her son to take online classes, so she does not need to drive in Beijing.  As she speaks English well, she like the idea of recorded materials outside teaching hours very much. She values education for her son and plans 20% of her monthly income on his education.

How to create user profiles?

 

The process of creating a user profile is covered in our digital course – Become a successful independent teacher.

You can send an email to be on the waiting list. Please register your interest.

Do you have some examples of user profiles?

Let’s take teacher Lucy as an example. Lucy is an American woman who lives in Paris, France with her French husband and two children. She worked with the publishing industry for children’s books and has been teaching Chinese children English online via some platforms. Now she is launching her independent teaching journey.

You can read more about Lucy’s case study from my previous blog: ‘Can’t Find Enough Students as an Independent Teacher? What To Do Next?

She formed a few hypotheses about who might be her potential target clients and went to talk to them, in order to draw user profiles for each group.

After numerous talks and conversations, in-person and online, Lucy discovered the following.

  • American moms living in the USA: there are some American moms (mom A) whose children are learning French for fun. It is more as a hobby rather than a serious investment. They mentioned also that they have many options to choose from. The free options are apps such as Duolingo, French/English exchange apps There are also French language schools nearby to which they are considering enrolling the children.

With these insights, Lucy developed the first user profile for mom A:

User Profile – Mom A

  • French moms who speak English and want their children to speak English: again, mom B shows interest. Actually, these families usually have relatives or friends in the UK so it would be nice if these children can have some conversational English when they go there to visit. Some French moms would prefer their children to spend a summer in the UK for a more immersive experience if they are serious about English language learning. Lucy developed the second user profile for mom B:

  • French moms of Chinese cultural heritage who want their children to enhance English literacy: Lucy had some highly engaging conversations with these moms. Their children lost interest in learning any foreign language as they were put to learn the Chinese language during weekends. They saw language as boring and lost interest in their own English classes at school. Some children are of a similar age to Lucy’s own children. These moms (for example, mom C) are very worried and texted Lucy quite often.

  • Chinese moms in China who want their children to speak English. It turns out that some moms didn’t get any refund when some platforms stopped live tutoring classes. As a safer option, they will purchase textbooks or recorded lessons as a replacement. But some moms (for example, mom D) are keen to have Lucy to be their private tutor teaching conversational English as they like her American accent.

Next Steps

This is the initial user profiles Lucy created for her potential clients. But she know it is a work in progress. As her understanding of her users improves, so will her user profiles.

Next, Lucy needs to choose her target user, how does she make the choice?

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

Teachers, Be Fearless!

Fearless

Source of image: https://www.bhmpics.com/disney_cute_moana-wallpapers.html

By |2022-06-14T11:06:46+01:00November 4th, 2021|0 Comments

Can’t Find Enough Students as an Independent Teacher? What To Do Next?

Summary

You have been teaching with platforms for a while. Due to changes in circumstances, you want to go independent. You have built a website and sent many LinkedIn messages. But the response is lukewarm and the number of paying students is low.

Now it is time to pause and ask – why this happened and what do I do next?

why i cant find students

This blog lists common reasons why some teachers are having issues recruiting students for private tutoring, despite all their efforts. Then it explains a process for teachers to address the right problem for the right clients, at the right time. The process eventually leads you to be a global expert in your niche area. That positioning helps you attract the right clients rather than chase the wrong clients.

Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/129154179/Hints-From-GradesFixer

Why I can’t find enough students as an independent teacher?

  • A key reason is a change in the macro environment, a major policy shift. One example is the ‘Double Reduction’ education policy issued by the Chinese government in July 2021. These policies restrict the time and opportunities for tutors based outside China to teach Chinese children through platforms. This caused a slowdown (in some cases, shutdown) of some big education companies’ K12 tutoring businesses. Consequently, some parents started to see tutoring by non-Chinese teachers as not essential or not approved by the government. Some went to look for alternatives. Another example is a drop in travel English during the slowdown of international tourism due to the 2020 pandemic. It is important to notice these general trends as it’s very hard to swim against the tide.
  • The second reason is an increase of options for your students or clients. After the double reduction education policy, many Chinese parents looked elsewhere for their children’s English language needs. The alternatives for them are books, audio, videos, local Chinese tutors (who speak fluent English if not at native level), and English native speakers who live in China. A better strategy may be to provide value to solve the right problem for the right clients with less competition. We will get into that process in the next part: ‘What to do if I can’t find enough students as an independent teacher?’

