- Many university students apply to be in-home tutors to make extra money.
- All the private tuitions are for one goal: to get into a better university.
- Social pressure pushes Chinese parents to force their kids to learn more.
The first day being an in-home tutor, Chen only felt shocked. She was then majoring in Chinese literature at a prestigious university in Beijing. She saw a message in a Wechat group in need of an in-home tutor teaching both Chinese and English. Wanting to make some pocket money, she took the deal.
After consulting Chen’s Gaokao score (National College Entrance Examination in China) and her teaching plan, the client expressed her worries: it was two months before Gaokao and her son had a terrible performance with the mock exam. The interview talk finished at 8pm.
When Chen was about to go back to college, the client suddenly said “about time. Let’s go have your first class.” Ten minutes later, Chen met her first student, who was just finishing his one-on-one math tutoring with another in-home tutor. She took over the baton and improvised her first class until 11pm, for which she was paid $31 as she left.
No one knows exactly how many in-home tutors like Chen there are in China. On an agent website, in Beijing alone the number exceeds 58,000. The tutored contents are quite varied: from common school subjects to IMO, programming, rope jumping, running… Whatever helps to get the kid into a better high school or university.
According to the Ministry of Education, there are 35 national competitions that primary and high school students can participate in. Some famous high schools have special enroll plans for awardees at such competitions, which gives parents a new avenue to cultivating their kids.
Ding won a silver medal in the National Olympiad in Informatics (NOI), which opened his door. Many parents who want to send their kids into the best high schools in Beijing participate in the NOI. However, Ding’s in-home tuition terminated abruptly in 2019: rumors had it that NOI would no longer be considered for several important schools and universities.
Sometimes they have to play the mediator. One time, when the client saw that his son was not paying attention to Chen, she went mad: “I’ve spent over $9,300 just for you to improve your English but you’re clearly not appreciating it.” The son, after a long day of multiple tuitions, yelled back.
Chen, not knowing what to do, remained silent. “A self-introspective in-home tutor would inevitably fall into the insider/outsider dilemma: shall I join in or keep distance?”
Where did the pressure come from? Where this endless race going? A client once confessed that her original idea was just to let her daughter develop comprehensively by learning whatever interests her. But when other parents kept telling her that in no way would her kid get into a good high school with such loose after-school schedules, she gave in.
“All other kids are working hard. I can’t bet on my kid’s future.”