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