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China bans for-profit school tutoring in sweeping overhaul (bloombergquint.com)
240 points by hhs on July 24, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 223 comments

As a Chinese I can elaborate a bit more about the logic:

1. Middle income parents don't want children to fall down from the social ladder.

2. Education is still their best bet. Well you definitely have better tools but they don't have access to them (easily).

3. When everyone is competing for better education, it becomes an arms race, with people throwing in literally millions of bucks for

1) (学区房) Apartments that are in good school districts. The usual trick is to purchase a very small apartment (may still cost some 2-3 million USD in Beijing for example for a something like a 20 m^2 one). One recent policy (before this one) is to completely remove those districts and randomly pick schools for the kids (I think it's still based on geography but a larger one)

2) For-profit school (what this news is about). Parents are willing to pay good teachers some 150-200 USD per hour for these schools. Since most For-profit schools just hire the best teachers of the public schools this poses a couple of major issues: A) Teachers are inclined to make as little effort in public education as possible, and B) It poses a tremendous pressure on the parents and the kids, monetary and psychological. Some kids literally burn candle every day, 7/24.

Now you combine all these and no wonder those kids will NEVER want to give birth to their own kids and go over the hell again.

But I don't think these policies will work. The policy-makers are just cutting off the shaft and ignoring the arrow. You see, the competition is still there, and even more because parents have to figure out new ways to join the arms race, which guarantee that they will waste a lot of money trying new things. I figured the whole bureacratics probably received some order from high-up, maybe Xi himself, but chose to do lip service instead of spending real money.

One golden rule about government policy (to tell if it's real or not) is to see whether they are going to spend money on it.

This exact problem plagues India. The public education system is essentially irrelevant here. Teachers hardly make money, even in private schools are hence incentivised towards joining the after-school private coaching industry training highschool kids for hyperc-competitive college entrance exams which is where the real money lies given parents are blindly willing to spend fortunes for even a small chance their kids might do better. Everyone knows regular high-school hours are quickly becoming irrelevant in a country obsessed with entrance exam coaching. Even many schools are getting in on the action with "intergrated post-school coaching". Education has truly become a gigantic business in your country the day even Amazon wants to get in on the action & does.

I was brought up in rural environment and education was very less competitive untill I finished 12th. When I got into city into a private engineering college with much high fees and hostel cost, everything in education also felt rushed and sub-optimal.

Nobody has the incentive to teach properly. But until I entered the big college, the pretentiousness of 'heavy' education (which is basically making us grunt work because the professors are relatively very unskilled ) and associated stress was low.

And that's one of the "top" colleges of the state. Professors couldn't properly write a java program using threads or collections and had the audacity to tell us to write every program two times __on fucking paper__.

This country's education system is pretentious AF. The institutions are mostly incentivized to sell snake oil to rich urban parents. The urban parents are pushing their kids into a rat race.

Edit: sorry for venting out here.

I stayed in one of those integrated school/coaching centers. It was miserable. The sole purpose of the place was make us learn as much as possible for engineering exams in those 2 years and nothing else. Luckily I had some good teachers and learnt how to learn stuff on my own. So I'm not completely bitter about it.

One of those places in Hyd by any chance? That city is famous of this.

I think the real solution for both, India and China, is to reform how students are evaluated for entry to college. It seems lazy to block coaching-classes/edtechs when they are simply picking up the slack in public education, and taking advantage of an ecosystem that encourages them to thrive.

Any metric that becomes a target and all that.

The number of opportunities in both jobs and universities whose degrees are meaningful is far less than the number of people. And the consequences of not getting one of those opportunities is much bigger than say, in the US.

I think this could be solved by including randomization. E.g., if the top schools currently take the top 5% of students by test score, then they could instead consider the top 25% of students and select 20% of them through a lottery. In that case there is still value to performing well on the test, but you can't singularly focus on success through testing well.

Students and their parents would need to plan out a career path assuming they don't get into the best schools. They could still spend time and money on education and personal development, but it wouldn't be singularly directed at test prep. Instead, there'd be more focus on developing the foundational knowledge, critical thinking, and diligent habits that promote career success.

The societal benefits of maintaining fairness in opportunities to move up the economic ladder (speaking about India here) far outweighs other criteria. While one could argue that access to coaching institutes creates an unfair barrier on its own, in practice coaching institutes often teach good students of lesser means for free (because they can advertise their results and good results attract more students to coaching institutes).

These top colleges (in India) are literally a pathway to economic betterment of extended families as they're very affordable (lower income families essentially pay no fees), reasonably good and pretty much guarantee an upper middle class exit. I think introducing any shade of unfairness into this process even if it reflects underlying unfairness of life will damage soceital cohesion.

Source: studied in these colleges and know personally several classmates of very modest means whose extended families benefited from their success. Also personally know a few people in China who have equivalent stories.

The focus of those seeking to help kids is on completely the wrong things. The solution doesn't really lie in optimising the coaching exam system - sure it can be improved but the leverage of outcome is very low - but rather in the larger economy. We need more businesses, better regulation, sleeker government and policing system. This would do more to ease the pressure on kids and families than any regulation on the coaching industry would.

> We need more businesses, better regulation, sleeker government and policing system.

We need these things for good reasons, but the skill premium is here to stay. Both in the West and even more so (because differences are so vast, and redistributing incomes is not exactly feasible) in developing countries like China and India.

Came to suggest this. Has a variety of applications.

And as you point out, if it's all or nothing, or massively increasing returns then the people near the cutoff/bend in the curve fight like hell to stay on the right side of the line instead of rebalancing the incentives.

Basically turns education into a lottery where everyone spends lots of money to buy a lot of tickets because there's no sensible alternative. So appropriate that one of the solutions is to run an actual lottery that you can't buy more tickets for.

Banning tuition seems like a surprisingly far-sighted move, wonder what else they'll come up with and how it'll work out.

I disagree. Banning tuition is a very stupid move. All they did was to deprive poorer kids from accessing these facilities. The families of kids with resources are going to find a way to subvert the ban anyway.

You can always bribe yourself to a winning lottery ticket

It's hard to imagine an evaluation system that doesn't lead to the arms race, when there's a lot of competition for comparatively scarce positions. What's your idea?

We're seeing similar in the United States. Parents are expected to take on 6 figure debts to pay for their children's college education. If you don't have a college degree, with few exceptions your career is vocational. We could stop looking down on this alternative vocational path, and we could have a free public higher education system but there's too much money to be made in selling degrees and dreams.

No one is expected to take on 6 figure debts. There are plenty of public universities that can rival Ivies and many elite, private universities have extensive aid programs. You can complete an engineering degree in an in-state school for less than $30k debt after aid.

People still get on absurd levels of debt but there’s a large personal decision component there.

What you buy yourself is a contact network that you would not get at the public school.

I think that the 996 work culture will be the next domino to fall. Many ambitious Chinese "work" from 9am to 9pm, six days a week. It's "work" in the sense that 996 is well-padded with unproductive face time and phone time. Office buildings stay lit well into the night and young office workers barely have time to date let alone form families.

In the last two years, the popularity of foxi (buddha-like apathy) and more recently, tangping (lying flat and abandoning the rat race), show the degree of stress young people are under. Stressed out people are less likely to form families and have children. China needs more children.

Here's a video that discusses the rat race and potential effects: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDc8-lNSFR0

Maybe more children isn’t the answer. Not only for China. We’re pillaging the planets resources to the point where there will be nothing left for future generations unless we find a different economic model AND improve the efficiency of current technologies and methods.

The population has to decrease in a gradual and manageable way. In demographic collapse we cannot support retirees. Unless we have a totally different economic model, but then we would not be in this in the forst place.

China has terrible demographics right now. Their population will get old and their economic dominance will disappear. As a CCP politician you will have a big angry mob knocking at your door who believed that you were the one bringing them to prosperity.

But the problem is that if we in China weaken now, then others will benefit from the planet while we struggle in a long slow decline.

It's probably of our own making and not something foreigners do care about - but the problem today is how to make people comfortable at life enough to at least have 2 children, something that is the basis of a functionning society (meaning it can renew itself).

