China’s Crackdown on Tuitions: What Should We Learn?

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Background

Asian countries, in general, and China, in particular, are well-known for their rigorous and highly intensive education system.

It is very much like India’s in that they value good grades for admission into higher secondary schools and colleges and landing a job more than any other parameter. 

As a result, we witness the same cut-throat competition in China, equivalent to our country when the fate of approximately 5.5 to 6 million students is decided every year when they undertake a test known as Gaokao.

Often cited as one of the toughest examinations globally, very much similar to our own JEE (Advanced), every Chinese student must be admitted into undergraduate courses.

This has led to the establishment of after-school education services (known as coaching centres, for higher grade students or tuitions, for lower grade students).

With time, these services have blossomed into a multi-billion dollar venture, raking in a substantial amount of revenue and also contributing handsomely to China’s majestic GDP.

The Chinese Society has made a stunning revelation of Education that nearly 7 in every ten students decide to opt for after-school tutoring facilities in preparation for the competitive examinations.

The existing system has often faced a mixed reaction from the students and parents. While some believe it is quintessential to raise the academic bar and sustain the meritocracy, others have criticized it for being too stressful and overburdening.

Steps Taken

China’s premier Xi Jinping had gleaned the flaws because he ordered strict scrutiny and a paradigm shift in policies about these after-school services.

He elucidated that he wants to reduce inequalities in educational opportunities and social advancement and have no hidden agenda behind it.

Ed training institutes have been restrained from raising money through stock market listings and foreign capital investment.

While people may have their own set of arguments to justify or protest this decision, it is imperative to note that this comes soon after CCP had also downsized big corporations like Tencent and Baidu, which resulted in a catastrophic plummeting of stock prices.

It may thus be reasoned that the ulterior motive is to keep in check the profiteering companies and their holdings and assets.

Expectedly, this has come as a blow to the billion-worth industry and its customer base that had been perseveringly built around China’s wealthiest cities.

The order has been followed up with the additional directives to forbid classes on weekends, public advertising and placing a limit of 30-minute online classes per session.

The policymakers alluded to the country’s depleting demographics in the face of a stringent policy undertaken to control population — allowing only one child per family. These steps, they say, will alleviate the woes and anxieties of children.

Effects and Response

Immediately after the drastic deviation of rules, TAL Education and New Oriental Education and Technology dipped by 70% and 50%, respectively.

It has been vehemently rebuked by the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets of the US for destroying the country’s most significant economic opening by unnecessarily restricting these companies. Consequently, the “biggest loser will be the Chinese public.”

On the other hand, many Chinese parents have hailed it as a welcome series of steps that can open portals to new vistas of opportunities.

 One Alex Leo, in an article in South China Morning Post, narrates how he was entrenched once in a dilemma of whether to invest in “sin” stocks (tobacco, alcohol, weapons etc.) or another equally thrifty bet of private tutorial stocks.

He opines that it was his morality that deterred him from investing in both. Ultimately, his discretion proved to be right as he was saved from the ordeal of “losing a bundle.”

Later in the same article, he says that these institutions are, unfortunately, a necessary evil to combat the existing education system, and it’s only the profiteering campaign that should be abolished.

Lessons for Us

Because India too has its ecosystem of tech and private tutoring companies offering bountiful courses and services to several school-going children and college students, there are some things to be learned from what China did.

Outright banning of economic activities of these institutions seems quite foolhardy, as they do raise the country’s GDP to some extent.

Also, they provide valuable “tips and tricks” and methodologies that many ordinary schools and colleges choose to be devoid of when they impart knowledge to youngsters.

The present government’s NEP (National Education Policy) scheme aims to bridge this gaping divide in our education system – by encouraging practical, vocational training, rather than cramming, textbook learning.

But the goal shouldn’t be garnering praise for good marks or job/salary, but important skill development. Hopefully, we can see some improvements in the upcoming years.

Priyanshu Mohanty
Priyanshu Mohanty
Professionally, an undergraduate student, pursuing B.Tech. in Computer Science Engineering and personally, a happy-go-lucky guy, he's someone who staunchly believes in the maxim of Carpe Diem. Apart from his obvious fervour & zest for penning down poetry and short stories (prince91001.wixsite.com/website), which helps him to unwind and seek temporary haven in contemplation and retrospection, he likes to dabble in a gamut of wide-ranging endeavours like working on software projects related to data science nocturnally, association with an NGO, appreciating the didacticism of Longfellow, exploring the cosmos' mysteries or playing encephalon-tickling games, to name a few. In a nutshell, he's a jack of many trades and master of, well, some.

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