Complaining about tutoring: public interest or self-interest?
  ·  2023-08-18  ·   Source: NO.34 AUGUST 24, 2023

Recently, offline classes of New Oriental, a Beijing-based education giant, in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, have been suspended in the wake of a complaint lodged to local authorities by an Internet influencer with the username Tietou, literally meaning iron head.

The complaint claimed that the company violated a set of guidelines issued by the central authorities in 2021 that aimed to ease the burden of excessive homework and off-campus tutoring for students undergoing compulsory education—those in primary and middle schools (first-ninth graders). The guidelines, known as the "double reduction" policy, stipulate that no new institutions providing tutoring in academic subjects to students in grades one to nine will be granted approval and already operational ones must be registered as nonprofits. They also forbid off-campus tutoring institutions to organize academic training during holidays including public holidays and summer and winter vacations. 

Tietou, who has nearly 4 million followers on the short video sharing platform Douyin, is devoted to countering fraud and counterfeit goods and has been successful in several such cases since he began his efforts in April. New Oriental has argued that it does not provide academic tutoring to first-ninth graders. It remains unclear whether tutoring high school students (10th-12th graders) violates the rules. At the time of writing, the authorities are still investigating the case.

Regarding his most recent complaint, proponents argue that every citizen has the right to report extracurricular training suspected of violating the rules to the authorities. Opponents believe that as students' need for tutoring continues to exist, these kinds of complaints do no good for students and are merely hype generated to attract traffic.

Feng Haining (Qilu Evening News): It's surprising that New Oriental's offline classes in Hangzhou have been fully suspended just because of complaints by an Internet influencer. The suspension is probably due to Tietou's huge fan base and therefore strong influence, but more importantly, it's probably because the complaint came at a sensitive moment—the summer vacation.

Ji Dahai ( Since the "double reduction" policy took effect, off-campus tutoring institutions like New Oriental have undergone a major reshuffle. A number of them closed their doors.

How to prevent students from idling away their summer vacation poses a big challenge to parents. Additionally, the senior middle school entrance examination pushes them to seek out tutoring for their children. Most parents believe it's better to send children to tutoring institutions than to let them stay at home, playing video games or playing on the phones. This desire for productive summer vacations creates strong demand for off-campus tutoring services.

Xiong Bingqi (Guangming Daily): To implement "double reduction" to the letter, it's necessary to do two things at the same time. On one hand, tutoring institutions must be brought in line with the policy. On the other hand, students' need for after-class tutoring must be met. As long as the senior middle school entrance examination and the college entrance examination continue to exist, there will be demand for tutoring. If all of such institutions are banned, tutoring may go on in secret, further pushing up the cost of tutoring and increasing parents' anxiety.

After the "double reduction" policy was unveiled, education authorities required all schools to reform their teaching programs and provide better after-class services, particularly during summer vacations. However, the sustainability of these new school programs has been called into question. Many teachers have raised concerns that providing after-school educational programs prolongs their stay at school and thus adds to their burden, which will affect the overall quality of the education they provide.

Indeed, before the "double reduction" policy was implemented, the widely adopted one-size-fits-all approach to education had many drawbacks. It is now necessary to reform the old model and create a system that better meets students' individual needs. Part of this system should include allowing qualified after-school training institutions to operate for this purpose.

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson 

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