Insights Consumer Trend

Research on children's home education in China

Chao Su
Founder of Touch

Schools and private training centers increasingly seek digital methods to communicate student progress through mobile devices. Digitalizing student progress can facilitate communication with parents and achieve better education outcomes in the long term.

Due to the influences of both the official education system and traditional attitudes to learning, Chinese parents have unique demands about how they like to view and review their children’s progress. In this case study, we will discuss 5 design principles to guide student progress report design.

Research & Design Methodology

Design Principle 1. Adopt to children's stage of development

"I sit next to him every time he takes an online class. I want to know if he is listening and if he behaves in class. It's an opportunity for him to form good habits." - Sha, 37, Shanghai

We observed that parents of children of various development stage have different expectations. There are three major mind-shifting moments for Chinese parents. These occur when their children enter pre-school at ages three to four, when they begin primary school – also known as Key Stage 2 – at six to seven, and in Grade 3 (Key Stage 3) when children are 9 or 10 years old.

During pre-school years, parents care about soft skills such as linguistic interest, in-class habits and personality development. They pay attention to performance indicators such as frequency of hand-raising and interaction with teachers. When entering primary school, parents start to be serious about how much their children learn. When entering Grade 3 - Key Stage 3 (age 9-10), parents think it is time to prepare their children for their middle school entrance exams. They start to demand after-class learning to help improve test scores. 

Design Principle 2. Explain grades and provide actionable suggestions to parents

"It would be better if I knew exactly which words he didn’t understand or mispronounced in the speaking exercises." -Li, 33, Shanghai

Parents want to understand the grading standards. They want access to the correct answers and even receive personalized and critical suggestions. When showing students’ homework grades and test results, schools need to help parents understand students’ strengths and weaknesses and provide step-by-step instructions that parents can follow at home so as to remedy academic problems. Most Chinese parents check homework and constantly talk to teachers to seek support. A well-designed homework and test report should help parents assist their children in their studies at home.

Design Principle 3. Share learning moments instead of scores

"I just shared a video of him in class yesterday. Grandma always wants to know about his improvement." - Chen, 32, Shanghai

Although sharing on social media is prevalent, most parents are not interested in sharing test scores. Chinese consider test scores to be personal information and want to be modest. When designing sharing functions, schools need to avoid presenting grades in order to prevent unhealthy competition. The focus should be on student achievements and on encouraging parents to celebrate milestone moments such as graduation. 

Design Principle 4. Design for both parents and children

"He does it on his own. I get home and see him sharing it in my Moments." - Chen, 32, Shanghai

During the user testing, we presented participants with 3 design options for sharing content on social media. We suspected that the parents would prefer visual styles for adults, since the content would appear in their social media. However, to our surprise, the parents preferred visual styles for kids. One reason is that parents like to involve their children in social sharing interactions. Often they ask children if they want to share on social media. Second, the boundary that theoretically separates children from adult users of an app is a pretty porous one. Children are mostly allowed to use apps made for adults. Furthermore, today, a 5-year-old child knows how to share on social media and can complete the task without help. It is important that the content should be interesting for children, despite the fact that the main users are parents.

Design Principle 5. Consider different levels of parents' involvement

"If I see the score A+, I wont' check every single task. He is probably on track." - Li, 33, Shanghai

Not all parents are highly hands-on in their children’ studies. Their requests for progress reports are different. Schools should tailor their reports to different levels of parent's involvement. With children's growth, parent's involvement will gradually change from being a 'Monitor' - looking at everything, to being a 'helper' - allowing children to be independent. When children's learning ability surpasses parent's own knowledge level, which usually happens during Key Stage 3, it is not particularly valuable for parents to know exact learning task anymore. Instead, the value of progress report is to inform if their children are on track.