If you’ve been following international news lately, you may have heard that there have been some big changes happening with VIPKID and how the Chinese government is approaching the entire online ESL industry.
Moving forward, ESL classes in China will never be the same.
From the looks of it, students in mainland China will no longer be able to learn from foreign USA-based tutors. Virtual English classes with native teachers from the USA may soon become a thing of the past.
Although I haven’t taught a class on the platform in quite some time, it has been upsetting for me to watch the latest course of events unfold. If you did not already know, VIPKID will forever hold a special place in my heart because it was the first remote gig I ever had that allowed me to afford to travel the world long-term.
After a recent crackdown in foreign affairs between China and the United States, there have been a series of sudden changes that will impact not only the 70,000+ North American VIPKID English tutors contracted through the Chinese company but also those who work any of the countless other competitors in the online ESL space including companies like MagicEars, GoGoKid, DaDaABC, and so on.
The entire online ESL industry is impacted by the Chinese government’s new regulations that are being put into place.
What Is Happening to VIPKID?
Updates From the Chinese Ministry of Education
The First Announcement
On July 27th of this year, VIPKID sent out an announcement explaining that the Ministry of Education in China has released new policies directed at businesses that offer after-school tutoring services.
Those new regulations can be found here. (You may need to use your browser’s translation tool to convert it to English.)
At the time, it seemed to be a bit unclear about what this announcement meant for the future of VIPKID. The company published a press release that explained how they were confident that their business would not be severely impacted by these regulations and advised teachers to continue to book classes and teach lessons as they normally would.
How Things Have Evolved
August 5, 2021
At the beginning of this month, several alternative ESL companies (GoGoKid, for example) had made the sudden decision to completely shut down.
Teachers’ classes were canceled and they were notified that they’d be paid for the classes they’d taught up until that point and that no new classes would be possible to schedule.
VIPKID reassured teachers that there were no plans to shut down the business and that given VIPKID’s massive size, it anticipates being capable of pivoting into new, alternative markets outside of China so that the business can continue to operate into the future.
August 7, 2021
VIPKID reiterates its confidence that the business will remain operational. However, the company acknowledges that business will look different than it has to date.
However, there are new implications:
- Students who have already purchased class packages will be able to finish them.
- Students will now be unable to purchase new class packages with foreign VIPKID teachers outside of China.
- Students outside of China can continue to purchase classes with foreign teachers.
VIPKID mentions a long-term plan to expand into new subject areas such as teaching various classes to adults, catering to students in other countries, etc.
August 25, 2021
VIPKID declares new policies from the Chinese government:
- Classes can no longer take place during the summer holiday.
- All classes from now until August 31st will be canceled immediately.
- After September 1, classes will be limited to scheduling between Monday-Friday.
- Weekend classes are now forbidden.
What May Happen Next
Naturally, all of this uncertainty has left many teachers within the VIPKID community feeling extremely unsettled.
I remain in many of the VIPKID-related Facebook groups and I have seen a FLOOD of recent posts from teachers who are now scrambling to find other places to work and otherwise just panicking about the impending doom of the company.
I think it remains a bit unclear how exactly VIPKID will actually be impacted.
- VIPKID pivots quickly; enters new markets; continues to schedule international lessons; continues to bring in revenue.
- VIPKID pivots too slowly; is suddenly forced to shut down classes in China; revenue stops; VIPKID goes out of business.
The Chinese government may decide to suddenly cancel all classes, effective immediately, at any point.
Right now, the policy suggests that as of September 1st, students in China should be able to book weekday classes only.
If policies continue to change as rapidly as they have been, the Chinese government very well may announce on September 1st that all classes must stop effective immediately.
Will Classes On VIPKID Come to an End?
This is essentially the worst-case scenario of what many of the VIPKID teachers are afraid of. Although that outcome is inevitable given the new policy directives, no one really knows how or when this will be fully implemented.
I truly feel bad for the thousands of VIPKID teachers who do depend on this platform for income because that fear of losing your primary source of income must be terrifying. This is an excellent example of why diversifying your streams of income is so important. You never know when something like this may happen. We all have to learn to expect the unexpected.
I hope VIPKID will make adjustments rapidly so that the livelihoods of the teachers on the platform are affected as little as possible.
However unlikely this may be, I also hope that China will reconsider this policy change. I’ve taught well over 1,000 students from China during my time teaching with VIPKID and I know my students have inspired me and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. I’d like to think they will remember the classes they took with me too. I will miss them.
Parents would tell us about how much their students would look forward to their ESL classes after school. We would ask them questions about their day, talk about their passions, and try to make the kids smile and laugh. I think it is such a shame that those educational relationships will cease to exist.