China Daily (Hong Kong)
Online-offline integration is ‘new normal’ for the education industry
Integration of online and offline channels will become the “new normal” for China’s education industry but companies still need to create a self-sufficient business model to take a lead, an industry luminary said.
Wang Lihong, CEO of Rise Education Cayman Ltd, a Nasdaq-listed education company, said: “The online-offline integration is the new normal, or an important development trend, for the education industry. Education companies without online capabilities will find it more difficult to survive in the future.
“But the education industry itself has different goals and not all goals can be achieved online. Online education has its convenience in delivering knowledge but offline education has an irreplaceable role in inspiring a person, conveying warmth as well as resonance.
“For education companies with offline business, the business model has its unique advantages. For example, they can acquire targeted customers more precisely.
“In terms of acquiring customers, the education industry’s embrace of technology and internet signifies a digital revolution. This is an area where the industry lagged many other industries so far.”
Despite huge challenges brought by COVID-19 to offline businesses, Wang said Rise saw its cost of acquiring offline customers decline. The offline demand is recovering vigorously, she said.
Founded in 2007, Rise mainly offers K12, or kindergarten to the 12th grade, curricula, including English, to students. Its learning centers are spread across 100 Chinese cities.
In addition to moving its offline courses online, Rise started to digitalize its business model and the company structure to embrace the new normal of integrated online-offline operations. “Through remote working, training, and operating, the company now offers its bouquet of services online, including enrollment, teaching, and renewal,” she said.
In face of the epidemic, Rise developed its independent online teaching platforms and delivered nearly 300 hours of courses online, which supported nearly 140,000 students.
It also launched an artificial intelligence-enabled diagnostics tour in November, where the AI-enabled tool automatically collected information
on classroom teaching and teacher-student interactions and provided real-time early warning of behaviors that may affect the achievement of teaching goals in the classroom.
“Education companies, whether online or offline, need a healthy business model to sustain themselves and grow,” she said.
Xiong Yongchang, vice-dean of Beijing 101 Middle School, said systemic barriers or technical hurdles are still in the path of aspiring students seeking to enter schools.
“The integrated learning scenarios leverage new technologies to break that wall. With the integrated model, learning and teaching methods become flexible and diverse, and the ways schools are organized also are more flexible than in the past.
“It is not just about taking a class and doing homework online. It is important whether they can make the platform a normal part of student life.”
China should continue and consolidate initiatives that helped spur vehicle sales last year, to further stimulate the sector that accounts for a big chunk of the country’s economy, experts said.
Local authorities did a lot of work to promote car sales, with rewarding results, but short-term policy support could lead to fluctuations in the market, said Cui Dongshu, secretary-general of the China Passenger Vehicle Association.
He said the authorities should continue the initiatives to ensure the sector’s stable and sustainable development.
At least four major cities including Beijing and Shanghai relaxed their limits and offered an extra 115,000 license plates combined in 2020.
A going-to-the country campaign for new energy vehicles kicked off in the second half of the year generated fruitful results as well.
By the end of 2020, more than 180,000 vehicles were sold thanks to the campaign, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.
Ye Shengji, a deputy secretarygeneral of the association, said around 30 carmakers joined the campaign last year, with models available numbering over 60.
In early February this year, the Ministry of Commerce called on local authorities to relax the limits and design campaigns considering local conditions to further boost the market, citing the examples of Beijing and other cities in 2020.
“Cars are the mainstay of the market of consumption,” said the ministry. Statistics show that a total of 25.31 million cars were sold in 2020, worth 3.94 trillion yuan ($608.2 billion) in 2020, accounting for 10 percent of the country’s total retail sales of consumer goods.
The ministry said the goal is to further unleash the potential of car consumption by relaxing limits on purchasing while strengthening management on car use.
“(We will) phase out administrative bans on car purchasing in an
orderly way,” said the ministry.
It also called for a continuation of the going-to-the countryside campaign and suggested local authorities to learn from Beijing and make new energy license plates more accessible to car-free families.
Starting from this year, 60 percent of its new energy vehicle license plate quotas are reserved for car-free families, and the percentage will grow further to 70 percent in 2022 and to 80 percent from 2023 onwards, according to the capital city’s transport commission.
Late last year, an official at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said the new energy vehicle campaign in rural areas will definitely continue in 2021, and the details are being worked out.
Cui at the China Passenger Car Association said there is vast potential in China’s vehicle market, as the number of vehicles per 1,000 people still lags far behind developed countries including the United States.
The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimates annual sales to reach 30 million in 2025.
Vehicles sales in the first month this year soared. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimated that car sales in China would total 2.54 million for January, increasing 31.9 percent year-on-year.
The January figures continued the upward trend since April 2020 when car sales bounced back after the successful containment of COVID-19 in China and the recovery of the Chinese economy.