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“Double Reductions” at 6 months: How is China following through?
Happy New Year!
For the first issue of Beijing Channel this year, we will walk you through some of the policies that China laid out since the unveiling of the “double reductions“ policy, which has completely redrawn the landscape of the tutoring industry.
China’s new policy on off-campus tutoring has attracted a lot of attention since it is released, and “Double Reductions” has become one of the focuses of the Chinese government in 2021, profoundly influencing anxious middle-class parents, teachers from both public schools and tutoring institutions, and capital market.
1 What is “Double Reductions”?
The so-called “Double-reductions” policy is first released by the General Office of CPC and General Office of the State Council on July 26th, the original name of which is Opinion on Lessening Compulsory Education Students’ (i.e. K9 students) Burden of Homework and Off-campus Tutoring (Full-text translation of China's new rules on off-campus tutoring - by Beijing Channel - Beijing Channel (substack.com)).
According to the press conference of this policy, “Double-reductions” is aimed at solving the problem that K-12 students carry too much burden, while the influx of capital creates much risk in the field of off-campus tutoring.
These problems are triggering a series of consequences, such as children being thrown into a hyper-competitive environment from an early age, which can be especially damaging for their mental and physical development. For instance, a high percentage of near-sightness among school children is often cited as a direct result of too much school work.
Tutoring services, spurred by an abundance of capital, are also accused of exploiting the anxiety of parents, who are afraid their kids may be at a disadvantage if they don’t receive off-campus tutoring. Effective marketing strategies have lured many parents to spend big on tutoring services, leading to a huge financial burden for many families.
The “Double Reductions” is mainly consisted of 4 parts: comprehensively reducing the total amount of homework to reduce the burden of excessive homework for students; improving the level of after-school services of schools to meet the diversified requirements of students; fully and strictly regulating off-campus tutoring; vigorously improving the quality of education and teaching to ensure that students learn enough and learn well at school. Policy regarding off-campus tutoring has attracted the most attention. The key points are:
Existing discipline-based tutoring institutions shall be uniformly registered as non-profit institutions.
Curricular Subject tutoring(学科类培训) institutions are prohibited to be listed for financing and shall not be allowed to undergo capitalized operation.
The system for filing and supervising tutoring content shall be established and measures for managing tutoring materials of off-campus tutoring institutions shall be formulated.
Off-campus tutoring institutions shall not take up national holidays, rest days and winter and summer vacation periods to organize discipline-based tutoring.
Online tutoring should focus on protecting students’ eyesight. The length of each lesson shall not exceed 30 minutes, with no less than 10 minutes between lessons, and the end of tutoring shall be no later than 21:00.
Foreign faculty members working in other countries shall not be employed to carry out tutoring activities.
Relevant departments of the central government, local Party committees and governments at all levels should strengthen the management of off-campus tutoring advertisements to ensure that mainstream media, new media, all types of billboards in public places and residential areas, as well as online platforms, do not publish or broadcast off-campus tutoring advertisements.
2 Policies by the central government
After the aforementioned principles are laid out, various levels of government set out to unveil concrete policies in implementing them. But the policies are not uniform across the country. The Ministry of Education may paint the broadest strokes in policy-making, leaving plenty of room for provincial and municipality level governments to improvise according to local level realities.
1. On July 30th, The MOE issues guideline distinguishing curricular subjects and non-curricular subjects.
“Curricular subjects” include Morality and Rule of Law, Chinese, History, Geography, Maths, Foreign Languages(English, Japanese, Russian), Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.
“Non-curricular subjects” fall under three categories, namely Physical Education (including sports and health-related courses), the Arts (including music and arts), and comprehensive practical activities (including information technology, labor, and technology training).
The classification of the subjects would lay the groundwork for future policies, which would impose, with few exceptions, different sets of rules for the two groups, with non-curricular subject tutoring receiving fewer restrictions.
2. On August 26th, The MOE promoted early examples of local-level policies in implementing the “Double Reductions”, including those from Beijing, Shanghai, Fujian, and Liaoning.
Beijing’s rule requires all pre-paid tuition to be deposited into banks, which then transfers the fee to the tutoring institution in proportion with the progression of the course and upon the consent of students.
Shanghai publishes detailed classification on what curricular subjects are.
Fujian Province inspects 2515 curricular subject tutoring institutions for K-12 students, shuttering 990 of them.
Liaoning Province says it will conduct special inspections on “Double Reductions,” weekly during the summer holiday and twice a month in the fall semester.
3. On September 2nd, the National Development and Reform Commission, the MOE, and the State Administration for Market Regulation request the strengthening of regulation on the price of off-campus tutoring for K-9 students. Since Curricular-subject institutions are now non-profit organizations, their pricing should follow government guidelines which will be determined by each province’s Development and Reform Commission according to class size and length of the sessions.
4. On September 6th, the MOE unveils new regulation on teaching materials for off-campus curricular subject tutoring. Important points Include: the content related to the national curriculum should correspond with, and not exceed, curriculum standards.
5. On September 8th, the MOE bans several creative workarounds to the rules, including conducting curricular-subject training in the name of consulting, cultural communication, "home economics services", "live-in teachers", "crowdfunding private tutoring" in residential buildings, hotels, cafes and other unregistered places.
