China’s latest lesson for private tutors includes harsh fines, tighter licensing requirements

Unlicensed after-school tutoring services in China could face fines of up to 100,000 yuan (US$13,710), among other penalties, as part of a sweeping overhaul to the industry prompted by President Xi Jinping’s push for reform in the education sector.

The penalties, which will take effect from mid-October, are intended to help reform for-profit after-school tutoring activities, which Beijing began targeting two years ago in a shake-up of the education sector, according to a document published on the Ministry of Education’s website on Tuesday.

“[We] need to improve the legal framework for after-school tutoring and clarify law enforcement responsibilities, [to] standardise legal compliance for off-campus training, and make wrongdoers pay the price, while protecting those who comply,” the document said.

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After-school tutoring – long considered an essential for students hoping to perform well in China’s competitive school exams – has been reined through the “double reduction policy”, a package of reforms introduced in July 2021 that Beijing said were aimed at relieving pressures on students and reducing financial burdens on their families.

The crackdown has hammered an industry that had been worth tens of millions of dollars, forcing widespread business closures, and throwing many people out of work. Off-campus tutoring had been considered by the nation’s quickly growing middle-class as a way to give their children an edge in school, as well as a chance at a better life and social status.


Former private tutors become top-selling live-streamers in China

Former private tutors become top-selling live-streamers in China

But according to the ministry, by the end of July, more than 100,000 companies had been licensed under the revised policy, after lowering tuition fees and meeting government requirements for qualifications, capital, staff and content.

Still, two years into the reform, unlicensed after-school tutoring continues in various forms “to some degree”, according to the ministry.

The new rules mean that after-school tutoring service providers could face fines of up to 100,000 yuan and warnings if they try to disguise their services or avoid the scrutiny of authorities, such charging fees through online platforms, offering live-streaming courses, organising tutoring sessions in cafes, hotels, and homes, or in the name of domestic services or study tours.

The ministry said that other entities or people who provided venues or platforms for such activities could also be held responsible.

Education service providers could have their licences revoked if their lessons “deviate from the socialist education direction” or “hinder the country from carrying out its education policy”, according to the document.

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The latest changes are part of a sweeping series of steps introduced two years ago under Xi’s plan to “rectify” the education system while imposing greater ideological controls on students.

Teaching materials used in tutoring as well as publicity content are also subject to censorship and approval by the ministry.

Xi has long denounced the private education industry as disruptive, burdensome and in need of regulation. In 2018, he said the sector “violated the laws of education” and “disrupted the normal order of education”.


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