I’ve been undercover in a mother group for a month: why do they spend a lot of money and still worry about their children’s English skills?

Original link: https://sehseh.substack.com/p/97d

In 2018, the Executive Yuan announced the promotion of the “Bilingual Country by 2030” policy, which aroused the nervousness of parents’ anxiety about their children’s foreign language ability. (Unsplash)

🔗The full text is good reading sharing version: I have been undercover in the mother group for a month: why do they spend a lot of money and still worry about their children’s English skills?

Text / Su Yihan

I am unmarried and have no children, but since August last year, I joined three parent Line groups related to children’s English learning and began to discuss with parents their favorite textbooks.

Just out of curiosity at first. I happened to see a mother’s post on Facebook, questioning that the English textbooks for children offered by many manufacturers in Taiwan are too expensive and their prices are not transparent, so I wanted to ask around to see how expensive these educational products are and why they are so expensive. There are also a lot of children who Parents who are still babbling in a hurry to buy?

But within a few days of observing these groups, I was immediately struck by the frenzy of these parents—a monthly tuition fee of 30,000 yuan for private children, a set of 200,000 children’s English textbooks, and even a family with a monthly income of 3 million yuan. Wailing children’s learning expenses can never be paid for – what makes this generation of parents so anxious that they are willing to spend so much to improve their children’s English skills?

Downgrade from “English for Children” to “English for Toddlers”

These three groups have an average of 500 members, and more than 100 messages will pop up every day to discuss English learning resources. Most of the members are mothers with preschool children. Take children to learn English by means other than “tutoring” and “private kindergarten”.

Surprisingly, most of the parents who participated in the discussion began to invest in various learning resources from the age of 3 or even before the age of 3, trying to enlighten their children’s interest in English, which is 5 to 6 more than I originally thought. The primary school age is much younger. From a few words, it is not difficult to find that although many parents do not want to force their children to memorize by memorization, they still anxiously hope that they will have a certain level of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills before entering elementary school.

This phenomenon can also be glimpsed from the upsurge of children’s English testing in recent years. The “GEPT Kids” launched by the Language Training Center (LTTC) in 2015 has grown from about 3,000 to 4,000 applicants each year to over 10,000 candidates in 2019. The “TOEFL Primary” designed by the American Educational Testing Service (ETS) also attracts more and more children every year.

But to get the certification in primary school, it is bound to let children start learning foreign languages ​​before primary school, so that children can “win at the starting point”. With the anxiety of parents, Taiwanese children are starting to learn English at a younger and younger age, and many “preschool” English education resources for children have begun to appear on the market, advertised as enabling children from 0 to 6 years old to learn English well.


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The bottomless black hole of education investment

Simply ask in the group which textbooks are worth investing in, and a few mothers enthusiastically shared the types of preschool English textbooks currently on the market in Taiwan. In addition to the more common but wide variety of book sets, picture books, or multimedia teaching aids such as “point reading pens”, affected by the epidemic, it is now popular to find online tutors or foreign teachers for video practice sessions. Every family seems to have its own A set of “secret recipes” for English education.

But each of these recipes can be expensive.

For example, quite a few parents recommend educational packages sold by publishers or agencies such as Universal Disney, Taiwan Mack, and Bo Xuewu. In particular, the systematic multimedia teaching materials of Universal Disney are very popular among parents. Several mothers have followed the pace set by the textbook for a few years, and they all said that the children’s learning effect is good, the only disadvantage is that the price is quite expensive. I then tried to make inquiries with several manufacturers in the name of my parents, and found that it is difficult to find a clear price tag and detailed description of the product content on the official website of the agent for this type of textbook. Most of them have to go through one-on-one with the business Contact and talk in detail to get more specific product information.

