Caixin
Apr 01, 2021 07:43 AM
CHINA

China Tightens Supervision of After-School Tutoring Sector

An English tutoring school in China.
An English tutoring school in China.

China’s Ministry of Education will tighten scrutiny of after-school tutoring institutions and investigate and punish illegal training activities, a senior official said.

The move aims to protect the rights and interests of parents and students and reduce homework burdens on students, Lue Yugang, director general of the ministry’s department of basic education, said Wednesday a press conference.

The Education Ministry will also regulate off-campus competition programs. All competitions targeting elementary school and middle school students have been canceled as part of China’s efforts to switch from an exam-oriented education system to a learning-oriented system, Lue said. The existing five Olympiad contests are only for high school students, he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is leading a crackdown on China’s booming tutoring industry amid concerns that seven-days-a-week extracurricular classes hurt children’s physical and mental health. The issue was on the agenda of China’s annual legislative and political meetings known as the “Two Sessions” in early March. In a March 6 meeting with medical and health education committee members attending the Two Sessions, Xi called disorder in the tutoring industry “a stubborn malady” and vowed to solve the problem.

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Earlier this month, Beijing educational authorities ordered all in-person after-school training classes — which were suspended in early February amid a resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic — to postpone reopening and conduct inspection and rectification. Any institution has to go through two rounds of inspections and meet all requirements in a checklist before they can reopen, according to the chief executive of a Beijing K-12 training company.

The ministry also said the National Education Examinations Authority (NEEA), an agency under the Education Ministry, will no longer administer the Main Suite Examinations (MSE), a five-level English language exam run by the University of Cambridge that has become wildly popular in China.

The Preliminary English Test (PET), the second-level test in the MSE, has been considered a must to get into a top middle school. During the Covid-19 pandemic, many PET exam sites were closed, and some parents in Beijing even took their children to other cities to take the exam.

Scores and awards from any competition programs shall not be used as enrollment criteria for elementary and middle schools, Lue said.

Cambridge Assessment English, the organization that runs the MSE, said Wednesday on its website that it will adopt a new service model after “friendly consultation” with the NEEA and will provide better services for students who take the tests.

The authorities have approved the first batch of tutoring schools to reopen, including a few campuses run by education giants New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc. and TAL Education Group. But in a notice Wednesday, the Beijing education regulator said some training institutions that have resumed classes were still found not to meet the requirements, including one school run by TAL.

Among problems the regulator found, some schools use teachers that have not obtained qualification certificates and rely on exaggerated and misleading advertisements, the notice said.

Lue said elementary and middle schools should improve their own after-class services and while strictly controlling the amount of student’s written homework.

Contact reporter Denise Jia (huijuanjia@caixin.com) and editor Bob Simison (bobsimison@caixin.com).

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