  • The third reason is the perceived risk when clients compare platforms and independent tutors. Big platforms enjoy the advantage of having better branding, better supporting systems (eg. payment), a more expensive (hence perceived as more valuable) curriculum, and a dedicated sales team. An independent teacher might not have these resources, to begin with. Therefore, from a student/client’s perspective, the perceived risk of seeking a private tutor can be higher. To compensate for that perceived risk, an independent tutor has to offer something unique, something different, something a platform can’t offer. We will get into that process in the next part.
  • The fourth and most common reason is the mismatch between what your clients/students want and what you offer. Your tutoring may not be the most effective way to solve an essential problem they face. Or your tutoring may be excellent, but it solves a non-essential problem they have. For example, let’s say, you are teaching English to a child who shows disruptive behaviour during learning. You quickly recognise the core issue and communicate it with his parents. You work out a solution to help this child with the learning behaviour issue. You have recognised and solved the right problem before your clients were even aware of it.

If your potential clients don’t respond to you warmly, or you have built a website that fails to attract paying clients, don’t be annoyed, be curious. Understanding why some clients don’t come to you helps you move closer to those who do arrive.

This is a great starting point as an independent teacher. When you embrace a mindset of curiosity and resilience, you have won half of the battle.

What to do if I can’t find enough students as an independent teacher?

This is my suggested process. It all boils down to finding the right clients, at the right time, and solving the right problem for them. After (and only after) you nail this down, it is time to build a website or send messages to promote your teaching.

Step 1: Pack your treasure bag

Step 2: Ask who might like the bag

Step 3: Test your treasure bag

Step 4: Create your user profiles

Step 5: Choose your strategic positioning

Step 6: Design your pedagogy

Step 7: Test your pedagogy

Step 8: Write your business plan

Step 9: Build a website

Step 10: Review and replenish your bag

Step 11: Be a global expert

I will walk through steps 1-3 in this blog.

Step 1 – Pack Your Treasure Bag

The first step is to recognise your value and celebrate your success by doing a personal inventory check.

You have a passion for education and have accumulated knowledge, expertise, and network relating to it. Now it is time to examine the value and strength you have gained from the past, to prepare for the future.

Your teaching treasure bag template

Each of them might look disconnected and random. The real magic begins when you mix and match your individual assets to achieve a collective synergy. This is your unique treasure bag, something only you have.

In my treasure bag, I can mix and match my language (Chinese and English), cultural (Chinese and English, cross-cultural communication) and professional (business strategy, start-up business, learning design and in-person/online experience design) skills. The choice I made is to serve online English-speaking teachers to support and grow their independent teaching business.

Actions

Click the link for the PDF template, do an inventory check and create your own teaching treasure bag.

Step 2 – Ask Who Might Like Your Bag

Your treasure bag is extremely powerful with the right client, and you know how to mix and match the ingredients, to solve the right problem.

However, it doesn’t work with everyone and that is perfectly fine. Our job is to find out who will absolutely love your bag and grow the likes of these. Let us take your treasure bag and continue the journey to ask, “Who might love this treasure bag?”

Usually, we start with our existing clients, those who are happy with us, who stayed with us for a long time, who always respond very quickly and warmly towards us. If you feel you have found the one who loves your bag and only yours, jump to step 4 – create your user profiles.

If you don’t have such fans from your existing client pool, we can form a few hypotheses who might love your treasure bag and test each one out.

Let’s take Lucy as an example. Lucy (a hypothetical person based on a few real clients I interacted with) is an American woman who married a French man and lives in Paris. She adores reading and had worked in the children’s book publishing business before she became a full-time mom. Three years ago, she began to teach Chinese children English online via platforms and now she would like to launch her independent teaching path.

In her treasure bag, she has language and cultural skills (English and French). Her professional skills include book publishing and online teaching. Also, she has extensive experience interacting with children, in person (with her own children) and online (with her platform students). Most importantly, she loves reading, with her children and her students.

Lucy formed several interesting theories about who might love her treasure bag:

  1. American moms living in the USA who want their children to learn French
  2. French moms who speak English and want their children to speak English
  3. French moms of Chinese cultural heritage who want their children to enhance English literacy
  4. Chinese moms in China who want their children to speak English: Lucky is teaching them via existing platforms, and she wonders if they would become her own students when she teaches independently.

Lucy has a few hunches but she doesn’t have a precise idea yet who her right client is. Before she invests in getting a website or getting a curriculum, she decides to communicate. There is one way (usually the best way) to find out: having a conversation with them to test the magic of her treasure bag.

Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/129154179/Hints-From-GradesFixer

Step 3 – Test Your Treasure Bag

First, Lucy needs to find some of her potential clients. There are at least four ways to do that:

  • Personal network:

Lucy has her family, friends, and colleagues in the US and France. So, she sent messages to them, telling them her plan to go independent and describing the potential clients she hopes to work with.

