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English Language Learning (ELL) in China

ELL in China has experienced a decade of blistering growth—it was a $4.9 billion industry in 2013 and is currently growing by an average of 12-15% a year —but fundamental changes are underway due to changing consumer preferences and the availability of new technology.

Dreams of getting into top-flight universities continue to propel students from all over the Middle Kingdom into English language classes at fee-paying supplementary schools. However, the question that remains for industry stakeholders is, what is the ideal position to take in China’s rapidly evolving ELL landscape? Emerging Strategy’s recent study into long-term trends affecting ELL in China sheds light on the trends that will impact future demand.

In discussing the rising demand for ELL in China, assessing motivation and demand drivers is exigent. Admission to high-quality higher education institutions remains the fundamental driver of demand behind China’s ELL boom. Due to the premium placed on quality higher education in China, coupled with the steadily rising incomes of the middle class, Chinese students have surpassed all other international student populations at most universities in English-speaking countries. With urban household incomes expected to climb higher into the next decade, Chinese families will continue to pursue higher education in English-speaking countries for their children.

In this report, we examine the past, present and future of English language learning in China. We analyze the spending of urban households on education, discuss practical English for K-12 students, and compare and contrast online learning in China with traditional brick-and-mortar classroom tuition.

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