Rethinking China’s Education Market

Since the implementation of the ‘double reduction’ policy in 2021, China’s tutoring market has shrunk significantly, leaving many to wonder if there will be an overhaul of the whole industry and whether any opportunities are left for education companies and institutions to set up in China.  

However, the double reduction policy only applies to K9 academic subjects’ afterschool tutoring, and the enormous demands for better education from parents, schools, students, and adults still stand firm. The policies and resources allocated to support the government’s plan to reform its education system for quality education also haven’t changed. Now, several months since the end of Covid-19 restrictions, might in fact be an excellent time to rethink what opportunities exist for technology, content, and pedagogy expansion in China.


All-round Education

China’s tough measures on afterschool tutoring aim to regulate compulsory education (Grades 1-9) and academic subjects in terms of student stress, costs, and access to education. Non-academic extracurricular programs are exempt from the double reduction policy, such as art, drama, sports, and music programs, and there has been barely any impact on high schools (Grade 10 to 12), neither on academic nor non-academic education. Chinese families’ investment in education remains unchanged: it has simply been shifted to extracurricular programs in K9 and to high school programs to prepare for college entry exams and international education abroad. 

According to China’s 2035 plan, China’s education goals are to establish modern, high quality, and balanced systems to enable equal and competitive education for all. The ‘all-round education’ focus in K12 continues shifting from ‘capacity’ (exam-oriented) to ‘quality’, which means that there is now much greater diversity in the subjects available to high school students.

STEM Learning 

Driven by national policies, China has poured a lot of effort into promoting STEM education and recent years have seen K12 STEM programs flourish nationally through new technologies and supplementary materials. 

In 2022, the Ministry of Education proposed the fostering of students’ interdisciplinary literacy based on core aspects of each subject area and then applying these core elements to real-life situations. Instructors are encouraged to implement STEM in their teaching. However, in order to innovate K12 STEM education there must be reforms to China’s curricula, pedagogy, and learning environments to ensure disciplinary knowledge is updated as well as creativity, reasoning, and innovation introduced.

Rising middle-class parents pay substantial sums of money for STEM-related education for their children, such as courses in coding, robotics, and 3D printing etc. Content and technology related to STEM learning are in high demand throughout China. 

International Schools

In February 2023, New Oriental International Education released the “2023 China International School Research White Paper”. It shows that the number of international schools in mainland China was 1,243 in 2022 (including international programs in state schools), which is a net increase of 19 schools compared with 2021. Although the growth rate declined compared with previous years, it still shows a growth trend. The number of students enrolled in international schools in 2022 increased by 23% compared with 2019. While China’s international education has seen a strong recovery since the pandemic, recruiting experienced teachers from overseas has become a big challenge for international schools, and one that they greatly need to overcome in order to maintain international status. 

Vocational Education

Vocational education continues to be encouraged by the government. In April 2022, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the revised vocational education law. The law is one of several measures that the government released to strengthen the country’s vocational education system (a summary of the revised law can be found here in one of our previous insight articles). As they face increasing demand for skilled workers, the Chinese government is promoting vocational education to improve the technical capabilities of its workforce.

Colleges and vocational schools that are looking to recruit students from China should focus on what featured programs, unique experiences, and exceptional value they can offer to Chinese students in this huge but competitive market. Partnerships with local universities and colleges, as well as apprenticeship and internship programs, are all equally important methods to have the best chance of success in student recruitment.

Education Technology

The pandemic has brought extraordinary digital changes across all industries, and the education industry is no exception. As the most digitalised economy in the world, Chinese classrooms went virtual immediately, and students and schools quickly adjusted their studying methods to online learning via various technology platforms. With over 400 million students, China is the world’s largest market for educational technology.

Robotics kits incorporated with apps are becoming popular for STEM learning. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also becoming an integral part of responsive apps for personalised learning and teaching. With the growing demand for personalized learning, formative methods are supplanting summative approaches. As a result, we are starting to see more EdTech solutions that focus on formative assessments.

Since 2015, China has led global investment in education technology. Even with the progressive decline of global EdTech venture capital investment, China is still ranked number one in the regional funding totals’ boards, according to HolonIQ. 

(Source: Holon IQ)

The fundamentals in China’s education, such as the market size and demand for quality education at all levels, has remained unchanged, however developments in some of the segments, such as vocational education, are increasing significantly due to the policy support. 

The biggest challenge for education companies and institutions wanting to enter or expand in China is how to navigate a totally different regulatory landscape and adapt content and technology to this specific market, be it in terms of language, standards, technology, or the type of education. For many, without having a physical presence in China, the challenge is enormous. To counter the challenges, finding local partners and establishing a digital presence are must-haves. 

At, we help education companies/institutions succeed in China and help turn strategic planning into profitable growth. If you are thinking of assessing market opportunity in China, please contact us and book a free consultation session with our education sector lead via email