Move could affect tens of thousands of foreign tutors overseas
A leading private education agency in China announced over the weekend the suspension of courses administered by foreign-based tutors, as the company moves to comply with new regulations for the private tutoring sector, which could affect tens of thousands of overseas-based teachers, as more companies move in a similar direction, analysts said on Sunday.
VIPKID, a Chinese one-on-one English tutoring agency backed by Tencent, said on its official Wechat account on Saturday that the agency would stop selling online classes taught by foreign-based tutors to comply with a series of measures released by the central government in July, which has banned teachers based overseas from conducting any training activity in China.
The company said that new packages taught by foreign-based tutors would be removed starting from Saturday, and existing customers could still take previously purchased classes but will not be able to renew classes taught by tutors based overseas starting on Monday.
The strict ban may affect many foreign-based English teachers especially as several Chinese online education platforms have been quick to begin downsizing.
The number of the affected is significant. VIPKID has more than 70,000 foreign tutors from North America, according to its official website. 51Talk, another Chinese online education platform, said that the company has empowered over 20,000 Filipinos to provide an online learning experience for young Chinese learners.
51Talk also recently began large-scale layoffs, the 21st Century Business Herald reported in July, while VIPKID has been laying off staff for several months, a Beijing-based employee from the company told the Global Times on Sunday.
“This is a game changer for me and my family. I’ve taught online ESL for almost four years. It’s a big blow to my heart as much as our finances,” a tweeter user from North Carolina in the US, who claimed that she has taught online English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, commented on the news on Sunday.
Many more tutors could also be affected, as tutoring agencies removing class packages taught by foreign-based tutors becomes a new normal, Chu Chaohui, a research fellow at China’s National Institute of Education Sciences, told the reporters on Sunday.
Chu said that the sales of the non-compulsory curriculum as a service product would decrease as the result of the regulations, adding that the foreign-based tutors’ workload therefore will decline. While most of foreign-based tutors working for Chinese education online platforms work part time, there are also some full-time tutors, Chu noted.
Analysts said that the new regulations are necessary because of problems in the private tutoring sector, including the online English tutoring services provided by overseas teachers.
There have been rising concerns among students and parents over the qualification of foreign-based tutors, especially after 2020, as many Chinese parents began applying for online English language classes for their children due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting closure of schools.
Before the new recent regulations, China’s educational authority had also tightened up the qualification of foreign staff employed by online educational agencies, following a drug scandal in 2019.