With less than a month for the country’s tutoring companies to convert into nonprofits, cities and school districts are gradually unveiling the fees they can now charge for their academic services, with amounts significantly reduced compared to before.
Two suburban districts in Shanghai — Songjiang and Jiading — have ordered local tutoring centers to charge no more than 70 yuan ($10) for a 45-minute class, China Securities Journal reported earlier this week, quoting sources close to the city’s education authorities. Students in smaller classes with 10 to 35 students will be charged 50 yuan, while those in bigger groups will pay 40 yuan.
Such classes previously cost as high as 500 yuan before education authorities announced a raft of measures in July under its “double reduction” policy — including a ban on online tutoring for children under 6, and switching of education centers into nonprofit status — to reduce the academic burden of students and tame unfair competition. The tough approach has led several tutoring giants, such as Juren Education, Koolearn, and Xueersi, to shut their operations targeting children from kindergarten to grade nine — though the latter says it will provide services through a nonprofit status.
“It’s impossible to sustain the company’s operations and pay the staff adequately if we only have classes on weekdays and charge based on the government-set prices,” said a teacher from a Xueersi center in Shanghai, asking not to be named as he’s not authorized to speak to media. “We’ll actually be arranging for some of our existing teachers to continue teaching the students Chinese, math, and English online, under the framework of a new nonprofit organization.”
Meanwhile, the company will offer non-academic programs, including art and drama classes, that will cost more than the academic classes at 220 yuan for 90 minutes, he said. Such classes are not restricted under the new reforms.
While some families said they favored the cheaper fees, they also expressed concern that the standardized charges could compromise the quality of the classes.
“We chose Xueersi because they invested a lot into their curriculum,” Yu Zheng, a Shanghai-based parent, told Sixth Tone. “But after the price slash, I wonder if they’ll continue investing in that and training teachers.”
Meanwhile, the eastern city of Jinhua in Zhejiang province also published its price list for academic tutoring services earlier this week, saying each 45-minute class should be priced between 30 and 50 yuan, depending on the size. Local authorities said violators can be reported through a dedicated complaint hotline, adding that its fee structure also applies to tutoring services targeting high school students — an area not included in the double reduction policy.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: A father accompanies his son to a class in Beijing, May 26, 2018. People Visual)