Written By: Yi Dong
The General office of China Central Committee of the CPC and the General Office of the State Council has jointly issued new educational guidelines named the Opinions on Further Reducing the Burdens of Homework and Off-campus Training for Students During the Period of Compulsory Education, or the “double reduction” policy for short on July 24, 2021 (7). The two main aims of this policy are to relieve the studying burden on the students and reduce the number of off-campus tutoring programs that feature curriculum subjects.
Education in China
As a background, high schools in China are classified into the regular schools and the key schools; universities are classified into the project universities and the non-project universities with the project universities offering superior educational resources such as stronger teaching and researching capabilities, better equipment, and higher funding (4). The ultimate education goal of most Chinese students is to enroll in one of the project universities, but this requires students to perform well on the Gaokao (university entrance exam) (2). However, it’s usually the students from the key schools that can get into the project universities, where the enrolment in the key schools depends on the Zhongkao (high school entrance exam) results; this necessarily leads to intense competitions during the period of the nine-year compulsory education (6). Because the demand of getting into project universities is high, but the supply of the available seats in the project universities are limited, students begin to compete in the early stages of studying. The results of the competition among students are usually reflected in their grades achieved; therefore, in order to achieve high grades and become ahead of others, students are pressured to attend after-school off-campus tutoring programs that feature curriculum subjects.
The intense competitions explain why the off-campus tutoring programs have become increasingly popular in the recent years. Many companies especially the big tech companies such as Tencent and Bytedance sensed business opportunities in the education sector from the booming of the off campus tutoring services, they started to get involved in the education sector as well by delivering paid education apps and online classes.
Education has always been categorized as a public good in China (1). The high involvement of capital in the education sector necessarily signifies the underlying inequalities and creates what Michael Sandel calls “crowd out nonmarket norm” (5). Students from families that are affluent can afford to pay for the off-campus tutoring services and novel education apps; they have access to more education opportunities as well as better education resources compared to students from families that are unable to afford these types of services. When the public good is skewed towards the affluent, the result is the enlarged social class gaps and inequalities.
More on the Policy
Many people may think that the double reduction policy is too sudden and harsh, which throws plentiful off-campus tutoring businesses into uncertainty (8). However, the objective of the double reduction policy is not to merely provide or encourage the study-life balance of the students, but also control capital’s power when it comes to public good, so this policy is a necessary step to take. The goals of the double reduction policy are to alleviate the pressure and anxiety feel by the students, restore the market morals and regulate capital’s behaviours, as well as reduce inequalities to ensure a balanced and healthy development of the social class.
- Fernando, (2020, July 23). Public Good. Retrieved from Investopedia: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/public-good.asp
- Gaokao. (2021, October 7). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaokao
- Haobong. (2021). Under the “double reduction”, where should 700,000 education and training institutions and 10 million employees go? [Photography]. Zhuanlan Zhihu. https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/394729815
- Project 211 and 985. (2021). Retrieved from China Education Center: https://chinaeducenter.com/en/cedu/ceduproject211.php
- Sandel, J. (2012, May 1). How Markets Crowd Out Morals. Retrieved from Boston Review: https://bostonreview.net/forum-sandel-markets-morals
- Senior High School Entrance Examination. (2020, January 6). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senior_High_School_Entrance_Examination
- Xinhua. (2021, July 24). China Issues Guidelines to Ease Burden on Young Students. Retrieved from The State Council of the People’s Republic of China: http://english.www.gov.cn/policies/latestreleases/202107/24/content_WS60fc16dfc6d0df57f98dd873.html
- Ye, W. (2021, August 4). China’s Harsh Education Crackdown Sends Parents and Businesses Scrambling. Retrieved from CNBC: https://cnbc.com/2021/08/05/chinas-harsh-education-crackdown-sends-parents-businesses-scrambling.html