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The End of One-on-One English Tutoring in China

In the wake of new regulations in China, English tutoring companies are closing shop or pivoting.

Source: VIPKid

China’s Ministry of Education banned foreign courses and foreign teachers living outside of mainland China with the harsh regulations for Chinese education companies introduced in July, 2021. The ban marks the end of the one-on-one English tutoring market in China, which has attracted over US$3.5B in investments in recent years.

Last week, more than 10 one-on-one English tutoring companies made announcements about shutting down related education businesses and developing new business. Tens of thousands of foreign teachers have been affected.

Under the pressure of regulations, these companies are pivoting to new areas including:

  • Adults English learning
  • Interest-related English courses
  • English courses by Chinese teachers
  • English courses by foreign teachers residing in mainland China
  • English courses for international users outside of mainland China

Here are China’s largest tutoring companies:

Top 9 one-on-one English tutoring companies in China (Sources 1 & 2)
Company Total Money Raised – Latest Round (Date) No. of foreign teachers 
51Talk US$ 130.5 M – IPO Round – Jun 10, 2016  30,000+
VIPKID US$ 1.1 B – Series E – Sep 19, 2019 70,000+
Dada  US$ 874.3 M – Venture Round – Apr 29, 2020 10,000+
iTutorGroup US$ 815+ M – Venture Round – Jun 11, 2019 30,000+
Acadsoc US$ 183.8 M – Series C5 – Feb 20, 2021 20,000+
Palfish US$  135 M – Series D – Sep 22, 2020 NA
Abc360 US$ 113+ M – Series C – Jun 19, 2018 NA
Whales English US$ 60.5 M – Series B – Jan 26, 2021 10,000+
Boxfish US$  40.2+ M – Series C – May 18, 2018 NA
Qkids US$ 20.5 M – Series B – Aug 14, 2019 NA

China Online Education Group

51Talk (China Online Education Group, NYSE:COE), is an online tutoring platform that provides one-on-one foreign English teaching services for K12 students. At its 10-Years Conference in 2021, the Founder and CEO admitted that the platform had 30,000 online English teachers in the Philippines. The company’s stock price decreased from US$ 24.3 on Feb 15 to US$ 2.90 on Aug 9, amid the regulation announcement by the Ministry of Education.

On Jul 24, 2021, China’s Ministry of Education formally announced the detailed regulations for Chinese education companies, especially K12 education. The regulations prohibit foreign courses and foreign teachers outside of mainland China.

Two weeks after the regulations were introduced, 51Talk decided to stop providing foreign online courses for students living in mainland China, according to “A letter to all users” by 51Talk on Aug 9, 2021. At the same time, “51Talk will increase investments in English teaching services for adults and provide high quality courses. Users outside of mainland China will not be impacted and we will further develop our international markets” said the letter.

51Talk is not the only company providing one-on-one foreign English teaching services, nor the only one to have stopped using foreign courses and relying on foreign teachers recently.

VIPKID

VIPKID, an online one-on-one English teaching platform, has connected 70,000 North American English tutors with 800,000 paid users in 63 counties. By Sep 19, 2019, VIPKID had raised over US$1.1B over 11 funding rounds, including investors like Tencent, Sequoia Capital China, and Coatue.

On Aug 7, 2021, VIPKID announced on its official WeChat account that it “would no longer provide foreign courses for students in mainland China”. On the other hand, “English courses by Chinese teachers and foreign teachers living in mainland China were finishing testing”. “International students living outside of mainland China will not be affected”.

Announcements from On-on-One Tutoring Companies

Below you can find announcements made by the tutoring companies affected by the new regulations.

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Rui Ma

With a background in Health Statistics and Sociology, she has built a career path in Data Analytics. She joined the team as a Data Analyst and is helping Class Central to improve its services for global MOOC learners.

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