Night School

Night Schools are a Big Hit with Overworked Chinese Youth

From wine tasting to dumping exes, China’s night schools emerge as an oasis for stressed-out young people

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6:26 PM HKT, Wed November 29, 2023 1 mins read

Bitter about your ex? China’s new night schools can teach you how to properly quit that situationship in just 12 classes and 500 RMB right now. Talk about a crash course in closure!

A fascinating new phenomenon is sweeping through major cities across China — the explosive rise of night schools catering to young professionals. Known as Yèxiào (夜校) in Chinese, these schools offer short learning courses on topics ranging from wine appreciation to artisanal leather crafting. Attendance numbers are staggering — hundreds of thousands of students flocking to night school classes after their regular work hours.

Far from providing standard academic content, these night schools are tapping into the personal passions and unfulfilled aspirations of China’s urban youth.

According to data from Chinese consumer platforms Meituan and Dianping, searches for “night schools” have skyrocketed an astonishing 980% over last year, while reviews for related hobby classes grew 226% year-on-year.

Beijing Night School Course List

A course list for Beijing Night School

The pacesetter has been the Shanghai Night School, which offers 12 classes led by masters in their fields for only 500 RMB ($70). When Shanghai’s autumn 2023 semester enrollment began, a striking 650,000 hopeful students simultaneously flooded onto the registration website. Soon major metropolises like Beijing, Xi’an, and Shenzhen followed the trend by launching their own distinctive night schools catering to local interests.

The hashtag “夜校” (night school) has gained a whopping 3.4 million views on Xiaohongshu, the Instagram-like platform beloved by urban youth in China.

For ambitious yet overworked urban professionals, these schools promise self-cultivation, community bonding, and most importantly, joyful feelings lacking in the hamster wheels of their regular workplaces. They represent temporary escape hatches from a white-collar work culture characterized by intense competition and burnout.

This phenomenon of endless overtime just to stand still is encapsulated by the sociological buzzword “involution,” or nèijuǎn in Chinese. More and more young Chinese workers, especially those trapped in cutthroat entry-level corporate jobs, are experiencing involution’s psychological stresses.

Most only dream of relief. Night schools seem to offer just that — an oasis from the rat race, even if only for a few hours each week. Hence their surging popularity amongst youth seeking both skills and solace.

In the long run, flourishing night schools could catalyze stronger workplace protections and community bonds across Chinese society. For now, they symbolize stressed Chinese youth reclaiming joy and balance amid urban pressure cookers — on their own creative terms.

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