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Education needs 'double reduction', not overreaction

By Xiong Bingqi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-09-01 12:56
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As a new semester begins, many parents are concerned about the progress of the "double reduction" policy. During the summer vacation, New Oriental offline centers in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province were abruptly shut down following allegations made by a Douyin influencer regarding after-school tutoring. The influencer insisted that the tutoring platform violated the Ministry of Education's regulations on the "double reduction" policy.

Regulators often rely on such reports to tackle unauthorized after-school classes during compulsory education. However, it is important to note that not all parents who choose unauthorized training support such reporting.
Does this imply that a complete ban on cram schools, even beyond the compulsory education period, is necessary? Is it a misconception that "If I don't study, no one else should either"? How can we meet the needs of academically inclined students without overwhelming them?

To combat unauthorized after-school classes, regulators depend on such reports to provide leads. But some parents who knowingly put their children in cram schools do not support such reporting.

To comprehensively implement the "double reduction" policy, cracking down on unauthorized off-campus classes is essential. But practical regulatory measures should be aligned with the actual needs of students and parents to prevent the mushrooming of underground cram schools.

Reporting on unauthorized training and cram schools has always evoked mixed reactions. Supporters argue that since such cram schools are unauthorized, everybody has the right to report and collectively address the issue, while opponents say that such reporting is mere sensationalism to attract public attention without benefiting students.

As long as there is demand for cram schools, such reporting will prompt them to operate below the radar. Invisible and altered subject-based cram schools are widespread in different regions. Effectively combating them requires reporting, but relying solely on reporting to root out unauthorized off-campus tutorials is extremely difficult.

For that, a combination of alleviating and regulating efforts is needed. On the one hand, cram schools, especially those offering subject-based classes, need to be strictly regulated. On the other hand, considering practical issues, meeting the varied needs of students and parents is vital. If regulations are stringent without authorities making any efforts to meet the essential needs of students and parents, the cram schools will go underground, increasing costs, safety concerns and infringements. Consequently, reducing the burden of students and parents will become even more difficult.

Helping meet the demand for subject-based classes requires a multifaceted approach. First, it is important to reform the college entrance examination, or gaokao, and introduce diverse evaluation methods for such exams. But introducing such a system is difficult because of the resistance from different quarters, as the idea of equal opportunity based on exam results remains deeply ingrained in people's mind. This reform, for all practical purposes, is a lengthy process.

Second, enhancing the quality and efficiency of school education is important. The "double reduction" policy requires education authorities to reform classroom teaching, provide after-school classes for students who need them, and offer programs to alleviate the demand for off-campus classes.

However, introducing after-school programs is a challenge. Teachers say that extending school hours for after-school classes will increase their workload and impact the quality of education.

Notably, even customized school education may not cater to the needs of all the students, which off-campus classes can do. Before the introduction of the "double reduction" policy, tutorials' practices were unreasonable. Such tutorials can transition from providing "universal education" to offering "differentiated education" to cater to the specific needs of different students.

Offering subject-based classes in high school according to the "double reduction" policy remains a challenge because of to the complexities of high school education, such as the intense pressure on students to clear the college entrance exam, uneven quality of teaching in different schools, and the diversity of students, including those specializing in arts or sports.

To address this problem, the education authorities will have to adopt a pragmatic approach to school education, adjusting regulatory measures according to actual circumstances, in order to prevent cram schools from going underground. The education authorities will also have to bring all institutions under standardized governance to help all the students receive education, which will increase their knowledge as well as confidence of passing exams, thus eliminating the need for cram schools.

The author is director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

The author is director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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