You can have less children if you want, but us I think we need this as a goal: we already do pretty much less than 1 per woman, so we already achieved your dream.

> But the problem is that if we in China weaken now, then others will benefit from the planet while we struggle in a long slow decline.

We all will struggle in a long, slow decline, given that the earth will be able to maintain fewer and fewer people in the century to come due catastrophes like global warming.

The "China cannot get weak because that leads to others prospering and we wouldn't want that" thinking is deeply flawed.

It's both highly flawed and highly logical. It's a major failing of the nation state model.

It's logical within a lose-lose mindset that most of the world hopefully abandoned in the 50s. It's what leads to wars.

Ah, no, the world has not abandoned that model, sadly. Relative dominance is as important as it ever was.

I think your analysis is great, but a better solution might be to just pay and consider teachers better.

Here's a data point: in France, after high school, we're put for two years into a "preparatory class" where we prepare during two years for engineering school entrance exams. Preparatory class selection occurs on high school achievements but don't matter at all: the teaching is roughly the same between the preparatory schools. And, teachers in preparatory schools are usually the best you can find: they're very well paid and hugely respected. Plus, they have to pass an exam where they are filtered on their teaching capabilities. In my two years there, I've had very good teachers. The curiculuum is very intensive. The normal workday is 8am-6pm of regular classes and extends until sleep for most students. It is rough, but long enough so that the only way to survive is to keep a healthy work-life balance. I didn't work a lot during holidays, slept for 9 hours every night and kept partying most weekends but still managed to get into France's second best engineering school. And, private teachers don't help much. The state already employs the best teachers you can find and there's so much school time that it would be hard to find time for private lessons. Furthermore, exams are made in a way that is very hard to game. I still think the best way to go into an elite engineering school is to be genuinely interested in engineering, maths and physics.

I'd love to read more about these prep schools. Have you a recommended link by any chance?

You might like the wikipedia page about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classe_pr%C3%A9paratoire_aux_g...

I'm more optimistic. I think it's going to work if simply because the ban on advertisement for tutoring.

Advertisement works and it opens up new market segments that previously are not interested in these things, and in a resource constrained environment (as in the admissions are more or less constant), it forces everyone to act. That and the almost complete bulldozing of the current tutoring infrastructure are going to leave that space blank for a good while - hopefully to some better childhoods at least in the near terms.

It's never about changing it for everyone, if it works on enough families, most families, or even some families, that were previously going to impose that insane tutoring on their kids, then it's worked in the right direction.

Personally, I think this obsession is illogical, a better major is a far better indicator of success than the differences in college a few points of Gaokao are going to make.

I really doubt. It's just going to either go underground or use other names as a facade. New players, old story. The competition is still there.

Well, depend on how serious the directive is, snitching are going to be very useful.

Kids will figure that one out quick.

> snitching

That is not a good thing to teach kids.

That is a major part of political education in some places?


Friend grew up behind the iron curtain, she said a key to govt power was to make people distrust each other by encouraging snitching.

Ever heard of 'See something, say something?'?

Yeah let's wait and see.

Second thought: Maybe it will work out, not because of the policies, but because the current generation that went through those arms race think it's enough and decide not to play the game a second time.

> current generation that went through those arms race think it's enough and decide not to play the game a second time.

it doesn't work this way, because if an action gives you an advantage over your competition, that action will be taken, and only those who don't take that action suffers. Thus, everyone takes action and leads to this arms race.

It is so for advertising for companies. it's the same for private tutoring.

I wonder what the "elite" will do, including the people in high ranking government positions. Although I guess their kids will get jobs through nepotism.

Imagine if they sent their kids to study overseas, exposing them to ideas of western liberal democracies (the idealistic ones, not the bastardized implementations)...

Yeah so we are going back to square one.

It honestly gets so crazy that my nephew has only 6 hours of sleep on Saturday.

And the way those online education companies are advertising should be simply illegal. Usually advertisements should bring positivity, showcasing the benefits of the products. But in this case, they broadcasting negativity and anxiety to parents, blatantly sending the message that if they don't sign up the courses, their kids would be left behind and have no future. And ofc, they would be happily using the collected money to create more demand, namely even more anxiety.

What those education commolergqates are doing is to drain resources from public service, and reprice them on private market. CCP is playing CCP here, but this crackdown is objectively a good thing for everyone, except the investors.

>1) (学区房) Apartments that are in good school districts. The usual trick is to purchase a very small apartment (may still cost some 2-3 million USD in Beijing for example for a something like a 20 m^2 one). One recent policy (before this one) is to completely remove those districts and randomly pick schools for the kids (I think it's still based on geography but a larger one)

Just to add some flavour to this, recently a celebrity on a reality TV show complained that 650 RMB (~100USD) per day isn't even enough money to eat and was lampooned on social media for being out of touch with money.

Meanwhile parents in the school rat race are forking out millions of USD in Beijing to try outmanoeuvre each other. That's how BIG education is in china

Wow I was about to ask the reason why Chinese government is doing this. Thanks for giving us such detailed answer and context

Thanks for the nuanced view.

While I'm sure these measures do some good overall, I hope this doesn't escalate the chinese education system into cultivating a bubble of thought similar to colonial era china. Eventually, they should let the kids be exposed to the thoughts of the wider world when they are of age.

I think the goal is to put more educational resources into public systems a.k.a. a more equal world. But the competition is there so unless they decide to tickle that one (gonna take a lot more than a few policies) no policy is gonna work.

This has to do with the lack of economic mobility. When 100 million poor families try to their get kids to 500,000 spots in top schools, this is an expected result. The 'how' of getting to these spots varies: test prep (in China and India); well-rounded ness, volunteering in Africa, exotic sports, (for kids in the US); etc.

When one path is made harder, the problem (of poor people trying to move up the economic ladder) does not disappear.

Couldn’t they fix this problem by instead attacking the gaokao and credentialism inhiring? The whole reason people tiger their kids into oblivion with tutoring is to score better on the gaokao because it’s a make or break for many poorer families if your kid gets into a top tier school.

All they seem to have done is push this underground. Are the parents who spend so much money on tutoring going to stop? No, I feel it’ll just become more of an informal cash business hiring people over DMs, etc because all of the hyperconpetitive pressures with respect to getting into a top ranked school have not disappeared.

> Couldn’t they fix this problem by instead attacking the gaokao and credentialism inhiring?

Public examination systems similar to the gaokao are a very old Chinese tradition, so I don't think they're going to do this. It's a matter of national pride to keep such links to China's glorious past in place.

Yours is a positive take; mine is much more pessimistic. Now, companies that tutor students will have to register as non-profits and won’t be able to raise money or receive investment from foreign companies. It is this last bit that really drives this policy. Banning foreign influence in tutoring is in line with Xi's continuing desire to monitor and control all aspects of thought and influence. Bloomberg reports that "all foreign tutors and foreign curriculum will also be banned."

This makes more sense to me. It's very cheap to enforce too.

After having been in China for a while, I realize policies there, when enforced, often don't directly target the population. Instead, they always target organisations and businesses. And let them shape the ecosystems people are in.

This is a more efficient way of eroding the (economic and political) power of the masses.

Meanwhile, the affluent and well-connected would always find a way out, either to study in Singapore or attend Harvard.

Does that mean foreign English teachers in China just lost their jobs?

That's a lot of the buzz in TEFL communities I've seen. Not sure if it's true, but the panic is definitely there.

With the rising xenophobia in China, I wouldn't advise people to do TEFL there anyways.

They were pretty much under high pressure already. Lot of them returned home. I guess now they have no other options and return.

To be fair, banning for-profit school hurts the tax from these corporations since they cannot make profit from this. That's the goverment cost of the policy.

> The policy-makers are just cutting off the shaft and ignoring the arrow.

OT: That’s a super analogy. Is it colloquial in China?

Regarding the apartments in good school districts, how many of these exist? Are the prices this high due to these neighbourhoods being very elite/limited in supply or has Beijing property market gone crazy?