  • Local network:

To connect with (2) English speaking French moms and (3) Chinese speaking French moms, Lucy explored shops, communities, clubs, and organisations around Paris when they frequently hang out. She discovered that every Wednesday in arrondissement 13, there is a French/English language exchange meet-up. She went to the Chinatown in Paris and checked the bookstores there. From talking to the shop assistant, she learned that there are three Chinese language schools for French children, many of whom come from families with Chinese heritage.

  • Social media network:

Lucy posted on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and she asked her Chinese clients to help her with WeChat.

  • Platform network:

There are a few clients she really trusts as friends, so she shared a message with them too. They helped her with WeChat communication as well.

Four ways to find your clients

Via these channels, Lucy does not intend to sell. She is looking for people who potentially fit the profiles and asks if they have time to chat. She knows it’s not the time to open the bag yet. At this stage, she intends to learn and understand what the right problem is for her to solve. After having a clear understanding of that, she can do mix and match, working the charm of her treasure bag.

After numerous talks and conversations, in-person and online, Lucy gained enough insights so that she can start step 4 – create a user profile.

Next Steps

Please read my next blog ‘A Step-by-Step Guide: How to Create User Profiles for Your Independent Teaching‘ and continue the case study of Lucy.

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

Teachers, Be Fearless!

Fearless

Source of image: https://www.bhmpics.com/disney_cute_moana-wallpapers.html

By |2022-06-14T11:07:52+01:00October 27th, 2021|0 Comments

10 Most Common Questions and Answers Moving From Platform Teaching to Independent Teaching

Why you should read this

Many China-based online ESL platforms are sadly phasing out. Online educators are looking for ways to continue a fruitful and rewarding relationship with their previous students. You might have questions regarding how to keep and grow the relationship. You might want to start your independent teaching chapter in a safe and culturally appropriate manner. These are my answers to these questions.

Do feel free to comment in case you have better/different solutions or answers.

Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/63934401/_?tracking_source=search_projects_recommended

1. How do I stay connected with my students?

You can say/write/communicate the following message:

I really enjoy teaching you and knowing you. I would love to hear from you and we are just emails away’.

我很开心认识你,教你英文。很期待陪伴你的成长。这是我的邮件——————————————’

2. Why emails?

You might ask – Why do I need my students’ emails if I am already connected with them on WeChat?

You might lose your phone, your student might lose his/her phone or you might not have a WeChat all the time. Surprisingly having each other’s email addresses is still the most secure way to stay in touch with our families and friends.

3. Are there any platforms I can use to continue talking to my students?

If you miss your students, there are various ways to stay in touch and say hello. If you recommend other ways to stay in touch with your students, please feel free to write in the comment box.

  • WeChat video call, audio call or messages.
  • Skype (free)
  • Tencent meeting room
  • Zoom (free)
    • If your student managed to download Zoom, that is perfect.
    • If your student did not manage to download Zoom, you can give a Zoom link. Attending a Zoom call does not require sign in.
    • If the link does not work, your student can still type in meeting ID to join.
  • ClassIn (minimum RMB2000 per year) has a lot more interactive features such as playing slides, collaborative writing and drawing.

4. How do I show my continuous support to the students?

You can say/write/communicate the following message:

If you need help, I will try my best.

如果您有需要帮助的话,我会尽我的努力。

5. Can I still teach my students?

China’s recent education policy – Policy 720 states that China-based companies can’t hire non-Chinese nationals outside the country to teach Chinese students.

While aiming to reduce the stress and burden of academic pressure, it also emphasises the future direction of more holistic education, sports and art-related education, 21st century core skills such as critical thinking.

It calls for schools and parents to ‘guide children to participate in household duties, appropriate sports, reading, and art-related activities. Parents should actively communicate with children, care for their mental health, and help them foster a good learning habit (though the policy does not specify what this is)’

6. Can I still use the curriculum from the previous platform I taught with?

If parents ask for that, the polite way can be:

I would like to check out a solution best for your child and best in line with the government policy. Thanks for your patience, I will confirm my choice as soon as I find the best solution for your child.

我希望可以找到一个最适合您的孩子和符合政府政策的方案。一旦确定,我讲马上和您联系。非常感谢您的耐心

7. Is it legal to promote myself?

China’s recent education policy – Policy 720 states that China-based companies can’t hire non-Chinese nationals outside the country to teach Chinese students.

