Online education is one of the fastest expanding industries in China. In 2015, the number of Chinese online education users equaled 110 million with a market value of 114 billion RMB. By 2018, the number of online learners grew 63 percent to 179 million while the market value more than doubled to 300 billion RMB. This trend is expected to continue into the future with UBS estimating that the market will increase to 714 billion RMB by 2025.
The Chinese online education market is divided into many segments:
Primary and secondary online education such as homework tutorials, cram schools, and English education. Prominent companies include 17ZuoYe (一起作业), VIPKid, Yuanfudao (猿辅导), and ZuoYeBang (作业帮).
Test-oriented education focusing on examinations such as CET-4, CET-6, TOEFL, IELTS and Civil Services Examinations. Some large organizations are Koolearn (新东方在线), GEDU (环球雅思), and Offcn Education (中公教育).
Vocational education and skills training including technology, accounting, finance, and other professional skills. Example companies are FenBi (粉笔网), HuaTu Education(华图教育), ChinaACCA (中华会计网校).
Among these, primary and secondary online education is the fastest growing and attracted the most attention from venture capital investors in 2018. Meanwhile, the test-oriented market is the oldest and the most mature, and many well-known brick-and-mortar education companies (for example, New Oriental) have been steadily expanded online for decades.
Growing Interest and Opportunities
Chinese culture very much stresses the importance of education in building economic opportunity. With increasing levels of income, a growing number of Chinese consumers are willing to invest in education in general. As a cost-effective, convenient way to
connect with knowledge, it’s easy to see why online education has become so popular.
From a macro perspective, the Chinese Ministry of Education has increased financial investment in educational technology on all levels including MOOCs, AI, and multimedia educational technologies.
Still, despite the of the rapid development of major Chinese cities, there is still a gap between tier-1 cities and their tier-2 and tier-3 counterparts. For parents and students who are not able to access high-quality educational resources in-person, online platforms help them overcome these distance barriers.
The Future of Chinese Online Education Market
Distance education in China began to take form in the 1990s and has gradually evolved to include more technologies:
In the future, experts predict that Chinese online education will begin to incorporate more live-streaming classes and artificial intelligence. Live-streaming classes help both the teacher and the learner overcome interaction barriers, to make the learning environment more realistic and increase online education’s efficiency. AI will help individualize the learning process by monitoring and analyzing student data such as identifying areas of a lesson where a student may need clarification. Even more, online education will be combined with in-person classroom activities and homework. In other words, even traditional classroom settings will incorporate online education tools.