What happened?

According to the Global Online Tutoring Market 2018 report, the compound annual growth rate of the K-12 online education market is expected to grow over 13% between 2017-2021. In China this percentage lies almost 6% higher than the global average. Key vendors in China are iTutorsGroup, TAL Education Group, New Oriental and relatively new companies such as VIPKID and 51 Talk are growing fast. These companies offer personalized tutoring in which parents can often track the proceedings of their children through a data based analysis. They recruit teachers from around the world, promising a personalized, international learning experience, and encourage curiosity, critical thinking and creativity in Chinese children.

What does this mean?

Partly because of financial reasons, tutors used to be hired mainly by parents whose children needed to catch up when they were behind. Because of the possibilities of online tutoring, such as easy access and lower costs, (online) tutoring is on the rise on a global scale for a few years. It is becoming more common for children to be tutored even when they are not behind.  A critical remark on this development is that it can increase social inequality because it is still a service that can only be obtained by those who can afford it. Especially in developing countries, even this more affordable version of tutoring is still too expensive for many. It is therefore unclear if online tutoring will increase or decrease inequality in countries such as China and India, where decent education is not equally available to all.

What’s next?

An alignment of factors makes a phase of rapprochement likely: First, for the first time in a decade, South Korea is not led by a hardliner. Second, China is throwing its weight behind a diplomatic solution. Third, President Trump is eager for a foreign policy success. Most importantly, North Korea is motivated to consolidate its position: Its nuclear proliferation has brought a U.S. president to the table, while at the same time, Chinese scientists suggest that its nuclear test site has collapsed. Such phases of rapprochement never last long and the country will not give up its nuclear arsenal. A few months ago, public opinion exaggerated the threat of war with North Korea. Now, it is exaggerating the prospect of a peace settlement.