China’s 51Talk has pushed back against a critical media report from earlier this month that singled the online English-language training platform out for not publicly disclosing information related to its foreign teachers. The company responded by accusing its competitors of similarly failing to comply with a recent government guideline requiring such disclosures.
51Talk told the Securities Daily newspaper Sunday that it has begun updating its database on foreign teachers’ qualifications in order to make this information available to customers. In a report published by domestic media outlet Caijing on July 11, the parent of a second grader who asked for a teacher’s credentials said the company — a Beijing-headquartered subsidiary of China Online Education Group — had given her the information of a different foreign educator, while a 51Talk student claimed the company had refused to provide details on the qualifications and professional backgrounds of its foreign teachers.
“It’s not just us failing to display teachers’ qualifications — it’s a common problem in the industry,” a representative from 51Talk told Securities Daily. “No one realized that foreign teachers in China need to have qualifications, especially TESOL certification, when they started hiring them,” the representative added, referring to a common teaching credential for English-language instructors.
Public concern was stoked earlier this month when seven foreign teachers were detained in eastern China for alleged drug offenses. The detained teachers worked at a branch of the Education First language company in Jiangsu province.
On July 12, six government bodies including the Ministry of Education unveiled a national guideline aimed at improving regulation of the country’s online education industry. Under the guideline, online education platforms targeting elementary and middle school students are required to publicly display detailed information for their foreign instructors, including their names, teaching qualifications, and past employment experience. June 2020 is the deadline by which all platforms must comply with the rule.
The representative from 51Talk told Securities Daily that while just 80% of the company’s foreign teachers currently hold TESOL certificates, all of them will possess the documents by next year’s deadline.
Founded in 2011, 51Talk offers one-on-one online English lessons to children aged 4 to 15. The company has more than 14,800 foreign tutors “from countries where English is the official language,” according to its website.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Pixta RF/VCG)