China has the opposite problem of the US: too much pressure on kids in school. Elementary school student have hours of homework every day. They have to learn competitive maths and brain teasers in the tutoring schools too. Ironically, all their effort is in vain because all the tricks they learn in elementary school will be useless once they grasp high school math. The reason is simple: 50% of the middle school students won't pass the high school entrance exam and therefore have to go to vocational schools. Therefore, parents try every way possible to send their kids to elite middle schools so they can get the best training by the best teachers.

There is also a secondary reason: Chinese high schools teach too little. For instance, high school maths do not cover calculus or linear algebra. In the meantime, only 50% or so high school students could get into university, and about 1% will get into the elite ones (search 985 universities, if you will). Naturally, problems in the National College Entrance Exam become tricky instead of deep. To be honest, they are not that tricky for mathematically inclined, but they are tricky enough for the general public. As a result, students go to tutoring schools to learn how to solve all kinds of hard problems, which again, are not hard any more if they learn more advanced concepts in college. Case in point, the most challenging problems are usually about analytical geometry, which US does not even teach because calculus and linear algebra render this 19th-century subject in a way obsolete.

I also heard that the big after-school companies are discussing acquiring the US companies to survive. I really wish they can't. I love AOPS and RSM for their passion and their focus on fundamentals. I'd hate to see those companies turn into the soulless TAL, and teach students to memorize all kinds of patterns. Case in point, below is how TAL teaches elementary students to solve problems:

Bob and Alice have 10 candies in total, and Bob has 2 more candies than Alice. How many candies do Bob and Alice each have?

TAL's solution: this is called addition-subtraction problem. Add the two numbers and divide the sum by two, you get the bigger value for Bob. Subtract the difference from the total and then divide the result by two, and you get the smaller value for Alice. No mention of why. No mention of underlying intuition. No mention of any mathematical concepts. This is the most abhorrent teaching I've ever seen.

However, if you were to memorize that solution, you can get really fast and accurate with relatively little actual math ability. I believe that method probably will have the greatest increase in test scores for the lowest common denominator. It really is quite abhorrent though.

Sounds like what China really needs, then, is a new approach to testing that manages to distinguish deep understanding of the underlying concepts from mechanistic/formulaic memorization.

(Tangent: Has anyone yet tried to prompt GPT3 to generate "deep" word problems?)

On the other hand if you're a US nationalist interested in your team succeeding against the Chinese team this is excellent news.

They're doing "educate well enough to do the paperwork of our businesses" better than the US.

Genuinely curious on what their proposed solution is if they have 10 candies in total and Alice has 3 candies more than Bob.

10+3 / 2 = 6.5 candies for Alice.

10-3 / 2 = 3.5 candies for Bob.

You may think that's a strange solution, but it's the only one that matches the problem statement. What was your solution?

Well first of all I am not a mathematician, but I enjoyed assimilating the basic principles of math.

Considering the problem as follows: "Bob and Alice have 10 candies in total, and Bob has 2 more candies than Alice. How many candies do Bob and Alice each have?"

My own solution would be to just define the variables as follows: Bob = Alice + 2; Bob + Alice = 10; 2xAlice + 2 = 10; Alice = (has) 4 candies; Bob = (has) 6 candies.

Adjusting the problem with an odd difference instead of an even number we have: "Bob and Alice have 10 candies in total, and Bob has 3 more candies than Alice. How many candies do Bob and Alice each have?" Bob = Alice + 3; 2xAlice + 3 = 10; Alice = (has) 3.5 candies; Bob = (has) 6.5 candies.

I find my solution to be easier to understand and somehow more logical than "let's add/substract this and that and divide by two". Probably my main issue was explaining to a kid how having 3.5 and 6.5 candies works seeing candies I known all my life are basically unbreakable (unless you have a kid's teeths which is known to be able to devour metal).

As an anecdote I recently dated a lady who has a teenage daughter and she showed me the math exams her youngling has been taking. Having never been one to withdraw from a challenge, even mildly implied, I printed the things and started working on them only to be horrified how much I've forgotten in terms of elementary mathematics. I genuinely felt shame even though I scored a decent number (but nothing to write home about).

I feel we're failing our children in how we're pumping them with information but without always teaching them how to learn and that makes me really sad :(

What's a TAL?

A tutoring company. It’s stock ticker is TAL.

I'm sure it varies by region but there's already a form of degree specialization in high school - you can choose between focusing on liberal arts vs. science/engineering, and the liberal arts kids basically don't do any more math. College is even worse, you can go the whole four years without doing any math.

Another difference between China and the US is the philosophy towards achievement. The US tends to bias resources towards underachievers, whereas China tends to just give up on them and focus on the overachievers. So again there's pressure to compete, because as soon as you fall behind you'll just be at a further disadvantage because nobody is trying to help you (unless you pay them).

Honestly, the end result is kind of the same in both scenarios - the best and brightest (strongly correlated with wealth) go to elite universities, with the occasional feel-good story about rural kids making it in. They're pretty much set for life, while everyone else is stuck with a useless degree. Although many menial jobs won't hire you unless you have a degree, so it's good for that.

That bias might explain why there's no gifted schools / class-years in smaller school districts which add still large enough to have several schools.

Where are you getting that 50% don’t pass the high school entrance exam? It’s not pass-fail. Which high school you get accepted to is based on your relative score, yes, but I haven’t heard anything like that 50% number going to vocational schools. Many students with lower scores end up going to private high schools.

And I’ve never heard that high schools don’t teach calculus. The Chinese people I know who went to the US in later high school years and for college all found that the calculus classes were repetitive for them.

The news is everywhere: https://www.google.com/search?q=%E5%88%9D%E5%8D%87%E9%AB%98+..., for a long time.

About calculus: https://www.gaokzx.com/c/201901/33164.html

Using the elite students from private schools who you know as a counter argument is really not that strong. Only 14% of the high school students are in private schools.

Also consider that Chinese people who study abroad are paying the full sticker price of a US university, so it's really not any sort of representative sample of Chinese education. Hell, paying full sticker price for a US education is a tough lift for most Americans, who have higher standard of living.

A lot of Chinese students paying for full priced universities abroad is a long term strategic move by the family and/or family owned business backing them. That's why you can often see families paying for $50,000 USD/year high school abroad even. The plan is 1. start to develop a foothold overseas, 2. then move money over, 3. then get one family member with a foreign passport and 4. keep building a stronger base for emigration and large scale eventual shift of wealth. It's not equivalent to US private middle-class citizens paying for the same institutions.

> The news is everywhere: https://www.google.com/search?q=%E5%88%9D%E5%8D%87%E9%AB%98+... , for a long time.

The top results (for me) all say that it's not literally correct that only 50% of middle school students make it to high school, but most (suspiciously) only mention numbers for Beijing. https://zhuanlan.zhihu.com/p/368135272 has a table covering every province, showing that the rate goes from 53.11% in Henan to 70.49% in Heilongjiang.

First of all, not everything is an "argument." How about a discussion? I'm not interested in an argument.

It's interesting that there's no calculus on the gaokao. It's an elective in high school (same as the US). I wouldn't have guessed that. However, some very basic linear algebra does seem to be in the compulsory high school math curriculum(1). More than I learned in high school in the US, anyways.

Also, generally the private schools are considered worse options. The elite students with the highest middle school test scores mostly go to public high schools. Maybe students at the private high schools are more likely to go overseas, and so they are more likely to take the calculus electives. But even among the private school students, only a small percentage will go overseas.

For the vocational school thing, I had no idea it was so extensive. Very interesting. I knew about sports high schools, where most of the graduates go on to teacher colleges and become PE teachers. What other kinds of vocational high schools are there? How does it work for smaller cities - how many special types of vocational school can they really support?

(1) https://baike.baidu.com/item/%E9%AB%98%E4%B8%AD%E6%95%B0%E5%...

My bad. By argument I meant “ a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong.”, as in you have a point, and offers a number of arguments to support the point

I knew what you meant. A better way for me to put it would have been: "I wasn't making a counter argument, just telling you my current understanding and the reasons for it." To me there's a big difference in attitude. I'm not sitting here coming up with a perfect counter-argument, both because I don't want to put that much effort in and because I don't think it's an effective way to learn.