6. On September 9th, The MOE, the Ministry of Civil Affairs, and the State Administration for Market Regulation issue guidelines on how to register as non-profit organizations for curricular-subject based off-campus training institutions for K-9 students.
7. On September 14th, The MOE and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security jointly issue Off-Campus Training Institutions Practitioners Management Approach (Trial implementation), which lifts the threshold for teaching staff of tutoring institutions (the policy did not specifically limit to curricular-subject tutoring) to the same with public school teachers, in that they needed to be licensed teachers. It is worth mentioning that this document especially stresses off-campus tutoring teachers should not sexually harass students.
8. On September 18th, The MOE and five other departments announced that online curricular-subject-based tutoring institutions needed to obtain approval before launching, which previously only demanded registration.
9. On September 26th, The MOE again promotes local policies, including capping homework load and having public schools offer after-class activities. These policies went about different approaches in implementing the central gov’t directive, suggesting that creativity from local governments are welcomed.
10. On October 29th, The MOE, National Development and Reform Commission, The People’s Bank of China, State Taxation Administration, State Administration for Market Regulation, and China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission jointly issued regulations on pre-paid tuitions, capping them at 60 class hours or less, and may not extend to more than 3 months before the course. The rules are designed to prevent parents from losing their deposit when a tutoring institution unexpectedly closes or refuses to refund when asked by parents. The rules may have been inspired by the Beijing policies mentioned earlier but didn’t take it as far.
11. On November 10th, The MOE further builds on the July 30th rule to draw clear lines between curricular subjects and non-curricular subjects.
12. On the same day, the State Administration for Market Regulation and seven other departments introduced an advertisement ban for off-campus tutoring institutions, whether curricular or non-curricular subjects.
13. On December 20th, The General Administration of Sport of China published Norms on Off-Campus Sports Tutoring, setting specific standards for sports tutoring institutions, including facilities, curriculum, professionals, and internal administration.
Caixin commented that the MOE is no longer charged with approving non-curricular subject tutoring institutions since “Double Reductions”, and the General Administration of Sport is one of the first agencies to lay out rules for subjects under its supervision.
3 A selection of local policies
Here is a collection of local-level policies that will have a more direct impact on the market.
As the capital city, Beijing’s off-campus tutoring industry is one of the most heavily regulated across China. On November 16th, Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform sought public comment on a draft of Beijing's Compulsory Education Level Subject Tutoring Fee Management Measures(关于对《北京市义务教育阶段学科类校外培训收费管理办法（试行）》（征求意见稿）公开征求意见的公告-调查征集-北京市发展和改革委员会 (beijing.gov.cn)).
This draft is mainly consisted of four parts: price-setting, cost components and approval, information disclosure of charging fees, and regulation on charging fees. It also says the guide price should also be applied to curricular subject tutoring for senior high schools.
The Beijing policy inspired several localities to draft similar rules, such as Changsha, Hunan Province and Jinhua, Zhejiang Province.
Shanxi and Shandong Provinces took initiative and expanded their price rules to tutoring services for grades 10-12.
In the last days of 2021, many cities and provinces released specific pricing rules. Among them are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. They all offer three or four tiers of pricing for offline tutoring services depending on class size, and uniform pricing for online tutoring. Pricing of curricular-subject tutoring for grade 10-12 students should also follow the guideline. Policies of those four cities shall be implemented from the spring semester of 2022.
Links to policies below:
Guangdong Province: 广东省发展和改革委员会 - 广东省发展和改革委员会 广东省教育厅关于我省义务教育阶段线上学科类校外培训收费标准相关事项的通知 (gd.gov.cn)
Guangzhou: 广州市发展和改革委员会网站 (gz.gov.cn)
While curricular subject tutoring of both K-9 education and senior high school are strictly regulated, non-curricular subject tutoring has in some cases put under regulation too.
In August, Guangdong Province announced that non-curricular subject tutoring institutions should also acquire approval instead of registration, just as their curricular subject counterparts.
Zhejiang Province set the operating standard for non-curricular subject tutoring institutions in a draft in October (浙江省文化和旅游厅关于公开征求《浙江省文化艺术类校外培训机构准入指引（试行）（征求意见稿）》意见的公告 (zj.gov.cn), stating that the standard for curricular subject tutoring institutions should also be applied to non-curricular subject tutoring, such as for building area, the latest ending time for courses, and minimum starting capital.
As governments work to regulate tutoring services, they recognized there’s real demand from families to provide off campus education for their kids, and in some cases somewhere to put their kids when they are at work.
To satisfy these demands, various policies were announced allowing semi-official tutoring services.
On December 2nd, Beijing Municipal Education Commission and Beijing Municipal Finance Bureau released a policy (北京市教育委员会北京市财政局关于印发《北京市中学教师开放型在线辅导计划(试行)》的通知_政策文件_首都之窗_北京市人民政府门户网站 (beijing.gov.cn), which plans to build online platform and encourage public school teachers to offer online curricular subject tutoring for Beijing junior high school students. The tutoring should be scheduled on schooldays from 18:00-21:00. Performance salary will be offered to the participating teachers.
In the meantime, K-9 public schools in Shanghai are all offering free after-school service, with a student participation rate of more than 95%. The staff of after-school service includes in-service teachers, retired teachers, NGOs and non-curricular subject tutoring institutions.
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