Working parents create big market for after-schoolcare
When I received the entrance permit letter for my son’s primary school this summer, I was excited for a moment, but then I considered the consequences: first and foremost, should I quit my job?
The reasons were simple: School gets off at around 3:30 pm every day. How can I deal with the after-school care?
Breakfast and dinner will have to be prepared. That’ll also have to be planned.
It’s a half-day school on Fridays. What about that?
The questions flew so thick and fast into my mind, that I morphed into a worried mom, even before school had started.
I wondered why the school finishes so early in the day, from the perspective of parents’ workhours.
When he was in kindergarten, however, I had no such concerns. Three meals were served and kid pick-up was at 5 pm. My husband’s office was nearby, so sending the kid to the kindergartenand fetching him back became the dad’s routine.
"I believe we have more solutions than difficulties. Why not try after-school care agency?"suggested my husband.
Soon, we hired a trustworthy educational agency. It took the responsibility of picking up my sonafter school, driving him around in a minibus, tutoring him as per teachers’ requirements, feeding him yoghurt and fruit and giving him free activity time while mingling with other kids of differentages.
All this before we pick up the son at 6:30 pm. The monthly fee for such service is 1,200 yuan($190). We’ve been using the service for two months. So far so good, for the three of us.
It’s true－where there is need, there is a market. I received loads of fliers for after-school care service at the school gate on my son’s first day in September. I didn’t pay much attention mostly because I assume anything that is easily available is not worth our attention.
Most of the after-school service providers are self-employed family businesses. Some of them have no business license, I fear. They run the business just because of the huge demand from working parents with school-going kids. The service I chose is a decent one, licensed for training and after-school education. Of course, the service charge is a little bit higher than average. The market price ranges from 800 yuan to 2,000 yuan per month.
There are no statistics about the size of such an after-school care market, but educational training services in China were said to be worth 960 billion yuan by 2012, taken up by 12,380 occupational technology training institutes and 20,155 private training schools, according to data from the Ministry of Education
Among them, academic supplementary courses from grade one to 12, or from primary school to high school, are the fastest-growing sectors.Educational brands like New Oriental, Xue’ersi and Xueda have all listed on the New York StockExchange. The first is known for its English language training and the other two are good at training for academic courses.I wonder whether after-school training is a common practice in other countries? It probably is.
One of my friends, who has been the principal of a primary school in the United States, said attending study classes and taking various sports and arts lessons after school is common at both private and public schools.
"Today the biggest threat to the American Dream is class. Men with only a high school diploma earn about a fifth less than they did 35 years ago," reads a Wall Street Journal report about the widening education gap in the United States.
The after-school care agency that my son attends also offers painting, board-game and calligraphy classes. I am now wondering if I should get my little one enrolled in arts classes besides calligraphy. At least, they appear more interesting than sitting idle and mingling with other kids while waiting to be picked up by parents.
At the start of this month, my seven-year-old son joined the calligraphy classes, which cost 1,000yuan for 10 classes, in addition to the basic monthly fee of 1,200 yuan. My spouse believes that will make the boy brighter and more attractive.