High school isn’t compulsory in China. Many students don’t even sit for the exams, they are already going to start work or go to a vocational school depending on their means.

My wife took the art/liberal arts track in high school and most definitely didn’t learn calculus (she still got into one of the best arts academies, though). So at least on that track, you won’t learn calculus (you generally take the same classes together, unlike the USA). I’m not sure about the STEM track, but my bet is first tier Shanghai and Beijing would be way different from a tier 88 like Chenzhou. I also can’t imagine kids at a school like renmin zhongxue not learning calculus, and that’s just a middle school.

So is the arts track an example of the vocational schools hintymad is talking about? Or is it just a different track at the same high school? Another thing I don't understand - he's saying 50% of kids go to vocational schools, and also 50% of students go to college. But there are also vocational colleges, right? Teacher's college, hospitality college, sports college, etc.

No. The liberal arts high school kids still go to university (think lawyers, political scientists, literature majors, and designers). The vocational student kids aren’t going to high school at all usually. Like I said, high school isn’t compulsory in China, I think they are at about 40% or so kids attending high school at the moment, up to 50% already would be surprising.

Teacher schools (normal universities) require high school. I’m not sure about tourist or sports schools. But the tourist college I visited (in Zhangjiajie) seemed more like a college than the vocational schools I’ve seen. I didn’t ask, though. I assume Beijing Sports university is a real university, but I’m not sure about the other more provincial ones.

A data point: I was raised up in a tier 2/3 city in northern China, finished high school at about 2013. I'm not exposed to calculus or linear algebra at all while in high school.

OTOH, friends of same age who were in Shanghai did get exposed to linear algebra.

"Ailun" is right.

I'm not sure where the original commenter is at in China where 50% are not going to high school. "Ailun" is also right about the private school thing. It's big in China. Finally, the idea that Chinese students are not learning calculus is patent nonsense.

This was 20 years ago, but my wife went to a public school in China and never learned calculus or linear algebra (and had only the faintest grasp of trigonometry).

Are the majority of public students, in the year the commenter specified, not accurate...?

> problems in the National College Entrance Exam become tricky instead of deep

I assume that is because entrance exams are forced not to cover material outside the national high school subjects?

Brazil’s hardest entrance exams (ITA and IME) are not bound in any way, so they go arbitrarily deep.

Yes, you're right. There's a national syllabus.

In Québec we learn analytical geometry, it was actually tremendously helpful for me to excel at Calculus and Linear Algebra. I don't really think it's obsolete.

I have always wondered about the causes behind Québec's anormaly high PISA score in mathematic¹ and I think that your annecdote is probably highlighting of of them.

1- Table 1 and 2 of that document: https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/math-per...

Calculus (Derivative and definite integral) is taught in some areas, It's elective 2-2. It does not involve Limit although number sequence is taught.

My province, the NCEE had Calculus, linear algebra and inequality and it's choose two from three.

Students tend to choose this (if it's availble in that area) because it's generally easy. And if you're like me, not good at computing numbers, you would choose inequality (mean inequality and Cauchy's Inequality in most cases) as you only need to do some transformation to the problem. Some students will do matrix if they cannot solve this quick enough.

These were my experience, I do heard that recent education revolution was moving inequality to compulsory but removed Cauchy and so on.

BTW, I don't understand how analytical geometry can be replaced by calculus and linear algebra.

> Case in point, the most challenging problems are usually about analytical geometry, which US does not even teach because calculus and linear algebra render this 19th-century subject in a way obsolete.

I looked up analytic geometry on Wiki and it looks like stuff that would definitely be taught in the U.S. Usually in the weirdly named "precalculus" course, though some of it would even be covered in previous courses.

I see decent bit of parallels with such cram schools and Leetcoding for FAANG applications.

I just completed a final interview round for Google and went through 300+ problems on LC. It improved my test taking ability a lot, but in the actual job will be completely useless. Similar to the Chinese children, this artificial testing is getting more and more competitive.

Just wanted to bring it up.

That's why many entrance exams across the world have become tougher over the time, as more and more test prep companies have become accessible to the majority of test takers.

In my experience, doing leetcode to such an extent is in general useless for job searches. Companies are not stupid, and your ability in solving the technical problem is only a very small part of the interview rubric. I’ve done 5, maybe 10 leetcode problems and never had an issue interviewing.

Having been on several different company hiring boards and reviewed literally thousands of interviewer feedback posts, let me assure you that interviewers happily ask leetcode questions: even when they've been told expressly not to ask leetcode questions by their company.

The fact is that most software engineers just don't think interviewing is an important part of their job, so there's no impetuous to improve. They were probably asked leetcode questions when _they_ were interviewed, so that's the established norm.

Leetcode questions also have well defined paths for success. Coming up with your own untested question is not guaranteed to be as productive in the interview. And once you’ve developed and used your question enough to be tested, it’s up on leetcode anyways.

Goodhart’s law is unbreakable.

Counterpoint. My Google interview was entirely whiteboard leetcode problems. There wasn't a single non-technical aspect of the whole interview.

Same for Amazon- hours of it. That was the last time I went to an interview without first asking about the interview format. Had I known what I was walking into, I would have laughed at them and turned the interview down.

In fact, I did exactly that to a company somewhat recently (small fish pretending to be FAANG rockstars) though without the laughing bit.

Lucky. I found the culture fit and architecture interview rounds to be the most difficult.

It may be only a very small part but not knowing how to invert a binary tree may well knock you out of the process. The process is designed to cull as many people as possible as early in the process as possible. It is accepted they might miss a few good people but it is more important that don't hire a bad one.

You don’t need leetcode to know how to invert a binary tree. You need solid foundation on algorithm and data structure, both of which are still relevant today.

I find it funny how inverting a binary tree is used as an example of a bad leetcode problem. This problem seems more like a fizzbuzz test, anyone who knows recursion should be able to solve it on their own.

There’s a difference between being able to solve the problem given some thought, and being able to answer and program 2-3 of these problems in 45 minutes. The latter is what Facebook expects.

No idea about 'bad', but https://duckduckgo.com/?q=invert+binary+tree turns up nothing but interview prep sites.

But your slow reasoning and problem solving approach will be compared to another candidate's fast and savvy 'I've memorised this already' approach.

I don't know a single person across my org that will ever have to invert a binary tree. It's a hilarious problem that helps people who know it's a kind of problem asked, and hurts those who walk into it blind.

I think the point of fizzbuzz & inverting binary trees type of questions is to filter out people having issues solving them blind

I should have put a smiley after the bit about inverting a binary tree. :) It is a common joke. The rest is true though.

> Companies are not stupid, and your ability in solving the technical problem is only a very small part of the interview rubric.

I've not interviewed at a single company in the bay area where this is true.

It’s maybe a small part but the first part—-the technical phone screwn. Maybe I’m in the minority but I don’t write semi obscure algorithms for my day job so I need explicit prep for TPS.

There are a lot of top paying jobs (e.g. FB) that you would never get into without LC grinding.

Been there as well. Once you are in, social skills and deeply understanding company/team culture is of vital importance and requires much less effort.

Basically why you see many Chinese engineers at FAANG who don't have CS or Engineering background. They are so used to memorize LC type of questions.

Korea has been going through a very similar struggle regarding its cram schools, with regulations on maximum fees, allowed times etc being imposed, and both parents and cram schools developing elaborate subterfuges to work around them:


Until the underlying incentives (= having a single exam basically decide your life) are fixed, this move in China seems equally likely to be ineffective.

Is China doing anything so that it's worthwhile for students to learn practical skills rather than focus on getting into a college?

It's harder to get society to value college degrees less, but I don't see much changing unless there are many stable, low/medium-risk business opportunities available to those with degrees from lower-ranked schools.

It feels like they are just addressing a symptom, and not trying to tackle the larger issue...so I'm curious why they would do that

You have to understand the mindset of Chinese.

Although a few decades into the industrial society and with the purge of traditional mindsets during the Cultural Revolution, they are not easy to be removed.

