New rules ease burden on school students

By Zou Shuo | China Daily | Updated: Feb 10, 2022

Closures, transitions

According to the ministry, the combined efforts of central and local governments have resulted in the number of online academic tutoring institutions being cut by 84.1 percent and the number of offline players slashed by 83.8 percent.

Ten provinces and municipalities, including Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and Liaoning, have reduced the number of such institutions by more than 90 percent, the ministry said, adding that all remaining entities must either become nonprofit organizations or close.

Guo Yihao, director of the education bureau in Nantong, Jiangsu province, said that by late December the city had just three academic tutoring institutions, with 491 having closed and 271 switching to other sectors.

Meanwhile, education authorities in Tianjin said the city no longer has any private providers of online tutoring, while 92 percent of offline players have closed.

Tutoring giants, including New Oriental Education and Technology Group and TAL Education Group, shuttered operations for children in primary and middle schools from Dec 31.

In a WeChat post on Jan 8, Yu Minhong, New Oriental's founder and chairman, said the company's revenue declined by 80 percent last year and its market capitalization fell by 90 percent. He noted that severance payments for laid-off employees, tuition refunds and costs for terminated leases for teaching sites totaled almost 20 billion yuan ($3.14 billion).

He added that finding a new direction will be key for the company this year, so it has increased investment in tutoring courses for college students and in teaching Mandarin overseas.

To that end, on Dec 28, Yu hosted his first livestreaming e-commerce session on Douyin, a popular short-video platform, selling agricultural produce to explore new business opportunities.

During the session, he said the company plans to launch a livestream e-commerce platform as part of its efforts to diversify operations.

In a separate WeChat post, the company said it decided to launch the platform, because Yu was born and raised in the countryside and he wants to help farmers explore new channels to sell their produce.

Reductions in fees

Fees for tutoring courses offered by new nonprofit providers have also been significantly reduced after local governments introduced their own guidance fees for such services.

Beijing's Development and Reform Commission, the city's education commission and market regulation administration recently released guidance fees for academic tutoring courses for primary and middle school students in the capital, with prices ranging from 20 to 80 yuan per class per student, depending on the number of attendees.

The new fee standards will take effect on Feb 21, and tutoring courses for high school students must comply with them. The maximum prices that tutoring companies can charge will be capped at 10 percent above the guidance fees.

Shanghai authorities also issued guidance fees, equal to those in Beijing, for academic tutoring courses, and the city's new standard will be implemented on Feb 17.

The two cities have the highest guidance fees in the country, while the lowest are in Hainan province, where they have dipped to 7 yuan per session per student for offline classes with more than 35 students.

A notice issued in September by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Education and the State Administration for Market Regulation ordered local governments to establish guidance fees for curriculum-based courses for primary and middle school students by the end of last year to reduce the burden of educational expenses on families.

The average salaries of people working at tutoring companies should not significantly exceed those of teachers at public schools, the notice said.

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