China English students

China Cracking Down on Online Tutoring

This post is my response to the article by Reuters – China to unveil tough new rules for private tutoring sector-sources – One of eTEFL Online’s Chinese agents has confirmed this story.


What has changed?


From what I understand from the article, the Chinese government is going to run a 12-month trial for a ban on online and offline (face-to-face) tutoring. Specifically for the K12 students (ages 6 to 18) in 9 provinces starting this summer – probably June 2021.

This means that private companies with students in these provinces won’t be able to provide tuition on weekends or over the summer and winter holidays. Which is peak time for them.

This will have a tremendous impact on the private tutoring companies who stand to lose “70-80% of their annual revenue”. This in turn means that they will downsize their teaching staff.


Some important points to remember.


  1. This only affects big Chinese companies targeting young learners, adult students can still take classes online and will need teachers.
  2. This only affects 9 out of the 23 provinces in China. However, it does include Beijing, Shanghai, and other major cities.
  3. This does not affect freelancers. If you have your own private students, then it is business as usual.
  4. This is a trial, not a new law. According to the article, their motivation is to promote bigger families by reducing the costs of raising children. These private companies charge a fortune (very little ends up in the teachers’ pockets) and many parents simply can’t afford it. This is just 1 of many changes they will implement to see if it will lead to more people having more children.


China promoting bigger families in 2021


China has been famous for only allowing 1 child per couple, but they raised that to 2 children in 2016, and in May 2021, China changed the policy again to allow up to 3 children per couple. They are trying to get people to have more children and doing everything they can to make that easier. This move was prompted by the results of a census which showed a decline of 6 million new births over the last 5 years alone. The lowest total since the 1960s.


A $120 Billion online tutoring industry


Dismantling such a massive industry doesn’t make sense to me but that’s just my opinion. No matter what the official policy in China is, it is clear that commerce is on the top of their list of priorities. Furthermore, most of this revenue goes to Chinese companies. A move this big will hurt their local economy. Although the teachers are foreign, companies like VIPKid have 1000s of Chinese support staff in offices in the affected provinces. We’ll have to wait and see what happens after the trial period.


Don’t put all your eggs in 1 basket.


Changes like this are precisely the reason why we have the Online Teacher Training Bundles. It’s good to have contracts with companies but also profiles on websites like Preply and AnyTutor37, AND get your own private students. That gives you 3 income streams so if you lose 1, you have a backup. Specializing in something like the IELTS or Cambridge exam prep is a good way to get your own private students.


Is this the end of the road for online teaching?


No, of course not.

Just remember, this is not the first bump in the road. Every big change in our industry since 2018 has been because of changes in China, yet here we still are. First, they made a TEFL certification a requirement in 2017, and then in 2018 made a bachelor’s degree a requirement as well., and now the trial ban. And you can bet your bottom dollar there will be more changes in the future.

There is still a massive global online tutoring market and although China is the biggest player, they aren’t the only one. We adapted to the previous changes, and we’ll adapt to these. English is still the lingua franca of the modern world and, according to the British Council, there are still over a billion people who want to learn English. The demand for teachers is still there, we just need to broaden our scope and start looking at opportunities in other parts of the world and in other markets.

1 thought on “China Cracking Down on Online Tutoring”

  1. I teach for one of the “big” online companies. This will more than likely affect me and cause a loss of income. Despite that, I hate to say this, but it may be a good break for the kids. These kids are so over scheduled. Some of this kids that I teach always say they have so many “lessons” on the weekend. They are not referring to school. There are so many other lessons (math, science, etc). It is not school. Some say they go to some sort of tutoring centers which is not really a thing in America. We have tutoring center for children that need extra help. But it is a way of life for most children in China, at least with those that can afford it. Some of these kids are very smart, but have so much information thrown at them that they do not know whether they are coming or going. In some cases, they could accelerate their English learning if they did not have so much other stuff going on.

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