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Home / What Does China’s New Regulations mean for Online TEFL teachers?

On July 26th, the Chinese government announced a series of China’s new regulations that threw the future of foreign ESL teachers up in the air. Although it initially sent shock-waves throughout the online ESL teaching industry and left ESL teachers wondering about the security of their careers and livelihood, we are here to tell you what is really going on and to show you that there are many opportunities out there for you.

What are the reasons for these new regulations?

Many people have been left wondering why would the Chinese government implement such regulations on the online ESL industry? Well there are many reasons why China has chosen to ban for profit-tutoring in core education subjects such as English, here are the three main reasons:

1. To protect children and teenager’s mental health

One of the main and most important reasons for the implementation of these new guidelines is to protect and safeguard children and teenagers’ mental health. Due to the high population within China, a hyper-competitive culture surrounding education has flourished. According to the Global Times, more than 75% of Chinese urban children from grades 1-12 are attending private tutoring courses. 

Many parents sign their children up for as many courses as possible in an attempt to stop their children from falling behind their classmates. This is because parents fear if their children do not attend these extra classes, they will not be able to attend a prestigious university later in life or compete in the highly competitive jobs industry. This pressure felt by parents and in particular, their children, to be the best, has put an undeniable strain on the mental well-being of Chinese youngsters. This is why the Chinese Ministry of Education has taken these steps to ease the burden of excessive homework and private learning, and really can we blame them? 

At the end of the day, children deserve to be children and to enjoy their childhood. Having fun should be their main priority, not worrying about how academically strong they are. 

2. To ease the financial burden from private education on parents

Not only is the government’s attempt to strike a school-life balance aimed at children, but also their parents. By banning private tutoring, the Chinese government hopes to ensure all school children have equal access to education and not just the wealthier families, who can afford to pay thousands for their children to avail of the best tutors out there. Parents are being put under a huge financial burden to ensure their children remain competitive in the education system and later, the job market. It is estimated that on average that families are spending upwards of $40,000 on their child’s education between the ages of 5 to 18. 

By removing this financial pressure on families, the government also hopes that raising a family will become cheaper. China is currently facing a declining birth rate. The government hopes that by banning private tutoring, people will have more money to raise their families and will be more inclined to have larger ones. 

You probably never would have guessed that this crackdown on the private tutoring industry would have anything to do with China’s ageing population but it does. 

As teachers we can’t complain about regulations that strive to make education more accessible and equal to everyone, as well as easing a financial burden that parents can’t afford it, can we?

3. To improve the standard of English teaching

Lastly, the Chinese government’s new regulations aim to improve teaching standards. As it stands, there are many places in China where unqualified, non-native English speakers are teaching English. Many of them struggle to speak English, yet they or their employer are accepting large fees from parents in the hope their children will become fluent English speakers. 

Unfortunately, in the eyes of the Chinese government, nowhere is this problem more evident than in the online English industry. Many people in the education industry believe that it is now far too easy to become an online English teacher if you are under or unqualified to teach. 

As well as this, there is often a massive discrepancy between the wage the online English teachers are receiving i.e. between 12-16 dollars per lesson compared to the 80-100 dollars the company is charging per lesson. This is why the government has banned the hiring of English teachers from outside of China. They hope to standardise this saturated teaching industry, so they can provide students with better qualified English teachers and make sure they are being taught to the highest standard. 

What are these new policies? 

  • Pre-school children are banned from participating in online lessons, this rule has come into effect immediately
  • There will be a ban on hiring foreign teachers who live oversea
  • No online lessons can be taken after 9:00 pm Beijing time
  • No online classes can be taken during the weekends, holidays, and school breaks
  • Private ESL tutoring or off-campus tutoring is banned
  • Companies that offer private tutoring will have to register their organisations as non-profits. They will no longer be able to advertise their programs.

It isn’t known when these regulations will be enforced. Some ESL companies have already shut down their services, while others such as Magic Ears and VIPKids have vowed to honour the packages and classes already sold to their Chinese students. However, we will get into that later. For now, let’s focus on our options. If you are working with Chinese students or with a Chinese tutoring company this does not signify the end of your ESL career. You just have to adapt to the times.