8. What are some payment solutions that work in China?

Below are a few options I heard some people use but I have not tried myself. So please do leave in the comment box what works for you, what doesn’t. Therefore, this post can benefit everyone.

  • Zelle (please send me a private note on this one)
  • Transferwise
  • Alipay
  • WeChat pay
  • Stripe
  • myteachershop.com
  • If your parents have an ICBC (a leading Chinese bank) account, they can use it to pay to an international visa/master card.
  • The strikingly.com service seems to be accessible from China

9. How much should I charge as a private tutor?

The price you charge is a balance between what the market is ready to pay for a similar service and what you would need to cover in terms of cost.

Please read the How Much Should I Charge for My Online ESL Classes for more details.

Please read the How Chinese Parents Choose Online English Platforms to find out how much VIPKid lessons cost.

The cost includes marketing, curriculum development, use of technology, on top of your teaching time cost.

10. How do I get new students?

The marketing cost to get new students are notoriously high. Averagely it costs a platform US$600 to get one new student.

There are various ways to get more students:


Action

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

Teachers, Be Fearless!

Fearless

By |2022-06-14T11:09:07+01:00August 19th, 2021|2 Comments

China’s Fast-changing ESL Market – Who’s There to Meet the Demand?

Summary

Following the 720 policy to regulate private tutoring sector, the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE) has issued further notice to define core academic subject tutoring vs. extra-curriculum as these two will be regulated very differently. An expert with a Ministry of Education background has suggested new directions for tutoring companies. This blog translates the items most relevant to ESL teachers for Chinese students (online and in-person) along with an analysis of what these policies do not specify – these are areas open for ESL tutors to interpret.

Academic subjects vs. extra-curriculum subjects

The 720 policy requires that academic subject tutoring companies need to register as non-profit organisations and will be strictly regulated. They can’t take up students’ weekends and holiday time.

These regulations don’t apply to companies that provide extra-curriculum activities such as sports coaching, piano coaching, etc.

On July 28, 2021, MoE published a further note defining what academic subjects exactly include. These definitions apply to both in-person and online tutoring, says the note.

  • Academic subjects include ethics and law, Chinese language, history, geography, math, and foreign languages (English, Japanese, Russian), physics, chemistry and biology. They will be regulated under the academic subject tutoring category.
  • Physical education (or well-being), art (or music, or drawing) and integrated practical activities (information technology education, labour and technical education) are extra-curriculum subjects. Therefore, they are to be monitored under a different category.

An expert’s suggestion for adaptation

 

On 15th July, Wen Zhan WANG, a former senior staff member from the Ministry of Education spoke about his interpretation of the recent policies during the 2021 China Internet Education Conference. His key message is that private tutoring companies need to keep the faith and adapt.

The government wants to regulate the tutoring industry not to shut it down, he suggested.

Recognising the tutoring industry’s role in enriching students’ lives, meeting personalised needs from parents and students, cultivating hobbies and broadening students’ horizon, he suggested that it’s hard to have one single, indiscriminate criterion to judge all companies. It is also valuable to use tutoring services to help students catch up if they are behind.

He encourages the tutoring companies to transform from teaching academic subjects to developing these three areas:

  • Serve public education
  • Serve children’s healthy growth
  • Serve parents (it is not clear what he means by this)

His speech suggests there are plenty of opportunities in these three areas:

  • Educational projects that promote traditional Chinese culture, such as learning through travel; practical training/community immersion; reading, little journalists, little public speakers, etc.
  • Training in science, technology and information technology: coding, artificial intelligence, brain development, etc.
  • Craftwork and invention: to foster students’ physical skills, critical and scientific thinking, and innovation.
  • Art and physical education, aesthetic education.
  • Vocational training, especially skills training for agricultural workers.
  • Training for teachers and school leaders.

What the policy doesn’t say

• What the policy does not indicate is the status of teaching extra-curriculum activities using English. If teaching English language is considered as tutoring an academic subject, what about teaching physical education through English? That is an unknown area.

• If hiring non-Chinese teachers outside China is prohibited, it’s unclear what companies should do with free-lancing teachers. Technically, platforms such as VIPKid does not hire any ESL teachers in a full-time capacity. The teachers are not considered as employees of the company.

• It does not say whether tutors can or cannot accept 1-1 tutoring bookings. As a result of this ambiguity, some private tutors saw their bookings increase by 30%. Some tutors have raised their 1-1 tutoring fee as a result.

• The policy does not mention products using interactive recorded learning materials. For those, students can choose their own time and ways to engage with recorded materials, which makes it hard to supervise and restrict.

Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/8027781/punctuation-marks

Adapt for a different future

The past decades have seen very competitive dynamics in China’s K-12 online ESL education market. The competition is so fierce that a company spends on average about RMB4000 (US$620/£400) to get a new customer.

The latest policies, curbing the supply side of education, do not address the demand side. Some parents have contacted the customer services of tutoring companies, asking them to tutor parents themselves so that they can teach their children at home.

We are facing a market with abundant demand. But, it remains unclear who is there to fulfill it.


Action

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Having obstacles launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

Teachers, Be Fearless!

Fearless

By |2022-06-14T11:10:05+01:00July 30th, 2021|0 Comments

China to Cut Ties Between Private Money and Tutoring, What Online ESL Teachers Should be Doing

Summary

In July 2021, the Chinese State Council* issued a policy note known as the ‘720 policy’ (initially issued on the 20th of July) further regulating its private tutoring industry including that online. This blog starts with a reading of the policy especially of its impact on the online ESL sector. It is followed by a scenario analysis – what might happen to online ESL teachers in various scenarios. The final section emphasises what online ESL teachers can do. Last but not the least, it is important to understand that this policy might disrupt the supply of education but not necessarily lower the demand for good education.

(*The Chinese State Council serves an administrative role. It issues policies not laws. How these policies are interpreted and implemented may well vary from region to region.)

http://www.sh-hedajg.com/rgzn/202002/suhaj08dse.html

Policy Reading

Context

Facing an aging population, the Chinese government is trying to increase the birth rate by state intervention. By upping the role of the state in providing affordable housing, education, and healthcare, the Central Government hopes to see a rise in the birth rate in response. In the area of education, the state requires the public sector to play a larger role and restricts the role of private enterprise in education. (See below ‘720’ policy)

‘720 Policy’

The stated objectives of the policy are to construct a virtuous ecosystem in education, reduce parents’ anxiety and facilitate students’ holistic and healthy growth. The document is 16 pages long so I am listing below the items that potentially have a direct impact on the online ESL sector:

Cut ties between private capital and the tutoring sector

Training institutions for core subjects are to register as non-profit organisations. These institutions are prohibited from initial public offering public on capital markets.

Impact on online ESL sector: It cuts the ties between private money and the tutoring sector. As a result, investors will leave the K-12 education sector.

Propose a more scientific use of after-class time

Schools and parents should guide children to participate in household duties, appropriate sports, reading, and art-related activities. Parents should actively communicate with children, care for their mental health, and help them foster a good learning habit (though the policy does not specify what this is). Online classes should last less than 30 minutes and finish no later than 9 pm.

Impact on online ESL sector: It means more restrictions on when and how long online teaching can take place.

Enlarge the role of public resources

Schools are expected to provide after-class custodian services to fit working parents’ office schedules. Schools can contract volunteers or people outside the public school system to provide such services. The Ministry of Education will develop free and good-quality online learning materials to improve education for all.

Impact on online ESL sector: This has more impact on in-person tutoring classes as some parents use these classes as a child-minding service.

Regulate outside-school training activities

Outside-school training institutions should not rely on education materials from outside China. Academic subject training should not take up students’ holiday and weekend time. They should no hire non-Chinese nationals from outside China.

Impact on online ESL sector: This is the item that concerns online ESL teachers the most. I have a separate section – scenario planning – to discuss various scenarios as to how this article can be interpreted and implemented.

Regulate training activities for pre-school children

Online training for pre-school children will be prohibited and that includes English subject training.

Impact on online ESL sector: Unfortunately this means a contraction of online English education for Chinese children below the age of six or seven.

http://100site.oss-cn-beijing.aliyuncs.com/

Implementation

Nine cities have been selected to pilot three measures – to clamp down on private tutoring of core academic subjects; to extend school offerings for after-school activities, and to regulate private tutoring companies’ fee-charging. These nine cities are Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, Changzhi, Weihai, and Nantong.

Scenario planning for online ESL teachers

 

The ‘720 policy’ regulates training institutions registered in mainland China. If you are an ESL teacher working with a platform such as VIPKid, Magic Ears, Qkid, GogoKid, DadaABC, Whales English, 51talk etc, the future largely depends on what is the legal identity of the platform and how it navigates the situation.

Based on my research in the Chinese company registration database (Tianyancha.com), companies such as VIPKid, Qkid are registered as technology and IT service companies, not training companies. That gives room for interpretation.

Also, some online ESL teachers are paid from an overseas legal entity. Again, this leaves room for interpretation. Are these overseas legal entities subject to the ‘720 policy’?

After reading some expert analysis, I have formed the impression that the priorities are designed to cut the ties between private enterprise and tutoring, to clamp down academic subject tutoring and to restrict repetitive cramming.

