Train­ing cen­ters need strict su­per­vi­sion

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

At the be­gin­ning of a new se­mes­ter, Xingkong, a well-known pi­ano train­ing in­sti­tute, sud­denly shut up shop caus­ing the stu­dents’ par­ents huge losses in pre­paid tu­ition fees. And its an­nounce­ment that it will partly re­open its cen­ters has not cleared peo­ple’s wor­ries. Sim­i­lar cases were re­ported last year, as op­er­a­tors of pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing in­sti­tutes in cities such as Bei­jing, Shang­hai and Shen­zhen downed their shut­ters and ab­sconded with the pre­paid tu­ition.

Al­though such cases com­prise only a small per­cent­age of the tens of thou­sands of train­ing in­sti­tutes across China, the amount of money in­volved in th­ese cases add up to more than 1 bil­lion yuan ($156 mil­lion). And among those that have ab­sconded with pre­paid fees are not only small com­mu­nity train­ing cen­ters, but also na­tion­aw­ide chains.

Th­ese cases have ex­posed the loop­holes in train­ing in­sti­tutes’ man­age­ments, as well as ser­vice seek­ers’ over-ex­pec­ta­tions from and blind trust in th­ese in­sti­tutes. It is also likely that the closed in­sti­tutes had fi­nan­cial dis­putes or lacked liq­uid­ity.

To pre­vent such cases, first, the author­i­ties should play an ac­tive role in mar­ket man­age­ment and reg­u­la­tion. And their poli­cies of reg­is­tra­tion, man­age­ment and tax­a­tion, as well as su­per­vi­sion of train­ing in­sti­tutes should be con­sis­tent.

Sec­ond, con­sumers should learn to pro­tect their le­gal rights and in­ter­ests. Some peo­ple buy train­ing in­sti­tutes’ ser­vices be­cause of their at­trac­tive pro­mo­tions, and with­out know­ing much about their ac­tual sit­u­a­tion.

For in­stance, one vic­tim paid in ad­vance for the train­ing of his 10-month-old child in paint­ing, English and mem­ory train­ing, which is noth­ing but blind pur­suit of aca­demic and artis­tic per­fec­tion on be­half of a child that has not even learned to talk. Be­sides, some con­sumers choose un­qual­i­fied train­ing cen­ters just be­cause their fees are lower than oth­ers.

This shows that ser­vice pur­chasers have to learn to choose qual­i­fied train­ing in­sti­tutes for their chil­dren, for which they have to check whether an in­sti­tute has qual­i­fied teach­ers, proper re­sources and enough liq­uid­ity, and keep the pay­ment re­ceipts as proof for fur­ther ref­er­ence, es­pe­cially dur­ing emer­gen­cies.

Third, po­ten­tial op­er­a­tors should learn how to run a train­ing in­sti­tute be­fore open­ing one. Few train­ing cen­ters in­ten­tion­ally de­fraud con­sumers. Many of the in­sti­tutes that shut up shops did so after en­coun­ter­ing prob­lems. For in­stance, some in­sti­tutes are not pro­fes­sional enough to win pub­lic trust and keep at­tract­ing con­sumers. As a re­sult, they run out of cash and are un­able to ful­fill their prom­ise to the con­sumers. In some cases, un­fore­seen ac­ci­dents un­der­mine the in­sti­tutes’ day-to-day op­er­a­tions.

And fourth, ju­di­cial author­i­ties should re­solve such cases in time, in or­der to pro­tect the le­gal rights and in­ter­ests of the par­ties in­volved. But in re­al­ity, once the or­ga­nizer of train­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions ab­sconds with the cus­tomers’ pre­paid tu­ition, it is very dif­fi­cult for the vic­tims to safe­guard their le­gal rights. Such cir­cum­stances will ac­tu­ally in­crease the in­ci­dence of such cases.

More­over, the author­i­ties should give pri­or­ity to im­prov­ing the laws and reg­u­la­tions to pre­vent such cases, which is al­ways bet­ter than deal­ing with a case in which the in­sti­tute op­er­a­tor has ab­sconded.

Maybe we should learn from the good ex­am­ples set by other coun­tries in this re­gard. The pre­paid tu­ition model, which is com­mon among train­ing cen­ters, should be im­proved to min­i­mize the fi­nan­cial risks of con­sumers. For in­stance, the pe­riod for which tu­ition has to be paid in ad­vance can be re­duced, or con­sumers should be given the op­tion to pay the fees in ad­vance for the first three months and then month by month. The third-party pay­ment model, such as that adopted by on­line shop­ping plat­forms, is also worth a try.

In other words, the gov­ern­ment, con­sumers and train­ing in­sti­tutes should make joint ef­forts to solve the prob­lem. The au­thor is a re­searcher at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion Sci­ences.

MA XUEJING / CHINA DAILY

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