Full-text translation of China's new rules on off-campus tutoring
And how China got here
On Saturday the Chinese government rolled out a new policy aimed at alleviating student burden and promote education equality.
This newsletter will offer you a full English translation, as well as some takes your host has gathered from Chinese investors for your reference.
First, your host will list out some of the takes, to avoid boring you with the text upfront. You can find the full translation in part II
Q: Why was the policy rolled out at this time?
A general feeling among Chinese analysts is that this policy did NOT come out of the blue, but has had as much as more than 3 years of foreshadowing.
Here is a timeline your host assembled that gives you a picture of how we got here.
1. In Feb. 2018, 4 government agencies, including the Ministry of Education (MoE), released a document titled Notice of specialized treatment action on effectively reducing the burden of primary and secondary school students.
The document states:
Resolutely take action against acts that go against the nature of education and youth growth, accelerate the solution of the problem of excessive extracurricular burden of primary and secondary school students, which is strongly reflected by the people, and ensure the healthy growth and comprehensive development of primary and secondary school students.
2. In April 2020, the MoE released a notice against tutoring providers, warning that their fees have become a burden for families.
Recently, a small number of offline social tutoring institutions for primary and secondary school students charge training fees in advance for the fall semester and even longer periods, and some online tutoring services collect fees that extend beyond the tutoring service, which violates the relevant policies on the management of training institution fees and increases the economic burden of the masses.
3. In April 2021, The MoE released a draft of a regulation, seeking public comment. The regulation was aimed at protecting schoolchildren, stating:
Compulsory education schools (Elementary school and middle schools) shall not take up national holidays, rest days and summer and winter vacations to organize group tuition for students; they shall not encroach on students' rest time in the form of group tuition, etc.
In regard to teachers, they are banned from
Organize or require students to participate in compensated remedial classes inside or outside of school that are organized by, involved in, or associated with interests, or cooperate with outside institutions or individuals to provide other paid services to students.
4. In May 2021, news reports stated that the rule that was unveiled Saturday has already been approved by the Central Comprehensively Deepening Reforms Commission, led by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
However, these warning shots did not seem to have raised enough caution among China’s tutoring business, which continued to attract huge amounts of investments.
Q: What could be the possible intention behind the new rule?
Generally, observers in China did NOT link this move with recently increased regulation on technology companies but rather viewed this move through the lens of promoting equality and enhancing the quality of life.
Education, medical care, and housing are commonly known in Chinese society as the “three mountains“, meaning that they are the three biggest financial burdens for Chinese families.
As the Chinese government’s commitment to capping housing prices has sunk in, going after tutoring services that create huge inequality among students and financial burden on families would seem like a logical step.
This analysis says these extracurricular tutoring services have created a classic case of involution among students, who commit huge amounts of money and energy, only to receive the same result.
出卷人, a Wechat account that documents actions by the central leadership, commented that with this new rule “the signal cannot be clearer.”
【2】Full text, a translation
NOTE: This should not be viewed as an official translation. Refer to the original Chinese text for accuracy.
Opinions on Further Reducing the Burden of Excessive Homework and Off-Campus Tutoring for Students Undergoing Compulsory Education
In order to implement the guiding principles of the 19th National Congress and the 5th Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee, effectively improve the level of school education, continue to regulate off-campus tutoring (including online tutoring and offline tutoring), and effectively reduce the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for students undergoing compulsory education (hereinafter referred to as “double reduction”), the following views are put forward.
I. General requirements
1. Guiding ideology
Under the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era and the Party’s guidelines on education, the “double reduction” measure aims to implement the fundamental task of fostering virtue through education, build a high-quality education system, strengthen the role of school education, improve governance to off-campus tutoring institutions, resolutely prevent violation of interests of the public, build a sound educational environment, effectively alleviate the anxiety of parents, and promote the overall development and healthy growth of students.
2. Working principles
In accordance with students-oriented principles, the “double reduction” measure responds to concerns from the public, follows the laws of education, focuses on the healthy physical and mental growth of students, protects students’ right to rest, improves the overall quality of school education and teaching, responds positively to social concerns and expectations, and reduces the burden of parents. In accordance with the principles of governance under the rule of law, it addresses both the symptoms and the root causes, strictly implements the Compulsory Education Law, the Law on the Protection of Minors and other legal provisions, strengthens governance at the source, systematic governance, and comprehensive governance. It is led by the government with the coordination and cooperation of multiple departments. It strengthens the government coordination, requires relevant departments to shoulder responsibilities, and gives full play to schools, making clear that the protection of students is a shared responsibility of parents, schools, and society. It adheres to the principles of overall coordination and steady implementation, fully implements the provisions on reducing the burden of excessive homework for students, conducting experiments on key and difficult issues, and actively publicize typical examples to ensure that the “double reduction” measure can be taken smoothly and orderly.
