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China, education and business

Gaokao is the university admission exam in China: the event is so important that students get ready for it years in advance as it can shape their entire future – after all, a good university will get you a good job. People believe in this logic because it totally works, and not only in China. Other students in East Asia, for example Koreans and Japanese, experience this incredibly stressing peer pressure.
While normally Gaokao finishes in June, this year it was delayed by one month due to the coronavirus, and while few students are enjoying the chance to be able to go to the university they desire, most are compromising. The more time passes, the more students gradually start to prepare earlier and better, investing time and money into their pre-Gaokao education: getting a good high school will also help, so they focus on preparing for the Zhongkao, the high school admission exams.
The huge majority of the students needs to struggle also in order to match with their families’ expectations, which are almost always extremely high. While the environment is pretty stressful for the students, it is also for the families, who become responsive to any marketing connected with the education of their children: this implies both curricular and extracurricular activities, as a student who distinguishes himself or herself through sports, music or arts gets bonus points during the exams. For this reason, in China, you can often see advertising of private teaching services, professional schools, sport and art clubs, food, drinks – anything that could help a student succeed, or at least let the parents believe so. Of course, there is also a minority who can afford to send their children to foreign universities, where competition is much lower. This is a very clever choice, as many business owners still strongly believe that foreign universities have a much higher level of education, and that a student with experience abroad may be even a better asset than a graduate from a good university, with exception for the top universities of China.
This means that there are three main opportunities for business in the education field:
1. the market for foreign teachers, and not only for English, since many Chinese go to foreign universities and they need to learn the language of the country they will go to as well. In the past years there has been a huge increase of request of foreign teachers (especially from anglophone countries), to the point that a vast portion of foreigners in China have been, or are still, teachers. VIPKid and similar platforms to connect children with native speaking teachers are growing more and more;
2. agencies which help Chinese university students to enter foreign universities are spreading all over China. Since they work for a specific niche, and their customers often can afford to spend more, they focus their work on delivering quality service and support to a small number of customers;
3. private education sector, since the coronavirus hurt the education efficiency of the students, many decided to pay more to get a boost on their competition, and even workers decided to spend more time to study and get themselves a better career, for example learning a programming language to do some jobs more efficiently.

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