Despite being the most populated country in the world, China has been facing a severe slump in its population growth. The government now allows a family to have up to three children, scrapping its previously imposed two-child policy. However, the economic slowdown might discourage people from having more children.
At the same time, Beijing has come up with policies to relieve the financial burden on education in order to increase its citizens’ chance to access higher education. China’s system is highly competitive and exam-oriented. The university admission “Gaokao” puts an immense pressure on students, so much so it’s become popular among parents to send their kids to tutoring classes after school. The tutoring business therefore became very profitable.
In order to “ease the burden” on students, the government launched a clampdown on them. It has stopped granting permission to a new tutoring institution, and turned the existing ones into non-profit organizations to make them more accessible to low-income families. It also bars tutoring schools from receiving funding from foreign countries.
The policy not only directly impacts the tutoring business, but also increases anxiety among parents. Many even believe it would only intensify the competition and widen inequality. Rich parents would be able to hire a private tutor to teach their children at home. Parents who have less would worry about their kids being left behind and might resort to other ways, such as online courses with tutoring schools abroad that receive international transfers. Some parents who work long hours and rely on tutoring institutions to take care of their children after normal school hours also are anxious of more burden that would follow the crackdown.
Xiong Bingqi, the director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the main obstacle to China’s education reform is “group education anxiety.” The majority of society gives tremendous value to higher education and “famous” schools and universities, and the demand in the job market also unproportionately prioritizes a degree from such institutions over an applicant’s other skills.
Sun Jin, an assistant professor at the Department of Early Childhood Education at The Education University of Hong Kong, suggested that the key to China’s education reform is to “ensure schools are able to fulfil the responsibility assigned and to provide necessary and quality support for all students.”
The government has currently been working on promoting recreational activities and enhancing childcare service in schools to alleviate angst among parents.
In other words, the reform in China needs a structural change in the system which functions on competition and money from parents. China’s inequality in education and social disparities therefore are major issues that must be addressed simultaneously.
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