3. Work objectives
The quality of school education and teaching and service levels are further improved, homework assignments become more scientific and reasonable, and after-school school services basically meet the needs of students. The tutoring by off-campus training institutions is further regulated. The burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for students as well as family education expenses and the energy parents spend on the education of their children are effectively reduced within one year, and significant achievements are made within three years, in an effort to markedly improve people’s satisfaction with education.
II. Comprehensively reducing the total amount of homework to reduce the burden of excessive homework for students
4. Improving homework management mechanism
Schools should improve homework management measures, strengthen homework coordination between subject groups and grade groups, and adjust homework structure in a reasonable way, to ensure that the difficulty of homework does not exceed the national standards. Besides, schools should establish a system for publicizing homework within the school and strengthen supervision on the quality of homework. It is strictly forbidden to assign homework to parents or ask parents to check and correct homework.
5. Clarifying the total amount of homework through classification
Schools should ensure that elementary school students in grades 1 and 2 have no written homework, but exercises can be appropriately arranged to consolidate learning. Elementary school students in grades 3 to 6 should complete their written homework in no more than 60 minutes on average. Junior high school students should finish their written homework in no more than 90 minutes on average.
6. Improving the quality of homework
Homework, which can show students’ learning problems, consolidate students’ learning and analyze students’ learning conditions, should be incorporated into the teaching and research system. More homework oriented toward quality education should be designed, in accordance with students’ age characteristics and laws of learning. The multi-layered, flexible, and personalized homework is encouraged, but mechanical, ineffective, repetitive and punitive homework is resolutely discouraged.
7. Strengthening homework completion guidance
Teachers should guide elementary school students to basically complete their written homework at school and middle school students to complete most of their written homework at school. Teachers should carefully correct homework, give feedback in a timely manner, strengthen face-to-face explanations, carefully analyze students’ learning conditions, and meticulously answer questions from students. Students should not be required to correct homework on their own.
8. Effective use of after-school time
Schools and parents should guide students to complete the remaining written homework after school, to do the necessary schoolwork, to engage in household chores within their ability, to take physical exercise, to read extensively, or to engage in other activities related to literature and art. Individual students who fail to complete their written assignments despite their efforts should also go to bed on time. Students should be encouraged to control the length of use of electronic devices to protect their eyesight and prevent Internet addiction. Parents should actively communicate with their children, pay attention to their psychological and emotional well-being, and help them develop good study and living habits. Boarding schools should also better arrange the after-school learning of students.
III. Improving the level of after-school services of schools to meet the diversified requirements of students
9. Ensuring after-school service
Schools should take full advantage of resources to effectively implement a variety of after-school educational activities to meet the diverse learning requirements of students within the school. They should guide students to voluntarily participate in after-school services. In principle, the end time of after-school services should not be earlier than the normal local quitting time. For students with special needs, schools should provide extended care services. Junior high schools can open self-study classes on weekday evenings. Schools can implement a “flexible commuting system” for teachers.
10. Improving the quality of after-school services
Schools should develop after-school service implementation plans to enhance the attractiveness of after-school services. Teachers should take full use of after-school service time to guide students to complete their homework, answer questions from students with learning difficulties, expand learning for students with extra energy, and carry out a variety of activities such as science popularization, recreational and sporting activities, arts, labor, reading, interest groups and community activities. It is forbidden to use after-school service time to teach new lessons.
11. Expanding after-school service channels
After-school services are generally undertaken by school teachers, but retired teachers, qualified social professionals or volunteers can also be hired. Education departments can organize the best local teachers to carry out after-school services at schools with inadequate teaching staff. Teachers engaged in paid after-school tutoring will be investigated and punished in accordance with laws and regulations until the revocation of teacher qualifications. Schools should make full use of social resources and give full play to the role of off-school venues such as children’s palaces and youth activity centers.
