Caixin
Mar 12, 2019 11:54 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

China’s Online Tutoring Industry to Get Supervision, Minister Says

TAL Education is one of many companies that could come under new government regulation for online tutors. Photo: VCG
TAL Education is one of many companies that could come under new government regulation for online tutors. Photo: VCG

The Education Ministry is set to release guidelines to regulate China’s booming yet unsupervised online afterschool education sector, as part of a broader effort to reduce students’ infamously massive workloads.

The guidelines aim to regulate private tutoring centers that have expanded their curriculums online, Education Minister Chen Baosheng said Tuesday on the sidelines of the annual meeting of China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress. The cyber education space has been largely free of government supervision.

In China, all students receive nine years of free schooling before they go to high school or vocational college. Although the Ministry of Education has pushed an agenda to reduce the amount of schoolwork burying students, China’s exam score-focused assessment system has led to a boom in private tutoring centers.

The tutoring centers provide reinforcing courses in all subjects, poach teachers from high-ranking schools, sponsor academic contests and promise exclusive question banks that they promise can help students pass certain exams. Some of them, including TAL Education Group and Rise Education Cayman Ltd., have gone on to list in New York.

The industry has drawn fire because some centers operate without proper schooling credentials and others focus solely on exams, which runs counter to the ministry’s agenda. Since the government tightened supervision over the industry last year, many operators have gone online to sidestep scrutiny.

Although Chen didn’t elaborate on how or when the ministry will regulate online tutoring centers, last year’s guidelines for brick-and-mortar centers offer some clues.

Under the new rules for private tutoring centers, all classes must end by 8:30 p.m., tutors must be certified to teach their subjects, and no more than three months of tuition can be collected at a time.

Industry watchers, however, said reining in the online industry might be harder than expected. Many centers employ part-time college instructor to teach online, and their high turnover rate coupled with the nature of the internet may hamper such efforts.

The ministry said Tuesday it inspected 401,000 private tutoring centers last year and found that 273,000 of them weren’t up to standards.

Contact reporter Jason Tan (jasontan@caixin.com)


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