China's new regulations on out-of-school training
1 September 2021

China's new regulations on 'out-of-school' training

Since July, China's central government has implemented a sweeping series of reforms to the national education system which will, in turn, have implications for the UK ELT sector. These domestic-facing policy regulations include a ban on for-profit tutoring of school-age children, and they prohibit these 'out of school subject training institutions' from hiring foreign teachers to provide teaching from outside of China's border. 

Background and new rules

On 24 July, the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council announced a new set of guidelines entitled 'Opinion on further reducing the burden of homework and after-school training during the compulsory education stage', also known as the 'Double Relief' policy. This policy is part of a fundamental reform of the Chinese education system intended to 'ease the burden of young students' through ensuring they have sufficient time for rest and recreation as they go through mandatory (for 6 to 15-year olds) education. It also seeks to address inequality by alleviating the unnecessary cost for families of additional education.  

Rules in the announcement include:

  • Local authorities can no longer approve the establishment of new tuition centres, and existing companies will be forced to become non-profit organisations. 
  • For students at the compulsory education level, subject-related training (including English) may not be offered on weekends, national holidays, or other school holidays, nor may it be offered at any time for pre-school children. 
  • Companies operating EdTech platforms or services providing online education will no longer be allowed to offer online training for pre-school students (3 to 6-year-olds), nor offer it after 9pm to students in compulsory education. 
  • These out-of-school subject training institutions are also prohibited from hiring foreign teachers to provide online teaching from overseas. 

See British Council China's initial news release for further details on these rules.  

China's relationship with its private tutoring companies is complex. In recent years, to prevent the risk of falling behind their peers in China's high-pressure academic environment, it had become the norm for children, whose parents who could afford it, to participate in 'cram schools' - to improve their chances in the national exam systems. The zhongkao and gaokao exams determine entry to senior high school and university, respectively.  

The Chinese central government sharpened its focus on these off-campus tutoring enterprises after President Xi Jinping described the domestic market for 'K-12' (kindergarten to 12th grade) after-school training services as a 'social problem' that must be fixed. These new regulations are intended to level the playing field. 

The 'Double Relief' policy will initially be implemented in nine national trial cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu before being extended to the rest of the country later. 

The challenge is that as implementation has been delegated to the local level, it will take some time to fully determine the consequences. With the regulations being implemented on a provincial basis, each region may respond, and police them, differently. 

What is the impact for UK ELT?

Whilst it is clear the policy will directly affect companies providing after-school training across China, including language schools, and those involved in online top-up teaching services aimed at school-aged children, it may bring some opportunities for UK ELT.

There is the possibility that in time (once students can travel safely), parents who want children to have extracurricular support and exposure to overseas curricula may look abroad and be more inclined to send children overseas for camps. The exact impact of the regulations on the UK ELT sector may well depend on the location in China that the students are travelling from.

Watch the recording of our webinar (see below) to find out more. 

Find out more: briefing papers 

Webinar recording: Market update from China and East Asia

Wednesday 29 September

Fraser Deas, head of education services at the British Council China and Jazreel Goh, director of British Council Malaysia, provided updates on the latest market sentiment and policy initiatives in priority markets in the region. Leading agents joined the discussion on market recovery and answered pre-submitted questions.


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