The problem of overburdening students with huge amounts of homework and after-school tutoring programmes has long been discussed, and very recently, for a variety of reasons, the General Office of State Council and the General Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee released a report that addresses this: The Dual Alleviation policy, published on 28 July 2021.
So what’s the background to these changes?
There is a combination of factors that have led to these changes. China is facing an ageing population, with the effect of the 1 child policy that was in place for years making a considerable impact. China has also got an extremely competitive education system and the pressure on children to get the best grades possible throughout school and in the ‘Gaokao’ – the gruelling university entrance exam, is enormous. This has resulted in tired, stressed children and parents who are resigned to paying a lot of money to ensure their children have the best chance of doing well. Lastly, the cost of housing in the bigger cities where the best schools are is prohibitive.
The cost of raising a child is seen to be one of the biggest inhibitors to parents choosing to have more children, so the government have stepped in.
What are these new regulations?
The State Council has effectively banned the following:
- All after-school tutoring of core subjects, (which includes English)
- Foreign teachers who reside outside China from carrying out after-school tutoring activities,
- All pre-school children from having any online tuition.
- No after-school tutoring that covers the school curriculum at the weekend and during the holidays.
- Foreign curriculum, although this isn’t very clearly defined.
How does this affect ESL teachers?
The impact has been immediate and devastating to the many Chinese ed-tech schools that offer core subject after school tutoring. Some schools have already shut their doors, such as GoGoKid, and others are frantically looking at ways they can bring their business model in line with the new regulations. Almost all Chinese based schools are letting people go – both Chinese staff and online ESL teachers. Magic Ears are currently saying that its teachers can continue working with children whose parents have prepaid for their courses. However, contracts are not being renewed. Palfish has slashed its pay and there is currently a frantic rush to find other options. VIPkid has stopped selling new packages to parents. Whales English have stopped using foreign teachers. Most schools seem to think they have a few months left until they’re no longer allowed to use foreign teachers. It is a challenging time for everyone in the online ESL industry.
What can you do as a TEFL teacher?
The good news is that there is a big wide world out there! It’s important to understand that although China has banned foreign teachers based abroad, they haven’t banned foreign teachers who are in China. So if you can get into China, there is potentially a lot of work waiting for you!
This doesn’t affect you if you want to launch your TEFL career by teaching in countries around the world! If you do want to teach online, then check out the many companies that are based in other countries. In this video I’ve made about this subject, lists schools you can consider. One word of caution… as there are so many teachers looking for work, the list of companies hiring is changing all the time. The best thing is to do your research, look at companies that you think suit you and join ESL Facebook groups. These have a ton of information and people posting daily about new jobs and opportunities.
Another possibility is to go independent. This is not an easy thing to do, but you can definitely make more money! So if you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit and like a bit of a challenge, you can jump in and start finding your own clients. I used to run a small ESL school in France and found it great fun, liberating (you can organize your own schedule) and it definitely paid more than I’ve earned from teaching online. I released a video on how to find your first students which may help you if this is something you’re considering.
There are also lots of Facebook groups to help you get off the ground. You can also choose to invest in a course, such as James Liu’s ‘Teacher-Entrepreneur 21-day challenge’, which gives you a ton of information about setting up your own teaching business.
What should you do right now!
If you are affected by these changes, you may well be feeling stressed, anxious, angry and worried about what the future will bring. I know I have felt all those emotions over the past couple of weeks. Be wary of social media… While it can be very helpful, it can also be extremely negative and there is a lot of hearsay, so use it carefully!
Find a network of teachers that gives you support and advice. It is great to get advice and be able to talk to people who understand what you’re going through. I’ve found some great groups online that are specifically for independent teachers.
Finally, my words of wisdom, which I’m trying very hard to apply to myself, are to take stock, reflect on your skills, needs and most of all, your ambitions. While change can shut doors, it can open others. Take time to make the right decisions and don’t jump at the first thing you see. This has the potential to be a hugely exciting time, so dig in and seize the opportunities that arise.