12. Strengthening and Improving free online learning services
Educational departments should collect and develop abundant and high-quality online education and teaching resources, using national and local educational and teaching resource platforms as well as high-quality school network platforms to provide students with high-quality thematic educational resources and learning resources covering all grades and subjects for free, to promote the balanced development of educational resources and promote educational equity. All localities should actively create conditions for students to engage in free online interactive exchanges and Q&A sessions with outstanding teachers. All local schools should increase publicity and promotion to guide students to use free and high-quality online educational resources.
IV. Fully and strictly regulating off-campus tutoring
13. Strictly examining and approving off-campus tutoring institutions
Each local government shall no longer approve newly established off-campus discipline-based tutoring institutions for students undergoing compulsory education. Existing discipline-based tutoring institutions shall be uniformly registered as non-profit institutions. The online discipline-based tutoring institutions that have been filed for record shall be also be examined and re-approved. Provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the Central Government) shall conduct comprehensive examinations on online discipline-based tutoring institutions that have been filed for record. These institutions shall go through approval formalities again in accordance with relevant standards. For the institutions that fail to pass the approval, local authorities should cancel their original registration record and their Internet Information Services Business License (ICP). For non-discipline-based tutoring institutions, local authorities shall classify them into different categories, such as sports, culture and arts, science and technology, and designate appropriate departments to formulate examination standards. Institutions without appropriate qualifications which carry out tutoring in multiple sites shall be seriously investigated and punished in accordance with relevant laws and regulations. Discipline-based tutoring institutions are prohibited to be listed for financing and shall not be allowed to undergo capitalized operation. Listed companies shall not invest in discipline-based tutoring institutions through financing in stock markets, and shall not purchase assets of discipline-based tutoring institutions by issuing shares or paying cash. Foreign capital shall not hold or participate in discipline-based tutoring institutions through mergers and acquisitions, entrusted operations, franchise chains, the use of variable interest entities, etc. Those who violate the law shall be punished.
14. Standardizing tutoring services
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. Over-scope tutoring is strictly prohibited. Non-discipline-based tutoring institutions shall not be allowed to engage in discipline-based tutoring. The provision of overseas education courses is strictly prohibited. Such problems as over-scope tutoring, uneven quality of training, vulgar and illegal content, piracy and infringement, will be resolutely investigated and punished in accordance with laws and regulations. Relevant provisions enshrined in the Law on the Protection of Minors shall be strictly implemented. Off-campus tutoring institutions shall not take up national holidays, rest days and winter and summer vacation periods to organize discipline-based tutoring. Tutoring institutions shall not poach school teachers with high salaries. Faculty members engaged in discipline-based tutoring must have appropriate teaching qualifications and have their teaching qualifications prominently displayed on the tutoring institution’s websites. Personal information of parents and students shall not be disclosed. Fees and standards shall be determined according to market demand, tutoring costs and other factors and shall be publicized to the whole society for supervision. Contract for Off-Campus Tutoring Services for Elementary and Secondary School Students (Model Text) shall be fully used. The regular inspection mechanism shall be further enhanced to keep abreast of the situation and information of off-campus tutoring institutions and improve the “black and white list” system.
15. Strengthening the normal operation supervision
The excessive influx of capital into tutoring institutions shall be strictly controlled. The financing and fees of tutoring institutions shall be used mainly for the operations of tutoring. Unfair competition through fictitious original prices, false discounts and false propaganda for the sake of promoting business shall be resolutely prohibited, and monopoly behaviors shall be firmly investigated and punished in accordance with laws and regulations. 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. Artificial intelligence shall be actively used to reasonably control the online tutoring time. Online tutoring institutions shall not provide and disseminate “photo search” and other bad learning methods that weaken students’ thinking skills, affect their independent thinking, and are contrary to the laws of education and teaching. The employment of foreign faculty members working in China shall be in compliance with the relevant national regulations. Foreign faculty members working in other countries shall not be employed to carry out tutoring activities.
V. Vigorously improving the quality of education and teaching to ensure that students learn enough and learn well at school
16. Promoting the quality and balanced development of compulsory education
All places should consolidate the achievements of realizing basic balance in compulsory education and actively carry out high-quality and balanced compulsory education to promote the growth of new high-quality schools and expand high-quality educational resources. group schooling, school district governance and the building of urban and rural school communities shall be actively promoted to fully vitalize school operations and narrow the gap between urban and rural, regional and school education at a faster pace.