The old saying is 万般只有读书高, which basically translates to "Read books and pass your exams and you are going to have a bright future". This reflects the fact that ancient Chinese needed to pass some state exams to be selected as officials. In ancient Chinese (and today still in some parts of China), being "in the bureaucratic system" is the best thing.

Practically skills were looked down (I actually think it was a lot better back in the 50s~80s when people with practical skills were more or less not looked down, but things started to come back in recent decades), Merchants were looked down (but nowadays they enjoy higher status thanks to Capitalism). As a matter of fact, schools that teach practical skills (技校) are looked down and it's a lot easier to get into than the universities.

It's definitely not black and white nowadays (after all we went through a few revolutions in the last century), but the mindset is still there IMHO. It's just buried deep. I'd actually argue that the same mindset can be found in American parents too (Do you want to do X in the future like BoB?)

You are 100% right about just addressing the symptom and that's the what Humphreys do best.

It's not just a mindset that has been passed on but a mindset that is caused by circumstance.

I used to teach in China and one of the things I noticed that doesn't get attention is the impact of the one-child policy on that one child. You had a largely socialist system that turned largely capitalist so you have all these parents nearing the end of their careers without much to show for it (because they grew up in a largely socialist system) and their main shot at a better life is a single child that they expect to support them beyond what the state provides as they age. This is a recipe for a ridiculous amount of pressure parents put on their single child, and that single child is aware that they have the future burden of supporting two parents in the future. It was really enlightening to witness these consequences first hand.

>I used to teach in China and one of the things I noticed that doesn't get attention is the impact of the one-child policy on that one child.

Actually a lot of people noticed because the previous generation usually have a lot of siblings, like 3-4 are not uncommon.

Agree with you on the other points. The one-child policy is controversial but TBH I'm not in the position to shed more light on this policy. Back then people seemed to be really worried about over-population and others.

I'm not sure how this is going to play out. Population estimation seems to be pretty difficult to do it correctly because there are so many variables. But we will see.

“ Once regarded as a sure-fire way for aspiring children (and parents) to get ahead, after-school tutoring is now viewed as an impediment to one of Xi Jinping’s top priorities: boosting a declining birth rate.”

At first I thought this was the typical “let’s be equal by slowing down over-achievers,” as we see this more and more in the west as well.

It’s crazy to me that this ‘after school study’ was identified as a major reason for declining birth rates, as if decades of policy and the ensuing culture could turn on a dime and the government could ramp womb production by 250% from the party offices.

> It’s crazy to me that this ‘after school study’ was identified as a major reason for declining birth rates, as if decades of policy and the ensuing culture could turn on a dime and the government could ramp womb production by 250% from the party offices.

It is again another example of superficial interpretation of what's happening in China.

Benefits of for profit off school tutoring of core subjects like Chinese literature, math, English have been debated for a lot time in China by educators, academics and government officials. And there were study and theories that those tutoring have no link to actual academic benefits. There were such studies in China, Germany, Korea and many other countries.

For profit k-12 tutoring companies have been using all means to drive up parents' anxieties of fearing their children to be left behind if not to take the courses.

And because of fierce competitions, most smaller k-12 tutoring companies couldn't survive and they often make a big sales push to collect as much tuition, as much as tens of thousands of RMB per child before they close and run. It happened so many times that media lost interest in them.

Chinese government always plays heavy hands in market. This is no different. But the decision itself isn't as simple and sensational as to boost child birth.

It’s explicitly mentioned in their official document on population growth. See my comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27957141

Banning cram schools isn't going to slow down overachievers. If anything it will allow them to do something more creative with their limited time than repeat the same kind of problems with a slight twist time after time to never make a mistake and gain that extra 0.1% of time efficiency to increase the amount of time to verify their answers at the gaokao.

If you're opposed to banning this on an ideological ideal of freedom that's one thing I certainly empathize with, but I honestly think this will greatly benefit overachievers at the relative détriment of middling students.

An $100B sector purely to 'prepare' students for college entrance examination.

The admission numbers are not changing because of tutoring, so all of it was zero sum game waste. And a huge burden on parents and children themselves.

> The admission numbers are not changing because of tutoring

Why is that the only metric? Why not average learning level? Or the average interest in science? Or the number of grad school applicants?

I ask this because i have trouble seeing extra time spent in education as zero sum wastage.

Extra time spent in education isn't. Extra time spent to study for a particular test is.

The subjects are highschool level - it's half rote memorization and half trick math and physic questions that using calculus are going to make 1000% more easy but are not allowed because calculus are not a highschool subject.

It's a huge waste of resource and time.

> Extra time spent to study for a particular test is.

if those studying made the intelligence of said person higher, then it's not a waste. It might be inefficient (because there may be faster ways to raise intelligence than these sorts of studying), but it's strictly better than not studying.

Otherwise, by the same argument, people going to the gym and "wasting" their time doing body building or training when they're not professional athletes are wasting their time.

Except bodybuilding produce meaningful results, and if everyone go to gym the whole society would become healthier.

Everyone can cram the test and that's not going to create more college admissions. Nor does it 'raise intelligence', it just flat out don't.

> if everyone go to gym the whole society would become healthier.

going to the gym for exercise vs bodybuilding is different. I'm specifically talking about people doing bodybuilding or training for specific purpose without being a professional athlete, rather than regular exercise.

You're just asserting that one thing has benefits, while denying another thing has any benefits. All i'm saying is that your cultural bias is clouding your judgement because studying for tests is the same as bodybuilding - the person chose to do it, therefore it has benefits for themselves. And how do you know studying for tests don't raise intelligence? you at least get more knowledge.

Memory is foundational the thinking. Rote memorization is often necessary to achieve a certain level of cognition. It frees up space for more interesting thinking. Not sure why this form of education would be a problemz

Gaokao tests are mostly fixed subjects. Therefore tutoring focus on how to answer and solve questions that ultimately drive from some common knowledge.

It's like to learn how to describe the same thing with many different methods.

Sure, it's not entirely a waste time that the tutoring can teach some interesting aspects. But at the end of the day, it does not teach anything that was not already covered in the school teaching.

And we all know that Chinese students in US tend to limit their thinking in narrow scope. Then why not let the students to absorb non curriculum staff outside of the class, therefore eliminating most of the tutoring.

The courses are not on sale to bring your interests on science, that should be the purpose for public compulsory education, which I think is doing what it is intended before the cram schools took up.

The cram school is being evaluated by one metric and one metric only: how much boost can it offer to the kids' test score.

> Once regarded as a sure-fire way for aspiring children (and parents) to get ahead, after-school tutoring is now viewed as an impediment to one of Xi Jinping’s top priorities: boosting a declining birth rate.

I'd like to know where this explanation is coming from. Is that something that the CCP actually stated somewhere, or is the the author assuming?

The official release does mention reducing anxiety and costs for parents, and you can see how the birth rate goal makes sense, but it does seem to be more about student welfare. At least, the release doesn’t mention the birth rate that I can see, but I wouldn’t really expect it to.

Link in Chinese: https://tinyurl.com/5nu8kebn

It’s mentioned in another document. See my comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27957141

In their official document on population growth [0], their policies include “将学生参加课外培训频次、费用等情况纳入教育督导体系。平衡家庭和学校教育负担,严格规范校外培训”.

(We will monitor the frequencies and fees of extracurricular tutoring for students. In order to balance the educational cost on families and schools, we will strictly govern out-of-school tutoring.)

[0] http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/2021-07/20/content_5626190.htm

The reasons for the private tutoring curb do seem to be somewhat legitimate. So:

Declining birth rate is definitely a major metric that the Chinese government is secretly watching closely. There are reports that Beijing is hiding all birth rates by region https://www.reddit.com/r/China/comments/mritl5/breaking_xinj.... Also, Nikkei reports that newborns are down 18% y/y https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/China-s-population-growth-sl.... And the recent government relaxation to 3 kids have been mocked by the netizens in China as pointless. IMO, China will not be able to reduce falling birth rate with any government policies, since most families have been indoctrinated with 1-child policy for decades.

