Two years ago, Bi, the mother of an outdoor nursery in Beijing, enrolled her son in English three times a week to give him what he described as a “water immersion” to learn the language.
But now, with the Chinese government shutting down all school-related teaching after school and on weekends and holidays, Bi, an English-speaking middle school teacher, has had to stop teaching her son.
That is very troubling for Bi because learning English is compulsory in Chinese schools, and it is one of the four main subjects of the National College Entrance Examination, or Gaokao, which her son will do when he is 18 years old. For many Chinese students, the exam is the only one that determines whether they will be accepted into the top universities in the major cities, often guaranteeing better-paying jobs over the duration of their careers. In the worst case scenario, he could not be accepted at any university.
"What if he can't get along with others," asked Bi, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job because of talking to foreign media. “The school offers two English classes, only 30 minutes a week to the first and second graders without any homework. We have to do something before he goes to middle school. ”
After the Chinese government overruns on education programs to reduce pressure on students, reduce the cost of family education and ensure equitable access to education, Chinese regulators announced in June that they would close the K-12 teaching industry after school. It is a contribution to the business that made $ 123 billion by 2019, according to a 2020 report by consulting company Oliver Wyman.
The Council of State, China's highest power council, on July 24 officially closed all curricula in teaching the school curriculum such as English, maths and Chinese, without exception. Private teachers, who often have public school teachers who try to make more money, are also banned from teaching outside their campuses.
But that does not stop parents from seeking the help of their children. Some parents switch to expensive private educators or have not obtained a government permit. Bi said parents at her party secretly hired private teachers or public school teachers to teach in their homes even though they often charged more than teaching companies.
"That's why I'm hesitant," said Bi. “Private teachers charge us 2.5 times more than the institution. The decision [to hire teachers] varies from one family to another and from one child to another. ”
The Department of Education could not be reached for comment.
"Extensive tuition fees and rising teacher recruitment costs will be effectively reduced within a year," said Yanpin Hu, an inspector in China's executive office of Education, during a news conference in August. "It will be significantly reduced in three years."
Conducted by Chinese university entrance exams, which can be held only once a year, the national education system forces students and their parents to support this challenging program, which focuses on examining a large part of their children's lives. For those from rural areas or low-income households, often with only one child, this test could help move their children to larger cities to study and eventually find more lucrative careers upon graduation.
“That is‘ emergence, ’” Bi says, referring to a term commonly used on social media in China, which describes highly competitive situations that urge parents to do something because their peers do it.
"I will never let my son cool down at home," said Bi. “She is happy right now. But he will blame us for not keeping him from teaching when he is older and failing the exams. ”
The world of highly competitive educators is concentrated in urban areas such as Beijing and Shanghai, where there are more experienced teachers and financial support from local government.
“Cities have the potential for parents to make decisions,” says Fred Mednick, professor of educational science at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. "It's a matter of choice, linked to the issue of equality."
The growing demand is for teachers to continue teaching in spite of the dangers. Jennie Shi, a 24-year-old private teacher in Beijing, has been teaching basic English for two years. But he was fired as the teaching center he worked for closed in June. He said he now had an unauthorized independent teaching studio.
“Parents beg me to continue teaching because they do not find anyone else who is familiar with their children's learning habits,” says Shi, using the English word to avoid retaliation.
You charge $ 30 per hour compared to the $ 12 fee charged by institutions per hour. However, he said, "parents have never complained about numbers."
His teaching business does not have the necessary work permits issued by local education authorities, he said. To meet certain requirements, he needs to obtain a teaching license and all his teaching materials comply with the national curriculum standard. But he said he was not worried about the report.
"When my students' neighbors see us teaching, they come to me and ask if their children can join us," said Shi.
Tianyu Zhao, a 25-year-old college graduate who planned to join TAL Education as a teacher of Rubik's cube in June, said his job was terminated two days after government pressure.