17. Improving the quality of classroom teaching
The education departments should guide schools to improve teaching management procedures, optimize teaching methods, strengthen teaching management, and improve the efficiency of student learning at school. Schools should open all the national curriculum, actively promote the interface between young children and elementary schools, help students prepare for school, start teaching from scratch in strict compliance with curriculum standards to ensure that students meet the national academic quality standards. Schools shall not arbitrarily increase or decrease class time, increase the difficulty, speed up the progress. They shall not reduce the pressure of examinations, improve the examination method, terminate classes ahead of schedule for students to prepare for examinations, set examination paper exceeding the ability of students, examination ranking. Examination results shall be graded, and the tendency to score only shall be resolutely prohibited.
18. Deepening high school enrollment reform
All places should actively improve the high school admission model based on the results of the junior high school academic level examination and the comprehensive quality evaluation, which should be presented according to the characteristics of different disciplines. The way of examination of results presentation should be improved. The quality of the high school entrance examinations shall be furthered improved to prevent bias questions, strange questions and difficult questions exceeding curriculum standards. More high-quality general high school admission quotas shall be allocated to regional junior high schools. The order of general high school admission shall be standardized. Irregular admission and vicious competition shall be eliminated.
19. Introducing quality evaluation system
Local Party committees and governments at all levels should establish a correct view of political achievements, and strictly prohibit the issuance of promotion targets or unilateral evaluation of schools and teachers by promotion rates. The compulsory education quality evaluation guidelines shall be seriously implemented. The work effectiveness of “double reduction” shall be incorporated into the quality evaluation of compulsory education, with the participation of students in after-school services, off-campus tutoring and reduction of tutoring fees viewed as important evaluation contents.
VI. Strengthening coordinated governance and enhancing support and security capacity
20. Protecting after-school service conditions
All localities should approve the staff and ensure that schools are fully equipped with adequate teachers according to the number of students and elementary and secondary school staffing standards. Provincial governments should develop after-school service funding, take measures such as financial subsidies and service charges to ensure that the funding is put in place. After-school service funding is mainly used for teaches to participate in after-school services and serve as related personnel subsidies. In appraising the total amount of performance pay, relevant departments should take into account teacher’s participation in after-school services. They should incorporate the amount of teachers’ after-school service subsidies as an increment into the performance pay and set up the corresponding project, instead of as a base of the next year’s total performance pay. The after-school service subsidies of teachers hired outside the school shall be distributed as labor costs. Teachers’ performance in after-school services should be used as an important reference for title evaluation, recognition and reward, and performance pay allocation.
21. Improving the coordinated mechanism of family-school-community
Families and schools should assume a major responsibility in education. A community of families and schools in educating and teaching children should be established. Educational departments should work with women’s federations and other departments to run parent schools or online family education guidance platforms, promote the building of community-family education guidance centers and service sites, guide parents to establish a scientific concept of educating children, rationally determine child growth expectations, and strive to form a consensus on reducing the burden.
22. Controlling tutoring advertising
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. No commercial advertising activities shall be carried out in elementary and secondary schools and kindergartens, and no advertisements shall be published in teaching materials, teaching aids, exercise books, stationery, school uniforms, school buses of elementary and secondary schools and kindergartens. All kinds of illegal off-campus tutoring advertisements that exaggerate training effects, mislead the public about education, and create parental anxiety shall be punished in accordance with laws and regulations.
VII. Promoting a pilot program to ensure that steady progress is made in governance
23. Making clear the requirements of pilot work
While fully implementing governance work, we should designate Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, Changzhi, Weihai, and Nantong City as national pilots, and other provinces should choose at least one city to carry out the pilot program. The pilot contents are included in Articles 24, 25, 26.
24. Resolutely reducing discipline-based off-campus tutoring. The existing discipline-based tutoring institutions should be re-examined and re-approved and be gradually reduced to prevent overcrowding. The institutions, which do not meet the qualifications with disorderly management, use the opportunity to make money, engage in false propaganda, collude with schools for-profit and other serious problems, will be investigated and punished in accordance with the law.
25. Reasonably using resources inside and outside school
Schools are encouraged to provide students with interest-based after-school service activities. If after-school services cannot meet the special needs of some students to develop their interests and specialties, non-disciplinary extracurricular tutoring institutions can be brought in. The educational department is responsible for selecting these institutions and establishing evaluation and withdrawal mechanisms. The institutions that provide a low level of services, maliciously solicit students at schools, do not provide services in accordance with relevant provisions, disrupt the order of school education, teaching, and admission will be resolutely denied the tutoring qualification.
