It has been quite a lucrative time for many English teachers who sought to supplement their income by working with private online English educational providers based in China. I started working with a Chinese-based organisation back in 2015 and continued until last year. However, in the past few months, many Chinese-based English institutes have witnessed a huge crackdown on the English tutoring industry which has affected many.
What are the changes?
The Chinese Government has implemented many changes and essentially this includes the following:
- Online English lessons must be limited to 30 minutes
- Online lessons cannot be taken after 9:00 p.m. Beijing time
- No online classes can be taken during weekends, holidays and school breaks
- Off-campus tutoring (education not happening in the public school system) shall not include overseas education courses
- There will be a ban on hiring foreign teachers who live overseas
- Companies that offer private instruction will have to register as nonprofits and they will also no longer be able to advertise their programs
Looking at the following recommendations for institutes, it is hard for many organisations to succeed in the Chinese market now – it essentially stops private educational institutes . It has also been reported that Wall Street English in China has declared bankruptcy now with many staff and students being owed millions.
It is unclear where this places those institutes that have partnered up with Chinese institutes, but some Chinese universities have started to cancel their links and joint projects with foreign universities. This is worrying time and begs the question why.
Why is this happening?
If you look at the recommended changes occurring in China, it is not just education which is being affected. There are many policy changes that has been implemented such as children in China (under the age of 18) having a total of 3 hours to play computer games online between Friday to Sunday each week, children being forced to study the thoughts and political ideology of Xi Jinping (the country’s leader), celebrity culture (both foreign or Chinese-based) being banned or Beijing banning western coursebooks from the curriculum. The official narrative is that children in China should not be forced to study at private institutes, and that they should enjoy themselves being children. This is commendable, as I agree that children should enjoy their childhood.
However, I cannot just feel that the changes are a little heavy handed. If I consider the possible implications to forcing children at a young age to study the political philosophies of Xi Jinping or reducing their exposure to Western influences such as music or films, or limiting internet access outside of the country, it is clear that the Chinese authorities are seeking to control what children should learn, what to think, and what to say.
How does this affect English teachers?
With China implementing many changes and online English institutes closing amid the clampdown, the days of earning a supplementary income tutoring children remotely is currently over. It is unclear where the market is heading for adult education as much of the changes affect young learners. Teachers have already started to feel the change with online institutes closing with immediately and freelance educators, who solely relied upon online tutoring with Chinese learners, suddenly finding themselves without an income. It is unclear how many online tutors have been affected, but it could be within the million, with tutors being conveniently based anywhere around the world with just an internet connection.
However, I like to remain optimistic. Parents and adult learners from China who wish to continue their English education will find a way to seek tutors either in-country or abroad. Having started with Preply four months ago, there have been a rising number of Chinese students seeking an English tutor on the platform. I have received many messages from Chinese English learners or parents trying to find a suitable tutor. For material writers who are involved in the Chinese market, I can see this evaporating due to the policy changes.
Finally, there will be a huge number of English teachers, both in China and abroad, seeking alternative employment. The market has now become quite saturated overnight and I would recommend teachers to specialise so that they are able to tutor particular students or prepare them for examinations, as there are still many students from Europe and elsewhere who are still looking for professional tutors.