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China’s online English training market at a glance

COLDSKY.CN – More of my Chinese friends have shared online English tutoring services for children on WeChat Moment, sometimes heartfelt thanks and sometimes perhaps a way of marketing required by those service providers.

What I see is an accelerated trend towards a combination of Internet and home-based study with the assistance of a foreigner teacher, said to be a native English speaker or luckily a teacher with some training certificates.

Internet fee is cheaper and speed is faster in China. Numerous English training service companies in China have faced common problems of scams and unstable, disqualified teachers, so online education is getting increasingly popular for obvious advantages of being flexible, one-to-one/one-to-several, and safer.

A report (https://new.qq.com/omn/20181129/20181129A19H8N.html)by Jiliguala.com, an English training service provider, and the educational arm of media portal Jiemian.com, in last year said 85 percent of parents thought learning English is helpful to kids and 90 percent aimed at listening comprehension and word sense.  The report also showed 63 percent chose interactive courses (not live streaming). But over 70 percent of parents were worried that spending too much time with a screen may hurt children’s eyesight.

About one third of parents were ok with the cost of 500-2,000 yuan per year or 2,000-5,000 per year for English study, with the rest 27 percent willing to pay over 5,000 yuan per year. The English training market for children 0-8 was estimated to reach 191.8 billion yuan, according to the report. And the education market for kindergarten to 12 years of age in China is forecast to be worth 64.88 billion yuan this year, according to research firm iResearch.

Xinhua also reported (http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-05/23/c_138081138.htm)that Meten International Education Group, an English language training (ELT) service provider targeting mainly adults in China, filed its IPO with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in May.  Founded in 2006, the firm has become the second largest player in China’s offline general ELT market, which comprised approximately 74.1 percent of the general ELT market in terms of revenue in 2018, according to Frost & Sullivan, a U.S. research and consulting firm.

However, it seemed little progress was made until December except that it merged with EdTechX Holdings, a London-based special purpose acquisition company. A Chinese report published on Sina (https://finance.sina.com.cn/stock/usstock/c/2019-12-16/doc-iihnzhfz6110683.shtml) said Meten was also suspected of working with the third party to offer installment loan to students, a practice under increasing oversight by banking authorities.

The ELT market is getting very crowded. One surprise in 2019 was the shutdown of established brand Web International English mainly for adult learners.  According to Shine (https://www.shine.cn/news/metro/1910133613/), Gao Weiyu, founder and CEO of the company, said “difficulties were due to a continuous decline in performance and rising costs since last year.”

Bad news happened to several ELT brands . DadaABC was suspected of click farming to boost the visibility. China Online Education Group (“51Talk”, NYSE: COE) said Q3 revenue rose 35 percent to RMB 409.2 Mln. The online education platform saw a narrowed overall non-GAAP net loss, decreasing 97.8 percent year over year to 1.8 million yuan, with the non-GAAP for one-to-one service reporting first gain.(http://usstock.jrj.com.cn/2019/12/09190928509957.shtml), “Our primary growth driver in Q3 remains our one-on-one offering by Filipino English teachers, ” said Huang Jiajia, founder and CEO of 51Talk.

Many of my friends have chosen Beijing-based online education platform VIPKid, which connects children in China with native English-speaking teachers in the United States and Canada for live video lessons. It was set up in 2013 and employs more than 70,000 teachers.( https://www.reuters.com/article/us-vipkid-fundraising-tencent/tencent-scraps-plan-to-invest-150-million-in-chinese-education-firm-vipkid-sources-idUSKCN1VJ143)

Following are some financing news in ELT market (data source:itjuzi.com)

Company Established Financing Round Amount Tutoring
伴鱼

https://www.ipalfish.com

北京2015-2

Beijing,

 

C

Tens of millions TEFL/TESOL teachers
西格码

www.sigmasteam.com

广东2019-6

Guangdong

Angel

 

Unknown STEAM
波比英语

https://www.bobbyen.com/

北京2017-9

Beijing

A

 

RMB 20 million TESOL/
百特英语

http://www.baiteedu.cn/

北京2011-6

Beijing

A

 

RMB 10 million K3-16
英语小神童

http://www.wdkid.com/

北京2017-11

Beijing

A RMB 10 million K0-6

What’s next?

I believe the increasing use of AR/VR will reshape the ELT market, allowing children to experience language learning in an immersive environment. The good news is that China is rapidly expanding the 5G network, paving the way for AR/VR products.

The language tutoring service is still labor-intensive but robot/digital assistant programs will play a more important role, perhaps replacing human teachers soon than expected. This really depends on the creative cooperation among technology, education and business.

Written by Ukingsun/WeChat: ukingsun

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