Anyone who walks into a Chinese high school classroom sees a little tear-off calendar on almost every student’s desk. He relentlessly counts down each day to “Gaokao”, the school’s national exam held across the country at the beginning of June each year. Those who are successful can visit one of the universities in Shanghai or Beijing and then have a good chance of finding an attractive job. If you fail, you have to go to a smaller university. Careers in China depend on the Gaokao.
Many worried parents do everything to make the great test of life a success: the night before, they order a taxi that in no way has the number four on the license plate (the number and the death look surprisingly similar in Chinese). During the preparation period, they hire chefs who serve particularly healthy dishes or some even experiment with oxygen therapy so that the son or daughter learns better and longer. Most importantly, the preparation begins years in advance.
Many children already benefit from tutoring in primary school. Being a nerd isn’t just socially accepted in China, it’s even expected. The offers of most private educational institutions are not only aimed at the weaker students who cannot keep up with the class, it is also quite normal for the best of the year to reserve additional lessons so that ‘they can do even better. According to figures from the Chinese Society for Education, more than 75% of graduates receive extra-curricular assistance. The activity with tutors generates an annual turnover of more than 100 billion euros. But it’s over for now.
Academic offers for children under the age of six must be completely discontinued
Over the weekend, the government announced that companies that offer school education programs will no longer be allowed to make a profit or go public. Institutes were prohibited from teaching students on Saturdays or Sundays. Academic offers for children under the age of six should be completely phased out. The aim is to reduce the burden on pupils of excessive homework and after-school tutoring. It should also be avoided that parents have to spend a lot of money on extracurricular activities.
For the companies concerned, for which analysts had until recently certified excellent prospects, things deteriorated sharply on Monday. New Oriental, one of the largest private education companies in China, lost 75% of its value on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. For the Chinese internet company Tencent, which invests heavily in the education sector, things have also fallen sharply. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong fell 3.5% on Monday, as did the CSI-300 index, which includes shares of the 300 largest publicly traded companies in mainland China.
Chinese state media have praised this as a step towards greater equity in the education sector. However, it is usually not mentioned that one of the decisive reasons for radical intervention is inadequate family policy. After authorities had implemented strict birth control for decades and the vast majority of couples in the People’s Republic were only allowed one child since 1980, up to three children per family have since been allowed. this summer, and even desired by the State, because the one-child policy has upset Chinese demography: how should a retirement system work, in which there could soon be more beneficiaries than payers? The problem, however, is that in big cities, most families cannot and do not want to afford three children because the cost of education is so absurdly high.