China Tightens Regulation of Education Apps

Loknath Das

Photo: IC Photo

The Chinese government has rolled out the first formal policy document to regulate education-related apps, according to the Ministry of Education.

The document, drafted in August, was formally introduced last week. It mandates that education apps not force users to share personal information, and makes guardian permission compulsory when collecting minors’ data, the document said. If schools recommend students and parents use a certain app, the app cannot charge fees or embed ads or games, the document said, adding that using the apps must be optional and should not be considered references for student awards.

In some schools, teachers require students to use selected apps to do homework or revisions, state-run Xinhua reported. Xinhua reported that one Beijing parent, Zhang Ying, said her child’s school uses an app that requires students to watch a 30-second mobile-gaming ad before providing course revision materials, which would violate the new requirements.

Under the new rules, apps must also back up content they provide in case of government inspection. Currently, to attract users, some apps contain pornographic or gambling materials, and refuse to log their operating details, said Chen Feiyan, an official at an internet security unit under China’s public security department.

In 2019, some 80 million primary and middle school students will use online education services, propaganda department official Yang Mengdong said. As of 2018, there were hundreds of thousands of education apps in the country.