Attack on private tech companies The attacks on Alibaba, Tencent, Didi and others are two fold: to reduce individuals power within the CCP controlled economy, and to remove their potential to list abroad so as to reduce capital outflow. The trend is for these Chinese tech companies to weaken in the upcoming decades.

Something that wasn't mentioned in the article, but warrants a strong mention. Reduce free thinkings. The Chinese government have been introducing mao-era communist party thinkings into public schools. (or brainwash, whichever). The shutting down of private schools will enable the public schools to exert even more power on the kids. This is also in line with the Chinese government shutting down mosques and churches in recent times.

Also something else bears mentioning in the context of this: Chinese government is actively reducing the number of uyghur births. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57383548.

Wouldn't Chinese companies listing in New York improve capital flow to China? Presumably listing in a foreign country would draw more investment from that country for that company.

Stock market moves money net out of the corporate sector. The deal is, after all, IPO money now, dividends and buybacks forever.


tl;dr Once the U.S. listing is successful, the investor's return is in U.S. dollars. If funds return to China, they will enjoy various preferential treatments for overseas capital. Of course, it is also possible not to return to China and to be divided among the bigwigs hidden in investment institutions. Therefore, overseas listing for cash is an important way of capital outflow.

Incidently, the recent bitcoin shutdown by the Chinese government is also partly due to capital outflow concerns

Am I missing something obvious? How does after school study have any connection with birth rates? Is it something along the lines of "a less educated population is more likely to have more children"?

It contributes to the perceived expense and pressure of having a kid. Having kids in Chinese cities is really expensive due to all the extras parents are supposed to provide them with, the government is trying to eliminate those extras.

It's crucial to mention the recent "lying flat" movement along with this idea.

"The “lying flat” movement was jumpstarted in April when a post on Baidu titled “Lying Flat Is Justice” went viral on the platform. A manifesto of renunciation, the post shared the author’s lessons from two years of joblessness. The extraordinary stresses of contemporary life, the author concluded, were unnecessary, the product of the old-fashioned mindset of the previous generation. It was possible, even desirable, he argued, to find independence in resignation: “I can be like Diogenes, who sleeps in his own barrel taking in the sun.” Discussions about “lying flat” picked up pace in May, as young Chinese, over-worked and over-stressed, weighed the merits of relinquishing ambition, spurning effort, and refusing to bear hardship."

The TLDR is that younger Chinese are burned out the with idea of working themselves to death at a chance for success, and as has happened with many first world countries, the cost of what is deemed success (homes, children) is too damn high.








Lying flat is not related to tutoring directly.

Of cuz, one can say that tutoring crams the students so that they are dilussioned of the value of education and further the societal doctrine.

But it simply is not a good reasoning...

Lying flat is a symptom, as is for profit tutoring and the Chinese government banning it. The root cause is the culture [1] [2] and socioeconomic conditions [3] [4].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/996_working_hour_system

[2] https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/RAMJ-03-...

[3] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-05-17/china-s-h...

[4] https://www.reuters.com/world/china/cost-having-child-china-...

The description of “students joining Lying Flat Movement” sounds very like symptoms of burnout so I think it is fully related.

Sure, among 10s of millions of students, you can find such instances. News reporting are always focus on outliers, exceptional, and plain attention grabbing cases.

I just talked to my friends back in China, they don't say anything about students being part of the movement.

What I’m saying is I don’t think it’s a “movement” as in some conspired extremist movement. If it was a movement the Chinese population is also suffering a “Mass Sleep Movement” every 8PM to 6AM.

Burnout from stressful non-physical office works is a well established concept, though not yet widely agreed to also happen on kids.

Basically if you keep a person in an office to attend meetings and conferences for 12 hours a day for 5-10 years, some functions of the brain ends its life and the person won’t be able to take on certain tasks. That’s what it is IMO.

It's about costs, it is very expensive to attend those private classes. And if other kids are doing it, some parents may have to do it as well. From the stories, the gov't may provide some mooc-like platform for students to learn more subjects.

Like many developed countries have done, birth rates boosting is often hard to achieve.

There is a limited amount of entries to top universities. This kind of tutoring is thus a zero sum game for competition for limited college spots.

Therefore, by cracking down on this industry, there is a chance to actually reduce the cost of raising a child, which is the main impediment to natality.

Sounds plausible. More educated people have less time for children, and they don't need children so much to take care of them later in life. But what this really sounds to me is that Chinese government is afraid of people getting smart and saying screw this totalitarianism.

Cramming exam questions for 3 hours a night will not raise your standard of education, nor will it lead you to question authority.

I think the other posters are right; it's an added expense for parents and a zero sum game. It's in nobody's interest to allow this to continue.

How is it a zero-sum game? When one person learns more it does not mean others will learn less. The opposite is true, the person who learns can then teach others.

The government should be able to provide enough education to anyone who needs it. But to do that they need many teachers. Somebody must educate the teachers. More learning overall grows the intellectual capacity of the whole nation, it is not a zero-sum game.

I seriously think this is about Chinese Government not wanting its population to be educated in Western values.

I think you're still misunderstanding how the private tuition works.

The students at these "academies" are not being given a robust education in mathematics, science, philosophy or the languages - let alone Western values.

They are rote-learning an extremely narrow type of problem that appears on the gaokao (university entrance exam) - literally hundreds of the same type of exam questions over and over in order to gain an advantage over their peers (hence the "zero-sum" comment).

This comes at the expense of their mental health as well as other, more enriching (and idealogically dangerous!) activities such as socialising with their friends, helping their family with household duties or engaging in rich discussions online.

You could draw a long bow and argue that this stabilises the CCP's power by reducing the drive to protest of angry students who have not been accepted into the universities of their choice, but it has nothing to do with suppressing education or intellectual value.

> They are rote-learning an extremely narrow type of problem that appears on the gaokao (university entrance exam) - literally hundreds of the same type of exam questions over and over in order to gain an advantage over their peers (hence the "zero-sum" comment).

Sounds like the problem is with the gatekeeping exam and limited amount of good quality universities(aka money problem).

How does banning a practice reduce students stress? They still have to compete in order to get into these limited seat universities with the same exam that you say are easily game-able.

I highly doubt people will just ignore a path that exists that can get them there, so we will have to wait and see what happens with the parents' economic stress.

They have to compete, but competition will almost certainly be lower across the board if people can't go to cram schools. It's not going to fix anything, sure, but it should help.

Do you mean that Chinese education must involve Western values? For example, is logical reasoning a Western value, and the Chinese government cannot exist if their citizens think logically? Maybe freedom is something that is universally desired by all humans, and the Chinese don't know that.

I'd actually guess that a ban on for-profit tutoring is a larger risk for the CCP. Students spending their time unsupervised could lead to more "unwanted though" than students spending their time memorizing and reasoning around well-vetted facts about how governments work or about the history of Confucianism.

From what I gather, it's cramming, not learning, and at the expense of the learning that can happen fortuitously. As a kid, I learned music, electronics, and programming outside of school, and developed an interest in the creative side of math. I did no test prep yet still got into a good college.

You're not actually learning anything there. I assure you, repeating the same problem with a slight variation for the 372nd time isn't doing anything to your ability to actual solve problems, it's just helping you get a higher score on the standardized test.

Which is a zero sum game.

Cram school is equivalent to memorizing every previous sat question ever that just a huge expense and time sink. Eliminating them will help propel China ahead while the USA falls further behind because kids and parents have to waste considerable effort cramming

I would then think the problem is not with the "cram-schools" but with the universities who accept students based on rote-learning.

The solution then would not be to forbid the cram-schools, but the universities which apply that kinds of bad acceptance criteria. No?

The classes getting shut down are equivalent to SAT prep schools, they make billions of dollars of money by fearmongering parents into purchasing more classes because their peers are buying more classes and thus their kids will be left behind in the university application race because their kids don't get as much practice as other kids. Kids in China are then forced to these cram schools after school for 4-5 hours and it becomes a neverending vicious cycle. Most importantly the kids targeted are junior to middle schoolers so it becomes ridiculous after a while piling on the work.

