China Pushes Ahead With Clampdown on ‘Buxiban’ Tutoring Sector

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has announced a crackdown on the U.S.$120 billion private tutoring, or buxiban, industry, in a country where hothousing children to ensure the best shot at a good high school or university has become the norm for middle-class professionals.

More than 75 percent of students in primary and secondary education attended after-school tutoring in 2016, the most recent industry figures for 2016 showed.

New rules governing the industry will likely be announced soon, with trial bans on in-person and online vacation classes expected in a number of major cities, along with an advertising ban, Reuters reported.

On June 15, the Ministry of Education said it was setting up a new department to monitor off-campus education and training provision, to implement “reforms to the off-campus education and training sector.”

And the State Administration for Market Regulation announced on June 1 it would be “rectifying” tutoring services run by internet giants Tencent and Alibaba, fining the companies around U.S.$5.73 million for regulatory violations.

The moves come after a March 6 speech by CCP general secretary Xi Jinping, who hit out at “chaos” in the tutoring industry, calling it “a stubborn disease that is hard to manage.”

“On the one hand, there is the desire for children to have a happy childhood, and enjoy physical and mental health,” Xi told education sector delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

“On the other, there is the fear that children won’t be starting at the same point in the competition for good grades,” he said, according to a March 18 commentary in the official People’s Daily newspaper, also carried by state news agency Xinhua.

“The rectification and regulation of the private tutoring market must be strengthened so as to reduce the burden on students … and to avoid undermining fairness in the public education sector,” it said.

The ban on vacation and weekend tutoring would be implemented in nine municipalities and provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu, for twelve months before being rolled out across the country, Reuters quoted one source as saying.

Xi said last week that schools should bear the full responsibility for student learning, not buxibans.

“Education departments are correcting this phenomenon,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.

Weekday tutoring will be restricted, with outright bans on weekend and vacation tutoring across nine municipalities and provinces, including Beijing, Shanghai and Jiangsu, for one year.

The measures will then likely be rolled out nationwide, Reuters said.

The move comes amid growing concern in China over a phenomenon dubbed the “chicken baby” syndrome, referring to parents dosing their children up with chicken-based food supplements to boost stamina for all of the extra hours of study they expect of them.

It also comes as the CCP moves to quash a social phenomenon known as “lying down,” in which young people refuse to cooperate with social pressure to get good jobs, marry and buy their own homes.

Economics scholar He Jiangbin has warned that young people today face such fierce competition, that they increasingly regard the level of effort required as not worth it, given that the rewards are so hard to come by.

Reported by Chingman and Matt Chan for RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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