The market for American teachers teaching English online to Chinese children has disappeared, putting an end to a lucrative side business for thousands.
The Chinese government in August announced a ban on foreign teachers teaching their children online and restricting the hours students can take extra classes beyond normal school hours. The new regulation also declared that all teaching firms that work with Chinese students must be non-profit.
CNBC estimates that the top seven education services hiring American teachers to work with Chinese students had more than 250,000 contracted teachers at the time of the Chinese announcement. American educators were earning $14 to $25 an hour through these services. This is the prevailing rate for most agencies, many of which still hire tutors for online jobs in the United States and for teaching English to students in other countries.
VIPKid, one of the major companies supplying teachers to the Chinese market, had nearly 100,000 teachers from the United States and Canada under contract in 2019. These teachers were serving more than 600,000 Chinese children.
Some teachers who have lost their job have taken to social media to express their feelings. was among them Ashley Harris from Virigina who tweeted That after teaching 250 classes as a VIPKid teacher, she hoped the Chinese government would change its stance. She tweeted saying goodbye to her students was tough.
Tim Gascoigne is a VIPKid teacher – “Until Classes Are Gone” – who also runs Online Teacher Dude and has a YouTube channel that trains teachers in finding and applying for jobs, as well as instructions on how to be a successful online teacher.
“I initially noticed an increase in traffic on my channel and website with educators looking for non-Chinese companies, independent tutoring options, and educating their existing Chinese students when companies went down,” Gascoigne said.
He said his website traffic increased by 10,000 page views in early August compared to early July. His YouTube viewership jumped 40,000 views in August as teachers were looking for other opportunities to make up for job losses in the China market.
Promise to keep working
The larger and more established teaching companies have expressed little concern about the impact of the Chinese decision on their companies.
“Tutor.com sees no indications that our company has been affected by the new regulations,” Dr. Jane McAuliffe, Vice President of Learning Services, said in a statement to The Penny Hoarder. “We remain committed to partnering with institutions and organizations to help ensure that all students have access to educational support when they need it.”
Tutor.com is still accepting applications from qualified teachers for other assignments, the statement said.
In a statement to The Penny Hoarder, VIPKid said the shutdown of the Chinese market will affect their business, but they are confident that the new programs will help them weather the loss.
“Over the past year, we have piloted several educational programs outside of China. We are accelerating our efforts in these programs to carry out our mission to inspire and empower every child for the future.”
Reducing 16-hour school days
After the Chinese government’s announcement, Reuters news agency reported that “the new rules ban for-profit tutoring in core school subjects in an effort to boost the country’s birth rate by lowering the cost of living for a family.” Some Chinese families spend extravagantly on education, forcing schoolchildren to study for up to 16 hours a day.
The new rules limit online classes to 30 minutes, with no work classes after 9 p.m. local time, and no work classes on weekends.
Long school days have become the norm because Chinese parents want their children to score high on standardized tests that determine whether they will be accepted into one of the country’s top universities.
As a result of that competition, many Chinese families are spending so much money on online teachers in after-school sessions that they are not willing to have many children, which China now supports to fight the declining population. In the 1970s, the Chinese government began restricting the number of families to one child. This restriction ended in 2016.
Teaching companies closed
Several tutoring services stopped operating almost immediately by the government’s decision, including GoGoKid, which is run by a Chinese company that also owns TikTok. GoGoKid released a statement to its teachers on its website that classes will be stopped immediately.
ByteDance has laid off hundreds of employees and canceled most of its online education offerings in response to the new regulations. Another large tutoring service, MagicEars, said, “We feel confident that we will do well for about another year.”
Companies that have stopped recruiting and hiring teachers include Zebra English, Whales English and Landi English. Xueersi Online School 1 on 1 has announced that it is no longer hiring non-Chinese teachers.
Kent MacDill is a veteran journalist who has specialized in personal finance topics since 2013. He is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.