When asked, it was quite expensive. For example, the price of the first-level set of books in the Universal Disney series is nearly 80,000, and the price of a complete purchase will even exceed 200,000. Why is it so expensive? The business said that these textbooks are licensed from foreign countries, the quality of the content is guaranteed, and they can be used for several years once they are used. However, after several inquiries, it is still difficult to know the pricing standards of these manufacturers and whether there is joint pricing between manufacturers.

Parents also have to spend a lot of time and business communication. In addition to the troublesome price comparison, if you don’t do a lot of homework first, you may easily be guided by the manufacturer’s sales skills, and you may accidentally sign a long-term and expensive contract. In fact, many consumer disputes are caused by parents claiming high refunds after finding that the learning benefits are not as good as expected after purchasing a set of books. Universal Disney also revised the content of the textbook without warning in 2019, which caused some people to spend money to buy the new version soon after purchasing the old version, which caused a lot of controversy .

All-American private kindergartens cost staggeringly high. (Schematic, Non-Participating School/Unsplash)

When the price of new genuine products is too high, some parents said that they turned to find cheaper second-hand products on platforms such as Shopee, Line and Facebook groups.

However, the authenticity of the goods sold on these platforms is difficult to distinguish. For example, the reading pen, which is very popular in the community, originally had to be used with the reading reading authorized by the genuine manufacturer and the publishing house, but now there are many identical pirated products on sale for less than half price. Although some parents advise not to buy pirated products, after all, if there is a problem with the printing of the book, there is an odor, and the quality of the audio files attached is uneven, it may harm the child’s health and the gain is not worth the loss. However, considering the price and the high elimination rate of school supplies, there are still parents who tend to buy these cheaper textbooks.

And after buying it, how can I use it to have the greatest effect?

The consensus of the group parents is that it is not effective to let children read directly. Parents must spend a lot of time participating in and accompanying reading, so that children can easily develop interest in learning. However, if you have to spare time to accompany your children and pay high expenses, it is bound to be affordable by families with a certain level of financial support. Therefore, some people say that if they cannot accompany their children, they might as well save the money and send their children to go there. Enroll in a private kindergarten in the American language style, and let a special person teach it.

But as far as I can see, the private child fees they exchange with each other are equally astounding. Depending on the region and school, the tuition fee ranges from 200,000 to 500,000 a year. Some people fall back and choose English classes such as Native Camp, Cambly and Engoo, which are online video chats with foreign teachers, but a class will inevitably cost 300 to 500 yuan. No matter which choice, it will be a heavy burden for parents in the long run. overhead.

In the face of endless parenting anxiety, what is the optimal solution…?

After a month of observation and communication, in fact, we can clearly see the contradictions among parents. On the one hand, they hope that their children will not have too much learning pressure at this age, but on the other hand, they can’t let go of their anxiety about their children’s English level and peer competition. Coupled with the constraints of budget and limited time, they try their best to learn from others. Find out the most effective way of learning from your experience.

In 2018, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan announced the promotion of the “2030 Bilingual Country” policy, expecting Taiwan to include English as one of the official languages ​​within ten years, which seems to arouse the nervousness of parents’ anxiety about their children’s foreign language ability.

(File photo, provided by the Education Department of Yilan County Government)

Lan Peijia, a professor at the Department of Sociology at National Taiwan University, once pointed out in her research “Raising a Global Family” that this is actually a collective anxiety, often manifested in middle-class families with a certain level of education.

Even though they invest more and more parenting resources every year, parents still tend to over-amplify the risks in society: for example, when their children are very young, they start to worry that their children will not be able to compete with the world, and always think that they are not investing enough, not enough Well, this kind of anxiety is regarded as a business opportunity by the education industry. Parents are spending more money and are more likely to feel uneasy when they are under attack from manufacturers, education experts and the media.

Is learning English really the best solution?

Once, at the end of the discussion, several mothers in the group simply said with relief: thinking too much will not help, perhaps the best way for the child is what they can do now. (Finish)


About the Author| Su Yihan (London School of Economics and Political Science graduate student)


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This article is reprinted from: https://sehseh.substack.com/p/97d
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