Rush to learn English fuels quality issues

By He Na (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-05 07:43
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Rush to learn English fuels quality issues

Staff members of the Shanghai Expo play an English learning game with their English teachers. Wang Juliang / for China Daily 

300 yuan per day

Li Yu, a 14-year-old Beijing girl who is a second-year middle school student, joined an English training course this summer vacation. She sits through a three-hour English class every morning taught by a Chinese teacher and then a three-hour extra course taught by a foreigner who is a native English speaker.

Just for the six-hour course in English, her parents have to pay at least 300 yuan each day, but her parents said as long as their daughter can make some progress in English and can have a safe summer vacation, the money has been well spent.

China's training market has an estimated market value of 300 billion yuan ($44 billion) in 2010. Of that total, the English-training market is estimated to reach 30 billion yuan, according to sources from the National Education Development Statistical Bulletin.

Rush to learn English fuels quality issues

Various advertisements of English-training courses are posted on many streets in Beijing and other big cities across the country. More and more Chinese are eager to learn English to further their careers. Nan Shan / for China Daily 

"Just like a big tempting cake, the prospect of the English-training market never escaped the sharp eyes of investors, and many people have shown a great interest in it. New English-training institutes are registered almost every day, while others are going bankrupt. The market witnessed a sharp increase especially when China was applying to join the World Trade Organization and preparing to host the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games," said Xiao.

However, up to now no official data has been released on the overall number of English-training institutes and schools in China.

The market is mainly made up of four types of English-training schools and institutes: those affiliated with universities, foreign-invested training institutes, domestic well-known private training organizations, and countless small and medium-sized private training schools.

The advertisements for English-training schools and institutes can be found almost everywhere and the classrooms of these training schools are never short of students. However, even though the market is prosperous, it still has many inevitable problems.

"The industry is in urgent need of establishing a credit-rating system, which would mandate the essential requirements that an English-training institute must have, such as the education background of foreign teachers, Chinese teachers, work staff and teaching hardware," Xiao said.

"Raising the industry entry threshold is one of the best ways to standardize the English-training market and guarantee consumers' rights," Xiao said.

A student who learns incorrect English - for example, bad accents or wrong grammar - suffers a devastating disadvantage, said John Gordon, vice president of New Channel International English Group. This student will have to unlearn the bad lessons, and then grasp the correct lessons and rebuild his confidence in English, he said.

"Of course, the more English-training institutes in existence, the more choices the students and trainees have. But the key point is the choice needs to be based on qualified service, or else, they will not only waste money, but also precious time," Gordon said.

The credit-rating system should be enforced by authorities in all the English-training institutes and schools and the ratings can be the criteria for consumers' choices, he added.

Many private English-training schools and institutes require the tuition fee to be collected first, before the classes are taught. This means that students often pay several thousand yuan or even more than 10,000 yuan before the classes begin. In some cases, the schools went bankrupt and closed their doors after taking many students' money, causing outrage and demands for government intervention.