> Chinese government is afraid of people getting smart and saying screw this totalitarianism

You people can really spin anything China related to a conspiracy. The Cold War propaganda machine has worked really well. Get a grip.

I assure you, these kinds of schools where you repeat over and over the same math problems are not going to give you the perspective needed to consider a change of worldview which will make you reconsider your societal structure. They only grind you down and make you tired.

Educated != spend all your money and time on some math riddles (not even that useful for further higher math studies)

Pretty sure this is not the rationale behind this move, because those are very small links, if parents don't have money for cram school, they won't pay for it. It's more because cram schools culture in China and East Asia is a toxic, vicious cycle preying on young kids in junior to senior school by overburdening them with work so they can have an edge over their peers in university application exams and then grabbing money from the parents.

I'm not sure its a major reason as much so as even China isn't crazy enough to ban women from the workplace and substitute education with like bible study or something.

Lots of western nations that have a 20y head start on China for measures to boost the birth rate but not much success all around, so I wonder if it's gonna be any different.

I'm not even sure there is a solution.

Anecdotally, a lot of my friends either chose not to have kids even though they were financially able to do so, or 'only' had one kid later in life after they checked a bunch of life goals off their list. And of course there's a segment of friends who never found anyone to partner with.

Furthermore, it feels like the checklist in what people are looking for in a life partner is more complicated now than ever, which can increase the amount of time it takes for a person to find a partner to have a child with. I assume that's a good thing as it may reduce the likelihood of divorce by resulting in a more ideal match, but it potentially comes at a cost of spending TONS of time filtering via messaging, dates, etc. It took me a whopping five years before meeting someone online that actually felt like something with a real future.

On a more fundamental level, it's very understandable that many people look at the state of the world and their conclusion is not: "oh man one thing we definitely need is more people". It's not like we'll run out anytime soon.

If you really want to boost childbirths, give people some hope for tomorrow that we have any capacity to deal with the most immediate existential threats and that their children won't be hunting cockroaches in some Mad Max world.

That viewpoint seems odd considering the plagues, wars, brutal dictatorships of the past and the high birth rates at the time.

My unpopular opinion is a little boring. The common element is GDP-first economic management and everyone is cheating with inappropriately low interest rates. Instead of nations putting their people first, countries manage to this (inappropriate) metric and then imply that this benefits everyone. In this way China is following the same script as most Western nations.

Where I live the externalizations are going gangbusters, and I believe this to be true in most other places. Boomers are insanely rich with decent property portfolios (bought before the interest rate plunges, then used as leverage to borrow more and buy more after the plunge) and their children - even a lot of successful ones - can barely afford shoebox apartments with sticker prices fast approaching one million dollars. The stock market is long-term up despite their being no rational explanation - no significant increase in dividends - other than the large increase in money supply due to the cheap rate to borrow, not to mention all the other insane financial "instruments" invented after the official interest rate hit near zero (QE, emergency "loans" to the super rich that will likely never be repaid). Businesses are enjoying ridiculous valuations but yet complain about their staffing costs. The total absence of any real increase in the median salary. (I know here on HN we worship the overachiever with six-figure salaries at FAANGs that start with a number > 1 but it is sociopathic not to consider the life experience of average or "normal" people in our society. They are our neighbours after all.) Insane immigration levels in the presence of declining prosperity for citizens is another side-effect of an inflation-driven economy.

This explains why the birth rates are low in Western and prosperous Far East nations (China, Japan, Korea). And how the birth rates for newly arrived immigrants declines from that of their home country. The side-effect phenomena are strikingly similar.

Mao called religion poison and attributed it to slowing birth rates. I doubt the ccp is in any hurry to put religion back in China.

I don't understand the first part of your comment. Paid tutoring benefits the wealthy at the expense of students with natural ability who can't afford to pay. It distorts the value of achievement.

I agree that the connection between tutoring and birth rates is difficult to see.

What's the causative link here? That parents will have only one kid because they will put all their resources into that one child instead of having more kids if they didn't feel the need to put all resources in one kid?

I hope the trend of having fewer births in western countries reverses. We need more people if we want to fill the O'Neil cylinders.

This connection is certainly typical western stereotype of Xi. If something doesn't make sense, then it probably does not make sense to Mr. Xi either. By forcing laughable narrative to Mr Xi, the Western media achieve a form a detachment for the western people, which become convenient when the situation arises, for example, maybe one day we need to start a war against China, and it's certainly helpful that everyone not only think Mr. Xi is evil, he is also a ridiculously stupid fat moron!

It’s explicitly mentioned in their official document on population growth. See my comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27957141

There have been warning shots over the years, but I didn’t expect the Chinese government to act this strongly on tuition.

A couple of years ago I worked at a small education technology company. One of the things we did was help tuition companies hire native English speakers, mostly based in the US, who would teach English to Chinese kids via various online platforms.

At one point the Chinese government restricted how much money the tuition companies could demand upfront. (I believe some of them were making parents pay 6+ months tuition at a time.) Then there was a qualifications crackdown, with the government getting fussier about the qualifications held by the foreign tutors and talking about some kind of registration process.

At the time it seemed obvious that the government wanted tighter control over the tuition companies. But a total ban on that style of tuition (from non-Chinese tutors living outside China) is still a surprise.

you are right, the business could still make money, but it will be harder to grow to go public (in China). So it would be a grey area for a long time.

My wife teaches on VIPkid so this sucks:

“ Among other things, they also ban the teaching of foreign curriculums, tighten scrutiny over the import of textbooks and forbid the hiring of foreign teachers outside of China -- a curb that could have severe consequences for startups like VIPKid that specialize in overseas tutors. The government also ordered local authorities to tighten approvals for companies providing training on extra-curricul

Read more at: https://www.bloombergquint.com/markets/china-bans-school-cur... Copyright © BloombergQuint”

I don’t invest in Chinese stocks, but I follow a guy who does. His basket of Chinese education stocks plummeted something like 75% on Friday, I think. I guess this is why.

Pretty wild.

According to all the native Chinese I've spoken to, investing in the Chinese stock market is generally a bad idea. They say it is filled with scams, probably due to lack of regulation or corruption. The government's brazen ability to delete whole industries may be another deterrence though.

There's a difference between investing in the Chinese stock market vs investing in a Chinese company listed in the US stock market as an ADR. An ADR usually goes through more vetting - but that doesn't mean there are not scams. Luckin Coffee comes to mind...but in the US we also have Enron.

For a different (no doubt biased) perspective, see how Chinese companies listed on US stock exchanges are perceived by many US short sellers.

One sentiment I have heard from US short sellers is that if Chinese companies defraud US investors, Chinese market regulators don't care and US market regulators can't enforce anything even if they are forced to care. But if Chinese companies defraud domestic Chinese investors, then Chinese regulators may react strongly to take action against the offending companies or executives [1].

There are also complications with how Chinese firms listed on US stock exchanges are audited. Francine McKenna writes a lot about complications with audit (not specifically about ADRs) at her newsletter https://thedig.substack.com/

There are some interesting perspectives in the wolfpack research podcast -- esp e.g. episode 3 & episode 8: https://wolfpackresearch.com/podcast/

[1] there is an anecdote about one company that was selling shares to both US investors and their elderly Chinese employees without telling each group that shares in the company were also being sold to the other group, i.e. so both groups of investors were being lied to about the total amount of shares outstanding -- apparently one of the directors responsible for the fraud was taken out and shot.

Anything requiring advanced cooperation, especially from the gov, is doomed to fail in China, the system has no check and balance, anyone is looking to monetize their authority, the stock market literally was set up coz SOEs needed to offload their junk assets, it was not meant to be seriously policed from the very start.

You can invest in the Chinese stock market and make money, but it is generally by “following in the wake of whales”, who have the real inside information and connections to make the real money.

Also, China doesn’t tax capital gains, so the dynamics for making money are really different than in the states.

TAL, mentioned in the article, is listed in the US stock market, NYSE specifically.


It's going to be interesting to see the outcome of this in China. For-profit tutoring (and schooling) have been so prevalent in the US in the last decade and it would provide evidence on if curbing it would help students on a universal level. Please note that I am NOT saying that the US should ban it like China because that would be authoritarian obviously. I am thinking more along the lines of giving more equity to students who can't afford for-profit tutoring.

