Extracurricular Tutoring Under the Spotlight With Tough Checks

July 3, 2018
Editor: Wang Yue

Move aims to relieve financial burden on parents and study stress on students ahead of exams.

In the past four months, more than 200,000 extracurricular, or after-school tutoring institutions were checked nationwide while more than 12,000 such training institutions had their programs changed to be in parallel with school schedules, according to the Ministry of Education.

Recently, the heated topic of extracurricular tutoring has been highlighted over concerns of unfair competition and rising financial burdens. Ahead of another summer vacation, further adjustments will be made to the sector to relieve the burdens on students and their parents, experts said.

A joint notice was released in February by the Ministry of Education and other three State Council departments.

As of May, 12,000 institutions had seen their programs changed, the ministry said. By the end of June, inspections and checks had been made on 201,193 tutoring institutions across the country, including those in provinces with large student numbers such as Shandong and Guangdong.

The notice highlighted behavior such as tutoring in subjects, including Chinese and math, ahead of school schedules. The institutions should submit information on their programs, such as class content, targeted students and class time, to local educational authorities, which will be disclosed to the public.

"My son and I welcome the rectification. Tutoring classes are getting more expensive, and what's worse is that parents are worried that their kids are left behind if not taking the extracurricular classes," said Wang Xia, a 35-year-old mother in Anqing, Anhui province. Her 11-year-old son goes to two tutoring classes each weekend, following many of his classmates. "It's an option without alternatives," Wang said.

Provincial regions released their work plans to strengthen supervision on extracurricular tutoring, making clear that joint efforts would be made by authorities in education, civil affairs, human resources and social security and market regulation, said Lyu Yugang, director of the ministry's basic education department, in May.

However, some educational tutoring institutions are not enthusiastic about the rectification and continued allowing public school teachers to work for tutoring institutions, Lyu said.

The rectification came at an ideal time because some privately-run educational tutoring institutions organized contests and offered courses for lower-grade students to study higher-grade classes, said Wang Wenbo, secretary-general of the tutoring education commission under the China Association for Non-Government Education.

These tutoring classes, covering advanced course study, had affected compulsory education and led to a peer pressure on students and their parents, Wang said. He said these tutoring courses have added burdens on children and parents, financially and psychologically, and should be rectified to improve fairness among students. Rectifications made after the notice were effective ways to get these institutions on a right track, he said.

According to the Chinese Society of Education, China had 180 million primary and high school students in 2016. More than 137 million of these students took extracurricular tutoring classes, whose total market value stood at 800 billion yuan ($123 billion). The value almost tripled in 11 years from 2005, according to figures by the National Bureau of Statistics.

It's been a common practice for tutoring institutions to operate without a license, said Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute based in Shanghai. For example, more than 1,300 of Shanghai's 7,000 such institutions had no licenses following a check in July last year, he said.

The supervisory system should be improved for tutoring services, Xiong said. All such services should be governed by a national supervisory system, allowing no "grey areas", while a joint mechanism should be established to avoid overlapping responsibilities, he said. All tutoring institutions must submit their files in the system and should deposit risk-managing funds, he said.

However, current laws don't forbid tutoring institutions to provide specialized classes ahead of school schedules, a practice that has caused a anxiety among parents and in turn stimulated the development of extracurricular tutoring, Xiong said. Therefore, he said legislation should be accelerated to ban in-advance education.

The rectification should also aim at where the demand comes from, Xiong said, adding that reforms should be conducted in how to evaluate students and guide parents not to give their children additional tutoring.

(Source: China Daily)

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