The price tag for English

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWOCENTS - By Lao Xu

Send­ing chil­dren to ex­tracur­ric­u­lar English classes has be­come a fash­ion among mid­dle-class par­ents in China, de­spite the fact that the weight of English scores needed for col­lege en­trance ex­am­i­na­tions is get­ting smaller. How­ever, the price for the classes seems to be high for most av­er­age-in­come fam­i­lies. In Bei­jing, it usu­ally costs about 10,000 yuan ($1,508) per year to at­tend an English school, which ex­ceeded the whole year’s tu­ition of many public pri­mary schools.

I don’t re­mem­ber when learn­ing English be­came such a lux­u­ri­ous choice. When I was a school kid, it didn’t cost as much. English ed­u­ca­tion train­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions usu­ally re­quire a high gross mar­gin to main­tain daily op­er­a­tion.

But for av­er­age-in­come fam­i­lies, is it nec­es­sary to in­vest so much in only im­prov­ing their child’s English?

In my opin­ion, one should think clearly about why they want their child to im­prove their English in ad­di­tion to daily study. For fam­i­lies who have a very clear goal of send­ing chil­dren to study abroad, they are obliged to take ex­tra lessons as a sup­ple­ment, no mat- ter how ex­pen­sive. I’m afraid that other fam­i­lies sim­ply hold the ob­ses­sion that they don’t want their child to lose at the start­ing line of study.

Start­ing English study early, es­pe­cially in an oral as­pect, is ad­van­ta­geous for chil­dren. Com­pared to adults, chil­dren can learn and im­i­tate for­eign lan­guage much eas­ier. Learn­ing a for­eign lan­guage ear­lier helps them raise their sense of us­ing a for­eign lan­guage. So, in terms of lis­ten­ing and speak­ing, prac­tic­ing with na­tive speak­ers is im­por­tant. For read­ing and writ­ing, the only way to im­prove is a con­tin­ued prac­tice. If a par­ent has time to su­per­vise chil­dren in strictly writ­ing English diaries or read­ing English books, that will be enough for them to im­prove writ­ing and read­ing.

For av­er­age-in­come fam­i­lies, tak­ing ex­tracur­ric­u­lar English classes should be done ra­tio­nally. My ad­vice is that choos­ing an ex­tracur­ric­u­lar English ses­sion that can pro­vide as much op­por­tu­nity to speak with na­tive English teach­ers may be more ef­fec­tive. We have many al­ter­na­tive ways to help chil­dren im­prove their English. Un­like 20 years ago, young par­ents nowa­days are al­most all well ed­u­cated in English, so it shouldn’t be too dif­fi­cult to give our chil­dren a lit­tle su­per­vi­sion.

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