26. Strengthening the supervision of tutoring fees
The public welfare attribute and the significant livelihood characteristics of off-campus tutoring should be taken into full considerations. Tutoring fees of discipline-based off-campus tutoring for students undergoing compulsory education should be managed by the government, which shall reasonably determine the pricing method and fee standards and resolutely curb excessive fees and excessive profit-seeking behavior.
VIII. Striving to achieve effective results
27. Comprehensive and systematic deployment
We should strengthen the Party’s leadership in the “double reduction” work. The provincial (autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the Central Government) Party committees and governments should view “double reduction” work as a major livelihood project, include it in the important agenda and into the key tasks of provincial (autonomous regions, municipalities directly under the Central Government) Party Committee education leading group. In addition, measures should be refined and improved according to local realities to ensure that the “double reduction” work is implemented. The school Party organizations should do a good job in the ideological work of teachers, fully mobilize the enthusiasm and creativity of teachers. The off-campus tutoring institutions should also strengthen their own Party building.
28. Making clear the responsibilities of different departments
The educational department should be well-coordinated and in collaboration with the relevant departments to strengthen the daily supervision of off-campus tutoring institutions, and guide schools to do a good job in “double reduction” work. The publicity and Internet information departments should maintain the correct orientation in public opinion. The Internet information departments should cooperate with the education, industry and information technology departments to do a good job in the supervision of online off-campus tutoring institutions. The department responsible for authorizing staff should approve more teachers in a timely manner. The development and reform departments, together with the finance and education departments, should develop fee standards of after-school services, together with education and other departments to develop a guiding policy for off-campus tutoring institutions in pilot areas. The finance department should strengthen the funding of after-school services at schools. The human resources and social security department should approve the performance pay for teachers. The civil affairs department should ensure the registration of discipline-based tutoring institutions. The market supervision department should regulate online off-campus tutoring, ensure the registration of non-disciplinary tutoring institutions, supervise fees, advertising, monopoly of off-campus tutoring institutions, increase law enforcement and inspection efforts, and work with the education department to seriously investigate and punish illegal and irregular tutoring behaviors in accordance with the law. The political and legal departments should maintain harmony and stability. The public security department should strengthen security management in accordance with the law, carry out intelligence information collection and research and early warning prevention, and improve emergency response to stability-related accidents. The People’s Bank of China, the banking supervision department and the securities supervision department are responsible for guiding banks and other institutions to control risks involved in the pre-charges of off-campus tutoring institutions, clean up and rectify the financing and listing of tutoring institutions. Other relevant departments should attend to their own duties to ensure the full implementation of “double reduction” measures.
29. Jointly carrying out special governance
A special coordination mechanism for “double reduction” work should be established to carry out special governance. The Ministry of Education should set up a special coordinating mechanism to ensure coordination and strengthen guidance to local work. Provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government) should improve their work mechanism, establish specialized institutions, and make clear the road map timetables and responsible persons of special governance in accordance with the “double reduction” work objectives. They should highlight the focus, key links, weak areas, key objects to carry out a comprehensive investigation and rectification. Anyone who violates the law shall be strictly punished in accordance with the law to form a warning deterrent.
30. Strengthening supervision and inspection and publicity guidance
The implementation of the “double reduction” and the actual effectiveness of the work should be viewed as an important element of supervision, special rectification of disregard for the interests of the public and the government’s performance in educational responsibilities supervision and evaluation. An accountability mechanism should be established. Places, departments, schools, and relevant responsible persons failing to assume responsibilities and implement the measures will be held accountable in accordance with laws and regulations. Each place should set up a regulatory platform and special reporting phone, open up the way for the public to monitor and report. Provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government) should summarize and publicize the good experience and good practices in “double reduction” measures. The news media should also maintain the correct orientation of public opinions to create a good social atmosphere.
While fully implementing the “double reduction” measures for students undergoing compulsory education, each place should also strengthen governance of off-campus tutoring for preschool children aged from 3 to 6 and high school students. It is prohibited to carry out online tutoring for preschool children, or to conduct offline discipline-based tutoring (including foreign languages tutoring) in the name of preschool, kindergarten and elementary classes, thinking training classes. New off-campus tutoring institutions for preschool children and high school students will no longer be approved. The management of discipline-based tutoring institutions for high school students shall be carried out with reference to the relevant provisions of this Measure.
This newsletter is penned by Yang Liu, founder of Beijing Channel. Qi Cui, a graduate student at CFAU, has helped with the translation.