Explore your options

1. International Online Companies not based in China

If these new regulations have taught us anything, they have taught us the importance of not putting all your eggs in one basket. Thankfully, China is not the only country in the world where there is a demand for online English lessons. There are countless international English language online schools that you can work for. 

These include:

  • Preply
  • Cambly
  • Cambly Kids
  • iTalki
  • Open English
  • English Hunt

Here is a link to a great article about other Non-Chinese online ESL companies

2. Teach a different demographic: Adults

Before you jump ship from the Chinese company you work for, make sure to check if it is possible to teach adults with them. Schools such as iTutorGroup have a curriculum for adult learners and thankfully, none of these new regulations will stop you from teaching Chinese adults English. As well as that, many of the international online schools mentioned above are catered to adults also. What is brilliant about teaching this new demographic is that the majority of these learners will already have a high level of English. They may be trying to improve their business English for work or their conversational English for an upcoming trip abroad. 

However, we understand that taking the leap from teaching children to adults may seem a little daunting. Why not sign up for one of our courses aimed at teaching adults such as Business English? Doing courses like this will improve your employability and skill set.

3. Go freelance!

There is no time like the present when choosing to go freelance. Now you can truly be your own boss. You are in charge of what you teach, who you teach, and more importantly what you earn. Check out our jobs page to see what freelance jobs are available now. 

Or if you want to go one step further and set up your own business teaching English, attend our FREE webinar on October 5th on the topic! You can learn from our trained staff members and ask any question you need to be answered.

4. Upskill, upskill, upskill.

As we always say in the TEFL Institute of Ireland, every day is an opportunity to learn, and just because you have completed your 120 hour TEFL course does not mean you should put a stop to your ESL training. Gaining as many qualifications as a teacher as possible is key to securing high-paying jobs, students, and staying competitive in this industry.

China’s decision to crack down on their unregulated ESL industry has proven this, and who knows eventually other countries may follow suit? Therefore, you must make sure that you are continuously upskilling. It doesn’t matter if you are the best teacher in the world you must have the credentials to back this up. To learn more about what courses you can choose from, contact our team today!

Blonde woman on laptop studing 120 Premier TEFL Course

What we know about the current situation in China:

Now that you know that the end is not near, and you still have an abundance of options as an ESL teacher, let’s have a look at the current situation in China. As we have already mentioned, it is not clear when these regulations will fully come into play but changes have already been set in motion. 

Here are some examples:

Companies that have stopped their ESL lessons 

Unfortunately, some Chinese-based ESL companies have chosen to shut down their services immediately since these new rules were announced. ESL schools that have closed their doors or ceased their online lessons include:

  • Whales English
  • GogoKids
  • Palfish
  • Zebra English
Companies that will finish their lessons sold

However, not all Chinese-based ESL online schools have followed this route. Other companies have announced that they will honour the packages and lessons already purchased by Chinese parents. Not only did this bring a sigh of relief from disgruntled parents as many had bought packages up to a year in advance of the classes commencing but it also allows ESL teachers to still receive an income until they can find another ESL school to work with. 

These schools include:

  • VIPKID
  • Magic Ears
  • QKids
  • DaDa
ESL companies that are going International!

Thankfully, not every ESL company that has been affected by these new regulations were solely based in China. Many were already teaching students across the world, while others had already made moves to diversify their market and go global. Here is a list of ESL companies that are already working internationally or have committed to breaking into or focusing on the international market since the announcement of new policies:

  • Palfish
  • VIPKid
  • QKids

There you have it. Everything you need to know about the current situation in China for online ESL teachers. If you have any more questions regarding what your options are since these new regulations have been announced, contact one of our staff members here today. 

As the saying goes; ‘When one door closes, another opens’. Who knows, maybe now you will decide to go freelance or take the plunge and teach English abroad rather than online.  

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