Little reprieve from school this summer
It may be the summer holidays in China now, but Chen Tianle isn’t getting a break from school.
The 17-year-old is currently enrolled in Math, English, Physics and Chemistry classes at an educational institute, all of which are compulsory subjects in the gaokao, or college entrance exam. Chen has to attend these supplementary lessons eight hours a day, three days a week.
But he would probably not have any friends to hang out with even if he does not have these classes to attend, because most of them are in the same situation.
Chen, who will begin the second grade in high school in September, is just one of the many students contributing to the booming business of education institutes that provide tuition lessons.
Shen Yi, the mother of a 17-year-old girl, said heated discussions about such classes are taking place in online forums that give parents the opportunity to share tips and concerns.
“Every student is taking extra classes outside of school. Those who are lagging behind in their studies count on these classes to catch up, while the top performers get to learn new things and maintain their edge over the competition,” said Shen.
The increasing ferocity of competition among students mean that many parents resort to providing their children with extracurricular knowledge outside of school, but for those who don’t have the luxury of time, these education institutes become the best solution.
“We’re too busy with work so we have to turn to these classes,” said Luo Shuyong, whose 14-year-old daughter has to attend a two-hour Math class six days a week this summer vacation. Each class costs 600 yuan ($97).
The high demand for such classes has driven the fees to record levels. An officer in charge of enrollment for Only Education, a major educational institution in Shanghai that specializes in providing extra lessons, said that it costs at least 250 yuan for a junior high school student to attend a two-hour class in a group of around 10 people, and 300 yuan for one for senior high school students.
“The prices this year have risen about 10 percent. All the institutions are doing this. A class that costs less than 200 yuan hardly exists this year,” said the officer who only wants to be identified as Yin.
But though these inflated prices mean that parents may end up forking out tens of thousands in tuition fees, enrollments figures are nonetheless exceeding expectations.
While Yin declined to comment on the number of students, she did reveal that the institute is about to open more classes in each of their three campuses due to the high demand. “We are still receiving inquiries about enrollments although we’re already half way through the vacation,” she said.
While some experts believe that it is reasonable for parents to turn to alternative teaching options, they advised that there must still be an objective evaluation of the effectiveness of such action.
“It is the anxiety of parents and the over-demanding education system that has made taking extra classes a compulsory thing,” said Lao Kaisheng, an education policy researcher from Beijing Normal University. “Parents need to find out just how effective these classes are for their children instead of just surrendering their money to these education institutes,” he added.