I don’t form the impression that a freeze on hiring non-Chinese ESL teachers outside China is a priority of this current policy. I also have not read or heard that any Chinese online ESL platforms have received notification from the government to do so. It is also unclear in the policy what these platforms should do with existing teachers.

These are scenarios we can prepare for

  • Best scenario: Chinese-based online ESL platforms such as VIPKid are not impacted. Online ESL teachers to Chinese students can carry on as usual. The chance is relatively low.
  • Worst scenario: Chinese-based online ESL companies are told to end their contracts with every teacher based outside China. All online ESL teachers lose their teaching time with Chinese students. The chance is also quite slim.
  • Somewhere in between: the most likely scenario will be a gradual contraction of the current online platform business model. This might lead to less hiring of teaching professionals outside China, and a renegotiation of the payment structure from the platform to teaching professionals. Subsequently, some ESL teachers will leave the sector to pursue other opportunities or markets.

It will take some time for the industry to adjust and reshuffle. Meanwhile, what should online ESL teachers do to prepare for an uncertain future?

http://www.nipic.com/show/20723314.html

What ESL teachers should be doing:

 

Continue to excel at what you do:

Carry on teaching as usual and make sure every time you conduct a class, you do better than the last time. The habit of pursuing excellence will follow you everywhere no matter what you do.

Take a pause to reflect:

This might sound clichéd but a reflection on why you got into teaching initially and what you get out of it (on top of financial returns) is needed. You are more likely to overcome hurdles and turbulent times if you are pursuing a career path you are passionate about in the long term.

Plan your portfolio:

If you decide to stay in the education sector, it is time to plan a long-term portfolio so that you can manage your risk, build on your strengths and make your work fit your lifestyle. The last thing one can do at the moment is to apply for other jobs without a proper plan. If you have the right qualification and experience, you can further design your teaching portfolio based on the following directions:

    • Other countries: you could apply for jobs in other countries. But do bear in mind that many others will have the same reaction which can drive down the pay rate temporarily.
    • Other subjects: if you used to teach English as a second language, can you offer to teach certain content using English as a language? For example, teaching 1-1 biology tutoring in English for students who are preparing for overseas studies?
    • Other education: If the state education policy is to facilitate students’ holistic and healthy growth, is there anything you can do in the areas of critical thinking, creativity, character development, arts, and sports education?
    • Other customers – are there any opportunities around you to use your previous experience? Is there a need from parents of the students you teach? Is there a need from students in your physical environment you can reach out to?
    • Other partners: can you work with some language teaching institutions in the areas of curriculum design, in-person class or teacher training?

I suggest you spend some time thinking through these options and exploring the most suitable path for you. It is important to stay put and plan a long-term strategy instead of sending resumes around in a rush.

Path to independent teaching

This is the most rewarding but also challenging path. We need to bear in mind that the ‘720 policy’ regulates the supply side of education. But if the demand for good education for their children remains high from Chinese parents, who is there to meet the demand? There may be opportunities for freelancing teachers to fill the gap.

In order to do that, a teacher needs to change the mindset to be an entrepreneur, to understand customers and to set up infrastructure for marketing and payment. It is a big step to move from a teacher delivering classes for a platform to a teacher-entrepreneur who has to understand customer needs, design products and deliver education. Most times, one needs to work with various partners to get started. But each tiny step counts for a future giant leap into independence.


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By |2022-06-14T11:11:03+01:00July 26th, 2021|2 Comments

Will China’s New Childcare Centres Change Children’s Summer Holidays?

Summary

This summer, the Chinese Government has announced affordable childcare centres for elementary students to assist working parents in selected provinces and cities. What exactly is this policy? What do these childcare centres offer? How do Chinese parents respond to this policy? Will it change the way Chinese children’s summer holidays? And what is the implication for the online ESL sector and tutors? This blog answers these questions through first-hand interviews, reading and analysis of survey results.

Policy Pilot

In June 2021, the Chinese Ministry of Education published ‘The note to promote some areas’ public education after-class service’. This policy is meant to reduce the cost and anxiety of raising children, alongside the government’s three-child policy and efforts in regulating a fast-growing private tutoring sector.

The note selected some local governments to launch discounted childcare centres through schools and local communities during this summer holiday. Areas, where these institutions are based, are circled in blue in the map below. Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, cities where most of the current 1-1 online ESL students reside, are among the cities where this policy experiment is taking place.

