Fee guidelines issued for academic tutoring
Standards designed to reduce families' expenses amid a shake-up in the sector
Some local governments have issued guidelines on the fees that companies can charge for academic tutoring services when they become nonprofits by the end of this year.
Jinhua, a city in Zhejiang province, published draft price standards for academic tutoring services recently that said the cost of a 45-minute class with less than 10 students should be 50 yuan ($8) per student, falling to 40 yuan for courses with 10 to 35 students and 30 yuan for courses with more than 35 students.
The city's development and reform commission, education bureau and market regulation administration sought public feedback on the draft fees earlier this month.
The maximum prices that tutoring companies can charge will be capped at 10 percent above the guidance fees, which will apply to academic tutoring services for primary, middle and high school students.
Hainan province unveiled its guidance fees late last month, with prices ranging from 5 to 25 yuan per class per student, depending on enrollment numbers.
A draft notice published by the Hainan Provincial Development and Reform Commission and the Hainan Provincial Education Department said the guidance would apply to academic tutoring for students from primary to high school in places other than the cities of Haikou, Sanya, Sansha and Danzhou, where the city governments will draft their own standards.
Beijing and Hunan province announced similar guidance on fees last month, stipulating that charges for academic tutoring for children in compulsory education should comply with the standards.
The average salaries of people working at tutoring companies should not significantly exceed those for teachers working at public schools, and the companies' publicity expenditure should be capped at less than 3 percent of their sales revenue, according to separate notices issued by the Beijing and Hunan governments.
A notice issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Education and the State Administration for Market Regulation in September asked local governments to establish guidance fees for curriculum-based tutoring courses for primary and middle school students by the end of this year to reduce families' education expenses.
A guideline issued in July by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet, required curriculum-based tutoring institutions for primary and middle school students to register as nonprofit organizations to ensure the equality of compulsory education.
The tough approach has led several tutoring giants, including New Oriental Education and Technology Group, TAL Education Group and Juren Education, to shut down operations targeting children in compulsory education schools.
Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher with the National Institute of Education Sciences, said guidance fees will only be able to play their restrictive role effectively if they are not set too low compared with the current prices.
When legal tutoring companies can no longer operate under such low prices, parents who still want their children to get ahead by taking tutoring courses will only be able to enroll them in illegal and high-priced ones, he said.