The Fruits of Opportunism: The Making of the World’s Largest For-profit Education Industry in China

October 19 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm


Weatherhead East Asian Institute (located at the School of International and Public Affairs) 420 West 118th Street Room 918 New York, NY 10027

Event Organizer

Julie Kwan

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC | ONLINE VIA ZOOM AND IN-PERSON | REGISTRATION REQUIRED  Speaker: Le Lin, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Moderator: Qin Gao, Professor and Associate Dean for Doctoral Education, Director of China Center for Social Policy, Columbia University School of Social Work

Supplemental education, such as test-preparation coaching and after-school tutoring, has become increasingly influential in shaping educational outcome and social inequality in China, U.S. and around the world. This study examines the last forty years’ making of the world’s largest for-profit education industry—China’s supplemental education industry (the Industry)—on the margin of China’s socialist education system. How and why has the Industry privatized, marketized and become globally financialized, despite the Chinese state’s restrictive policies? Drawing on in-depth interviews, internal archives, and participant observations on 28 leading supplemental education organization, the study finds that the ambiguity of the Industry empowered socially marginalized entrepreneurs to enter this previously state-dominated market and found opportunistic organizations. With their opportunistic practices being made effective and invisible under ambiguity, opportunistic organizations as a prototype of private enterprises expanded the boundaries of market operations, facilitated the retreat of the state and fostered the Industry’s privatization and marketization. This study illustrates that while opportunism leaves destruction in its wake, it can also drive the formation and evolution of a market. The study also has implications for institutional change and social stratification during China’s market transition.

This event is part of the 2023-2024 lecture series on “Labor Market Transformations in China” and is hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and cosponsored by Columbia’s China Center for Social Policy.

To attend this event online, please register HERE.