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How Effective are the Private English Centers for Very Young Learners in the Canton Area of China?

Jolie Chen

School of Education

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Young chinese children playing with a bento box
Image Courtesy of Wix

I would like to invite you to think of a child you know. Then imagine this child in a classroom of 12, spending around 3 hours per week learning a foreign language. Here we have the image of PECC, which stands for Private English Centers for Children.

Now, if we expand that image to 50,000 organizations and 21 million learners, it is the picture of the entire PECC industry in China. Indeed, that is a lot of children. If all of them stood hand in hand next to each other, they would form a line long enough to surround the entire planet! Considering the number of children involved, the educational value of PECC is not well explored - especially for very young learners aged 3-6. My research is looking at how useful the PECC are, and how effective they are in teaching English to young children.

This industry is now estimated to be worth over £10 billion in China. Us mere mortals would have to work for 410,000 years to earn that amount. Absolutely, that is a lot of money! Yet, who are the stakeholders involved in this industry? While the children are apparently situated in the eye of the storm, the key players seem to be the parents since they are the actual customers who pay for the service after being consulted by the salesperson in the centres. Thus, the real question remains, how do we know the customers are getting what they are paying for, and what are the real benefits for the children involved?

Applying online survey and interview techniques in my research design, I aim to draw from the experiences of all of the stakeholders in the industry - including parents, teachers and children - to answer the questions above. From there, a clearer picture should emerge from the blurry view of this industry and understand the practicality of involving early years children in foreign language learning in the training centres. The implication of this research is not only essential to the current paying customers and the general public, but it is also vital to the entire industry. This is ultimately, however, more about providing insight for our children and to help them understand if their time and energy are being devoted to a myth or to a brighter future.

After all, what do the PECCs educate for today, if they do not strive to provide better opportunities for the children of tomorrow?

Author retains copyright of text. Image courtesy of Wix.

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