Areas where summer childcare centres are launched in China 2021

Source of map: https://vividmaps.com/china-gdp-in-2020-by-province/

Policy Implementation

These childcare centres fulfil a child-minding purpose. They will not provide academic teaching and are optional. By using resources from the public sector to replace private companies which organised summer tutoring classes previously, the government hopes the stress of bringing up a child will be more manageable.

It is made very clear that these centres will not provide any academic teaching classes. Rather, schools or local communities open their libraries and space for self-studying, as well as organise physical education or general education classes. They usually start at 8 to 8:30 am and finish at 4 to 5:30 pm, at a relatively affordable price for a middle-class family.

Source of image: https://www.behance.net/gallery/10149935/KidsPark-Integrated-Brand

Details of how each centre designs the daily program, recruits childminders (engages its own teacher or recruits volunteers or outsources to a private vendor), gets funding and sets the price vary from region to region, from institution to institution. Therefore, the quality of each centre will differ.

This is an example from a typical childcare centre to run this summer

  • Dates: 5th July to 13th August
  • Time: 8 am to 4 pm (including lunchtime)
  • Price: RMB200(US40| £22.4) per child per week
  • Childminder: university students are recruited as volunteers
  • Activities: can be doing sports or arts & crafts, or just resting in the centre.

Usually, it is very hard to get a placement in a well-run childcare centre. But it is also very possible a childcare centre might offer a boring program and receive little interest.

What do Chinese parents respond?

 

So how do parents respond to this policy? The three insights below are either from my interviews with parents or reading news articles and surveys in China.

  • The childcare is a basic babysitting package: The consensus is that these centres merely look after the children, with little educational value. For parents who have time and means to tailor-make their children’s summer experience, they are not content with this basic package. They take their children to travel, hire private coaches (academic subject, piano, swimming, etc) or sign up for private summer camps.
  • It does not change the overall picture: Most parents believe as long as the GaoKao (university entrance exam) system does not change, nothing has really changed. The pathway to university education is competitive and most parents feel peer pressure throughout. Setting up childcare centres does not alter the overall landscape.
  • The war to grab individual tutors has begun: One survey question asks parents ‘If private companies can’t offer tutoring classes during summer/winter holidays, would you look for individual tutors for your children?’. Of the 800 parents who responded, 62% chose Yes, and 15% chose No. Some parents have already prepared to recruit individual tutors for their children’s summer.

How do Chinese children spend this summer?

 

This is a survey result of how parents actually make arrangements for their children’s summer. 40% will still seek (in person) training classes. In case private tutoring in-class format becomes illegitimate, they will go for online tutoring classes or find individual tutors.

The survey was conducted by South China Education Federation.

Survey result - what Chinese children's summer activities are

Survey result - why Chinese parents sign up summer training classes for their children

Survey result - which kind of summer classes Chinese parents select for their childrenSurvey result - how much Chinese parents pay for summer classes for their childrenSurvey result - What will Chinese parents do if tutoring classes are forbidden

Source of information: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/qYwRRSs4i6k_iWpHaC0hbQ

How does this impact online ESL tutors?

It does not look like parents’ aspirations for their children is changed. One of their ways to show love to their children is to find the best educational resources (perceived) for them. Therefore, they will continue to look for the best tutors/teachers, classes and educational experiences.

Parents don’t see the launch of these summer childcare centre as serving their educational needs. But if children become happier, healthier, and more social through relaxing and playing in these centres, I believe it is good news for the child, the parents, as well as on-site and online tutors.

Online tutoring is seen as a major plan B by parents (41%) if tutoring in a physical class format becomes difficult. This possibly means further growth of the online ESL teaching sector, especially 1-1 or in a small group format.

A great teacher will always be in high demand.

Action

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By |2022-06-14T11:12:21+01:00July 7th, 2021|0 Comments

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 |2022-06-14T11:14:02+01:00June 16th, 2021|2 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 |2022-06-14T11:15:50+01:00June 4th, 2021|0 Comments

The New Chinese Education Policies Every ESL Teacher Ought to Know

Summary

The Chinese State Council and the Ministry of Education (MoE) have issued new policies to reform its education system and regulate the after-school tutoring market in China. They include encouraging physical education, reform of the exam system and removing homework for grade 1 and 2 students. Further reforms during June 2021 are likely to regulate after-school tutoring. As a teacher of Chinese students, you should know what these policies mean for your online classes.

Source of image: https://www.sohu.com/a/390609327_338398

1. Chinese K12 Education Policy Changes

New education policies issued since August 2020 tackle three issues for China’s education system:

(1) Develop a (more) well-rounded education;

(2) Broaden education pathways through university entrance exams (Gao Kao) and high school entrance exams (Zhong Kao);

(3) Reduce burden of parents and students.

