Online Teaching Crackdown by Chinese Reglations

By Editorial Staff •  Updated: 11/06/20 •  Teach Online

If you’re apart of any Facebook group or online teaching company based in China that focuses on young learners, then you’re aware that this once booming industry has been severely handicapped by new Chinese regulations.

Specifically, the regulations seek to end the practice of for-profit, afterschool online classes for students who are in mainland China. These regulations do not affect students in Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau. They also do not limit teaching to adults or private tutoring.

Why is this happening in China?

In short, China is facing a population crisis in the future (similar to Japan) and thus a future economic crisis. As nations grow wealthier, citizens tend to have less children overall which is seen in a steadily declining birthrate in China. This compounded with the infamous one child policy has left China in a potentially dire economic position with too many men, not enough women and too many old people with not enough young people.

In China it’s normal and expected to live with your extended family as they age, multi-generational house holds are normal. But the young generation simply have an enormous amount demands on them financially. Marriage, buying a house which is expect to get married in the first place, having three children and taking care of your aging parents.

The Chinese Communist Party want’s families to have three children and to encourage such behavior they want to reduce the burden faced by Chinese parents (some estimates put education expenditures at around 20% of total cost for families) and to redirect those funds to having a larger family.

Is online teaching dead?

No, not at all. We have numerous guides here at Teach and GO on how to teach at Outschool, Fiverr, and freelance platforms like iTalki and more. Tutoring is not going anywhere, teaching adults is not going anywhere and building up your own private class schedule is totally possible. In fact, it’s a lot more profitable too to have your own clients.

What is different now is the easy option is no longer an option. Before you could live abroad and teach with VIPKID or perhaps get a job as an ESL teacher in Thailand as an example but then teach with an online company some evenings to make a decent income.

Now, you have to revamp and reorganize as online teaching companies like VIPKID are no longer allowed to sell foreign based tutoring.

Did every online teaching company close?

Most companies closed, particularly the small to mid sized teaching companies based in China. Here is Qkids final note to teachers:

It explained why Qkids is shutting down.

Other companies however like again VIPKID, are going to push through and attempt to pivot to a different business model:

As VIPKID was one of the first and currently largest online teaching company with offices around the world only time will tell if they are able to find massive success once again.

What were the Chinese regulations for online teaching previously?

The rules in place that effected online teachers directly were put in place to reflect the legal requirements to be an ESL teacher in China.

Must have a TEFL Certificate

In line with what is required for English teachers in China, you had to obtain a 120 hour TEFL certificate (read our guide on TEFL certification to learn more) and the accreditation must be internationally recognized.

TEFL certificates can be obtained in a few different ways. The best way to become a highly qualified online teacher is to actually go abroad, do a TEFL program and job placement program. Then teach abroad for 6 months to a year.

You’ll learn how to teach English to non-native speakers, the specific issues language learners have as well as issues English teachers have (talking to fast, not modeling language correctly, teacher talk etc).

The next best way to get a TEFL certificate is to simply do an online program. The key things note are that you want the TEFL certificate to be recognized by an international body.

For this you’ll want a TEFL certificate that is OFQUAL or ACCET certified.

OFQUAL is the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation is the UK’s governing body that recognizes the legitimicy of a TEFL course. ACCET was fouded in 1974 and is recognized by the United States department of Education as a “reliable authority” in the area of teaching English as a foreign language.

There are a programs we suggest here at Teach and GO – view our TEFL course page for more.

International TEFL Academy – OFQUAL Certified

The first is a program by the International TEFL Academy. Based out of Chicago in the United States. This is a company of former ESL instructors who now run TEFL courses online and around the world.


International recognized. A high quality 120 hour program that can be completed online or abroad.

Bachelors degree required for China

If you want to teach as an ESL teacher abroad or teach online you need a bachelors degree. This is a standard ESL requirement for teaching abroad in any county and is not becoming a more standard requirement in the online space.

For China specifically, they require by law foreign English teachers to posses a bachelors degree. So it’s not so much a simple requirement by the online teaching platform. They are required by Chinese law to hire only those individuals with at least the equivalent to a bachelors degree.

Criminal background check required for teachers in China

Introduced a few years ago, a criminal background check is again a standard requirement for online teaching and teaching abroad. The background check process can be completed in a few different ways depending on the online teaching company you’re working with.

First, some online teaching companies have streamlined the background check and all you have to do is simply give permission via an online portal for a company to look into your background. This involves nothing more complicated than clicking a button, reading through the terms and then accepting the terms.

A background check will typically be required every 2 years if you’re working for an online teaching company based in China.

Background check in America

The second way and more traditional way to go about getting a background check is to either get a state or national background check. If you’re American, a state background check can be obtained by contacting your local police department where you’re a resident and request a certified background check.

For a national background check, this is a fairly easy process in most countries except America. It involves you requesting a background check from the FBI and takes a month or so to complete.

I’ve not seen an online teaching company require a national background check. But if you do intend to teach abroad in Korea then you’ll have to go through this complicated process. For more on this visit criminal records check by the US State department (if you’re American).

Students are not able to have class after 9 pm Beijing Time

Introduced in November of 2019, previously students were able to book classes from 9 to 10 pm Beijing time. Not anymore. Online teaching companies are not able to allow students to book these hours anymore.

For a lot of US based teachers this was a big change as this time was rather convenient for all online teachers working in America and Canada. The new rules in place starting November 1st 2019 were as follows:

Students can use a VPN

VPN’s are a common practice used in China to get past the great firewall of China. While not legal for citizens to do, a lot of families use VPN’s in order for their students to enroll online. However most companies have gone out of business and the ones that remain in operation are only able to provide a few hours a day of study as they lack foreign teachers.

Taiwan and Hong Kong students can enroll

While mainlanders need to use a VPN, families located in Taiwan and Hong Kong are still able to enroll in various online teaching programs through private companies. If you do get hired most likely you’ll be teaching children located in Hong Kong, Taiwan or a student using a VPN.

Chinese Regulations for Online Teaching Conclusion

This crackdown we know hit a lot of teachers hard. There have been rumors for quite sometime that online teaching may be more strictly regulated, but the idea that all online companies must stop teaching student in China effective immediately was quite surprising to all, including investors:

From Bloomberg

Editorial Staff

I'm David Unwin and I head the editorial staff here at Teach and GO. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I and my team now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more.