China creates thousands of free childcare centres to help parents cope with after-school tutoring crackdown

·3-min read

As part of a crackdown on intensive private tutoring in China the government has announced free and discounted childcare centres for elementary students to assist working parents.

Beijing Municipal Commission of Education announced it will provide services for students from first grade to fifth grade, including providing places for studying, opening up libraries, and sports activities during summer time holidays, in an official notice on WeChat last week.

Similar classes are being offered in several major cities across the country. In Shanghai, 543 childcare centres will be opened, with no more than 50 students per centre. The Shanghai government will also recruit more than 12,000 volunteers to help in these centres, and hold lectures on epidemic prevention, art and sports.

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In Wuhan in Hubei province, community centres started enrolling students last week and opened on Monday on a first-come, first-served basis, with priority given to children of migrant workers and middle-to-low income workers.

The measures come after China announced a string of policies cracking down on the country’s booming after-school private tutoring.

In March, President Xi Jinping described off-campus training programmes as a “social problem”. Last month, China’s Ministry of Education created a new Off-Campus Education and Training Department to supervise institutions that provide training and tutoring to Chinese students from kindergarten to high school, and work with other regulatory bodies to establish rules for incorporation, fees, and the content, scheduling and qualifications of training.

Although there isn’t yet a direct ban on private tutoring centres, speculation has risen that soon government regulation will move on to classes offered during holidays, weekends and summers.

These measures are part of a package to lessen the pressure faced by Chinese parents, in the face of an ageing population and a diminishing will by many in China to have children.

However, they’ve been met with criticism from some parents, as they claimed it did not solve the root cause of the issue. Even without private tutoring classes, there’s still fierce competition to get children into good schools, and working parents have nowhere to send their children during work hours.

Sun, a Beijing woman with a fourth-grade daughter, told the South China Morning Post she will not take advantage of the government centres because they are inconvenient.

“The centres will be held at designated schools, it might not be easy for me to drive and pick up my kid,” she said.

In the past, she used to drop her daughter off at her in-law’s during the summer and signed up for private tutoring for part of the summer.

Another woman surnamed Chen with a fifth-grade son said in the past, she signed up her child for English classes all through the summer, and when he isn’t attending classes, he would go to his parents’ work places to do homework.

“I will sign up for government centres for a period of time, at least let my son stay there and finish up his school homework for the summer,” she said.

Additional reporting by Pinghui Zhuang

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