Changing Face of ESL Schools in China

The number – and type – of ESL schools in China is rising to meet seemingly insatiable demand for English language education. In 2010 there were more than 30,000 companies offering private English classes in China but such a number out of context fails to convey the incredible growth the industry is experiencing: in the last five years alone the market for ESL schools in China has doubled and is now worth more $3 billion dollars annually. Nor is this surge in demand abating – some analysts predict growth in excess of 12% to 15% over the next few years (putting the industry’s growth rate on track to outpace the country’s own astronomical growth in GDP).

This rise in demand is driven by the convergence of high regard the country has for English proficiency and the rising economic prowess of China’s ever-more prosperous middle class, a great deal of the country’s new wealth is being reinvested in educating the next generation. As a result, ESL schools in China are experiencing an unprecedented level of specialization and segmentation. Unsatisfied with the six years of government funded English-language education provided in public schools, more and more parents in the Middle Kingdom are investing in private education programs to give their children a head start on the path to success – and many are starting earlier than ever before.

While after school programs and exam preparation cram courses continue to be popular among many, parents are increasingly eager to start their students on the path to success earlier than ever. As Disney English, a subsidiary of the American media giant, has discovered, classes aimed at toddlers and preschoolers are one of the biggest areas of growth. Because of this the demand for qualified and experienced English teachers is likewise unparalleled. Thus, for those interested in teaching English in China the changing dynamics of the industry represent an unprecedented opportunity.