> Please note that I am NOT saying that the US should ban it like China because that would be authoritarian obviously

Wouldn't be so quick with that label. The German basic law plainly states "Preparatory schools shall remain abolished", with the straight forward justification that education is a universal human right, should be equally accessible to all, and there should be no privilege that funnels upper-class kids through the school system. (Which was the primary reason for the existence of the so-called Vorschule, before 1919).

Abolishing these kinds of systems and banning them seems honestly right to me and meritocratic.

I can see the point but I don't quite buy it.

A better way to decrease inequality would seem to me progressive taxation whose proceeds can be used to provide high-quality education to anybody who wants it and is capable of studying hard.

In market economy teaching is a commodity so those who are capable of providing better quality education should be rewarded for it. That should be regulated however, so we really know who is providing better quality education.

The problem with this kind of technocratic thinking is that your market economy education sector produces exactly the kind of elites who have literally zero interest in creating a system in which anyone else has the same resources as they have in the first place, because the unequal system that does exist helps them to reproduce their own class.

It's the same way when I follow discourse about "YIMBY-ism" in the US. People say "Gosh I love the market I just wish we had the right regulations", yet it's exactly the reliance on private-property value as an asset that makes it so homeowners want to restrict supply. And they have all the political power, so you'll never get the regulations.

Exactly this.

If this was done in the EU or the US everyone would be spinning it as being a boon for children, finally allowing them to live their best lives while they are young and equalising opportunity across the wealth spectrum. But because it's China it's "authoritarian".

Ah, it's really nice to read this sort of thing on HN. What an oasis.

The thing is that this is a zero-sum game.

These schools aren't providing education. It's not about actually improving yourself. It's about getting the highest possible score on the gaokao, nothing else at all.

If they were actually helping students further their education I'd agree with you.

I've been to these kinds of schools and I have friends who did for even longer, and they really, really suck. It doesn't help you in any way, I'd say it's a net negative in terms of education for most.

I don't think rich kids should be segregated. I think mixing up the people is more important than having some sort of educational marketplace.

I've gone to a lot of private school and I think it's terrible bfor society, and I bet my history teachers would agree.

This presumes that, with enough tax money, government can provide good education. San Francisco public schools spend ~$2k per class per day. (Based on $1.1bn budget, fewer than 60k students, and ~20 students per class.)

Is more money a sufficient answer? Or even part of the answer?

> Abolishing these kinds of systems and banning them seems honestly right to me and meritocratic.

It seems neither to me - it’s based on the false equating of school with education and it creates a totalitarian state monopoly on education.

Private education is a way for parents to retain control over the curriculum their children are exposed to and a way to give their children more/better options than the "one size fits all" low bar for education typically offered by public schooling. In America, I think increased school choice and the ability to spend tax vouchers wherever you want, choosing between many competing providers, is the inevitable future that the current incumbent system is trying to prevent. As for China, as an outsider, I can't help but look at these regulations as a way to wrangle control over education since education is a key tool of indoctrination for authoritarian governments. See this excerpt from the article:

> Among other things, they also ban the teaching of foreign curriculums, tighten scrutiny over the import of textbooks and forbid the hiring of foreign teachers outside of China -- a curb that could have severe consequences for startups like VIPKid that specialize in overseas tutors. The government also ordered local authorities to tighten approvals for companies providing training on extra-curriculum subjects.

A friend of mine tutors Chinese kids in English with VIPKid. It's kind of like Uber/gig work for tutors. You take the work as you have time for it. Some of them make decent side money doing this.

I once spent a couple of months teaching at a for-profit tutoring centre (not in China). These were 'review' classes teaching tips and tricks to help students do well on university entrance exams.

I felt dirty doing it as the only students who could afford to attend were from well-off families, and I felt that the (albeit probably small) edge gained by these students might mean someone else more deserving would not be offered a uni placement.

Doesn't this just ban for profit tutoring companies and make the system reliant on finding tutors by word of mouth?

This seems similar to universities eliminating the SAT.

They aren't doing away with competitive admissions so the reasons for doing it remain intact, just making the rules muddy, unclear, and only known by select people.

China is currently running out of blue-collar workers. All those one-child-kids have too support two aging parents, and that is only possible on a white-collar income. So nobody volunteers for factory work anymore. The party, hamfisted as it is, tried to force people back into the factories, by devaluing their degrees. Which then leads to - very reasonable protests- which are curbed in a unreasonable manner.


This lack of blue-collar workers, and this water-head of white-collar workers (which is west-typical) and the economic desperation it creates, is also a driving force behind the uighur forced-factory-labour camps.

I hope India regulates entities like Byjus. Every government should have khan-academy like videos made by the best teachers available to all citizens for free.

Check out NPTEL - it's Khan Academy, but by the government. Don't know about other streams, but for Engineering, it has IIT Professors teaching the lectures.

I have seen some Byju's math videos on YouTube. Honestly, they are fairly good quality and the teachers seem to be quite engaging. Of course, they are not complete courses - for that you probably need to sign up for Byju's.

As others have mentioned, after school coaching is a big thing in India. We had a teacher who would hardly show up for class and when he would, he would move ridiculously slow. By the end of the semester/year he wouldn't have completed even half of the syllabus. He had a coaching class that was popular among students from our school and he would have them pitch the class to other students. It was also pretty common for students of his coaching class to know what to focus on and what questions to expect in the exam.

Back in the day while I still knew some folks who would not pay for these after school coaching classes, it looks like now it's uncommon for middle class kids to not have atleast a few of these to go to after school.

1. The total amount of knowledge within primary education is limited. 2. Tutoring schools are not extending students knowledge, it simply intensify the competition by giving students extra pratices and instruction so they can make money from it. 3. Students are not benefit from it, as theirs absolute ranking stay unchanged, if not decrease because their family cannot afford tutoring. 4. Will it immediately alleviates the pressure and anxiety for parents? No, as long as the supply of desired works limited. And the overall social efficiency unchanged. But it does try to solve the immediate problem of out of control involution in the competition and maybe do some good for students.

Almost all the information kids are cramming is useless to their future. So, these poor kids study 24/7 useless information in hopes of what? The odds are they will know exactly what all the other kids know -- making it even more useless to future employers.

In this day and age largely what you should be learning in high school and before is "learning how to learn".

You will probably never need to know that the mitochondria is the power house of the cell, but if you can learn things quickly, you will be more likely to have a successful career.

The actual release -


(English version is heavily condensed, dated incorrect? - http://en.moe.gov.cn/documents/laws_policies/202105/t2021051... )

By far their biggest threat is students studying at foreign universities. I would have thought this is the number one issue to address, perhaps they can't yet.

If the economy is struggling such that spending your life savings on cram schools is the only way for your children to have a decent career, why does China suddenly want more children? Won't that just make things even worse?

> why does China suddenly want more children?

Body count is important.

We can all suppot aging populations, but that would give workers more power.

If you believe in Keynesianism, exports are hardly needed for a baseline-mostly-closed economy because can boost demand locally. (Tech transfer is another thing, granted.) But it you want to get your elites rich and keep your workers in check, export all the stuff so living standards don't rise so much with the extra work.

In other news...demand for private tutoring goes up.

I imagine this will simply shift online to outside of China. Bonus if tutor speaks English. You can kill two birds with one stone.

isn’t the great firewall preventing this?

Of all the things to blackmarket....

"Hey, kid, wanna see a calculus textbook?"

This is more about curbing western ideology

Private English tuition is/was? the bedrock of western values in China.

It's where mundane, textbook, multi-choice English taught in schools gets emotional cadence, individualism, expression and creativity.

The govt wants English to be computer code as it's taught in public schools.

This is going to backfire.

It will disincentive regular schools even more to be decent because students will have absolutely no alternatives.

Back in my country (not China) when I was young, these for-profit schools were 10x more competent than any normal school. Because they were not mandatory and had competition.

Also, I have no idea what specifics are, but forbidding people teaching math and collecting money is going to be tricky.

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