They are intended to improve education inequality and reduce the cost to parents of raising their children.

(1) Develop a (more) well-rounded education

 

  • In August 2020, the Physical Education (PE) Branch of the Ministry of Education issued a note to enhance the fitness of youth (体育总局教育部《关于印发深化体教融合 促进青少年健康发展意见的通知》). The note encourages schools to organise PE clubs and sports event to promote physical health. The most significant item in this note adds PE assessment to some high-stake exams (primary school to junior high school, junior high school to senior high school).(将体育科目纳入初、高中学业水平考试范围,纳入中考计分科)
  • In October 2020, the National State Council issued a significant guideline to oversee the reform of education assessment. 《深化新时代教育评价改革总体方案》This guideline proposes broader ways than the school exam score to assess performance of students, teachers and schools. It sets a general direction to extend assessment to include art education, PE education, ethics education, and practical life skills on top of academic performance. The guideline indicates a general direction of travel but does not include any specific implementation steps and timelines.
Chinese primary school PE class

Chinese primary school PE class

Source of image: https://www.sohu.com/a/390609327_338398

(2) Broaden education pathways

  • During January and February 2021, the Ministry of Education launched a reform of two high-stakes exams: the university entrance exam (Gaokao) and high school entrance exam (Zhongkao).
  • The high school entrance exam, taken at age 15, completes 12 years of compulsory education. It is now stated officially that 50% of students taking the exam will be expected to enter a vocational school path while the other half will enter high school, leading to university education.
  • The notoriously tough university entrance exam will also change Previously, a student had to do compulsory subjects (Chinese, English, Math) and optional subjects. The choice of optional subjects was based on the student’s choice of university path: STEM-related (physics, chemistry or biology) or humanity-related (history, geology, politics). That is no longer the case. A student can choose any optional subject freely, whether he/she pursues a STEM or humanity path.
Prepare for university entrance exam (Gao Kao)

Prepare for the university entrance exam (Gao Kao)

Source of image: http://www.gz.xinhuanet.com/xwzx/gzzw/?6bpuw

(3) Reduce burden of parents and students

  • In April 2021, the MoE issued the note to regulate after-school homework for public schools in the K12 sector. (关于加强义务教育学校作业管理的通知) . The note states that grade 1 and 2 students should be given no homework. For other primary school grades, the homework must take them no more than 60 minutes a day. For junior high school students, the limit is 90 minutes.
  • By the end of June 2021, MoE is expected to issue another note to regulate the after-school tutoring market. Rumour has it that tutoring classes to improve school exam results will be clamped down. Tutoring companies will need to be very careful in their advertising message, avoiding use of words such as “anxiety”, or misleading information to push sales. Subscribe our newsletter to obtain a first-hand interpretation of this new regulation.

Source of image: http://www.shedejie.com/peiyin/26564.html

2. What do these policies mean to me as a teacher of English online to Chinese students?

 

  • Prepare and highlight your resumé accordingly When you prepare your teaching resumé and credentials, you should keep in mind the initiatives from the Chinese Ministry of Education. Can you emphasise a sport you are good at? Are you skilled at fostering a child’s well-rounded development? Make sure you highlight these qualities to align with the future direction of travel. Book a premium 1-1 workshop to make your resume appealing to your Chinese audience.
  • Choose the right mix of platforms to work with. If you are working with a platform that over-emphasises school exam result, maybe it’s time to diversify. Don’t get me wrong, school exams will still be very important, but we may see a future where students are not judged solely by their exam results.
  • Prepare your curriculum and teaching. If you have some flexibility in what you teach and how you deliver the learning experience, is it time to include elements such as life skills and art in your teaching materials or activities?

Conclusion

These policies are designed to address education inequality and reduce the cost and stress of education.

In reality, for a vast country such as China, it takes time to implement any top-down policy. Each region will have its own interpretation and tactics to transform guidelines into practice.

On top of that, parents might react differently and achieve results as opposed to what some of the policies are designed to achieve. For example, they may put even more pressure on students to get into high school instead of vocational school. Or they may hire private tutors to give children classes in PE or art.

Overall, the Chinese education system may turn to a healthier direction, but a real cultural change will always take much longer than a change at a policy level.  

Actions

Read my previous blog on ‘Chinese Education System Explained‘ to understand the context.

Join our digital course ‘From Good to Great, Level Up Your Teaching Business’ to empower you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Read our course page to find out more.

Have obstacles while launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.

Teachers, Be Fearless!

By |2022-06-14T11:17:06+01:00May 24th, 2021|4 Comments