BOFIT Viikkokatsaus / BOFIT Weekly Review 2021/36

In recent months, the government has been tightening rules regarding private schools that offer after-school tutoring. Private schools have seen their operations severely constrained with the imposing of a range of rules governing their financial channels, curricula and arrangements. For example, all schools must register as non-profit companies, their teaching staff must follow the official curriculum and teaching during school holidays is prohibited.

The education reform has been driven by a political urge to diminish the burden on school children and their families, reduce inequality in education and improve the quality of teaching in public schools. One in five Chinese students attended a private school in 2020. Under the new changes, primary schools are required to reduce homework and offer after-school tutoring and activities. Later on, the government would also increase the number of slots available to students at the most popular secondary schools.

Education reforms include the addition of Xi Jinping’s “socialist thinking with Chinese characteristics” to the regular curriculum. The education ministry reports that this teach will help students understand socialism and its legacy in China. China’s administration has also presented many other new rules concerning children and youth. For example, the video gaming of minors has been limited to three hours on weekend evenings and the opportunities for young people to use various entertainment phone apps will be limited. To replace them, officials have encouraged app developers to create more educational content. China says the restrictions are intended to protect youth from damaging content and addiction to online gaming. In August, the government also implemented specific rules governing online fan culture.

The Chinese government’s passion for reform dovetails with its broader political goals such as reducing inequality and improving social welfare. Merics notes that culture, education and ideology have all received greater emphasis in China’s latest five-year plan (2021–2025). The plan’s concrete goals include improving the quality and capacity of public education, development of the professional skills of teachers and increasing the level of education of the population generally. The current plan calls for increasing the average schooling of working-age people from 10.8 years in 2020 to 11.3 years by 2025.

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