China's night schools the new craze among young people
Emerging as new lifestyle
Published: Dec 05, 2023 10:24 PM
Jinan Library, East China's Shandong Province. Photo: Courtesy of the Jinan Library

Jinan Library, East China's Shandong Province. Photo: Courtesy of the Jinan Library

In China, going to night school was once for adults, with the main aim being to reduce illiteracy. Today, far from being to provide basic education, the main focus has changed to meeting the personal interests and fulfilling the aspirations of China's youth.

Night schools are sweeping across major cities in China. These schools offer short learning courses, usually with one class a week. A variety of art subjects are offered, not simple reading and writing. Subjects range from intangible cultural course velvet crafting to Chinese traditional tea ceremony (tea making) and barista courses. Hundreds of thousands of students are flocking to night classes after they get off work

The pacesetter has been the Shanghai Night School, which offers a course which includes 12 classes led by masters in their fields for only 500 yuan ($70). When Shanghai's autumn 2023 semester enrollment began, attendance numbers were as high as 650,000 to get their places on one of the 10,000 courses. 

According to data from Chinese consumer shopping platforms Meituan and Dianping, searches for "night schools" have skyrocketed, increasing an astonishing 980 percent compared with last year. Reviews for related hobby classes grew 226 percent year-on-year.

The hashtag "night school" has gained a whopping 5.292 million views on Xiaohongshu, the Instagram-like platform beloved by urban youth in China.

Yang Song's works of the velvet crafting photo: Courtesy of the Yang Song

Yang Song's works of the velvet crafting photo: Courtesy of the Yang Song

Reclaiming pleasant and balance 

"Far from spending a thousand for one or two trial training courses, the night school charges 500 yuan for 12 classes. This is more suitable for me," Yang Song, a student at Shanghai Night School told the Global Times. 

Yang attended the night school classes for the first time in 2022 and she felt there was a huge rise of night schools, adding that "The classes in Shanghai Night School were snapped up within one minute and courses are hard to grab."

For the stressed-out urban youth, these schools promise self-cultivation, communication bonding, and most importantly, a happy environment lacking in their regular workplace. 

Yang attended evening classes to fulfill her aspirations and to meet new people, "I have many hobbies and I want to learn all the things that I didn't take the time to learn when I was studying in the past." 

She added that meeting more like-minded people, communicating people who don't care about your personal affairs, "how can you not love that feeling of pure lightness?" she noted. 

Night schools seem to offer an oasis from the burnout workplaces, even if only for a few hours each week. They represent a temporary breathing place for the youth. 

"I just don't want to push myself anymore, night school is a place where I can unwind. It's an outlet for me," Yang told the Global Times.

Yang Song's works of the velvet crafting photo: Courtesy of the Yang Song

Yang Song's works of the velvet crafting photo: Courtesy of the Yang Song

Night school surging popularity amongst youth seeking both passion and solace

Dong Jiaxi is a 27-year-old white-collar office working in Beijing. Her daily life is normally boring, "Every day I go to work, go home, and lay down and play with my cellphone," she told the Global Times. 

Night school offers her a sense of passion and motion, she said, "studying at the night school is the equivalent of 'recharging the batteries'." 

For the urban youth, life is gradually becoming boring, with nothing to do after work. "I think we all need a platform and an avenue to develop our hobbies, to express ourselves, to improve ourselves, to find joy and meaning in our lives outside of work," Dong said.

Flourishing classes

Other cities have followed the trend in Shanghai. Major cities like Beijing, Shenzhen, Shandong, and Chongqing Municipality have launched their own distinctive night schools catering to the interests of the locals.

The Jinan Library, East China's Shandong Province, will launch their first evening classes on December 18, Li Dehu, an employee in charge of night school of Jinan Library, told the Global Times. 

The library is billed as the first night school in Jinan. It offers short video-making course, intangible cultural heritage handicrafts class, and the skills for the workplace courses such as office software training and writing after they posted the questionnaire on their official Wechat account since November 16 to acquire people's suggestions and options for evening classes.  

The Library will be upgrading some lecture theaters and other rooms. Students will get an ID card to attend the night school, gaining access far from daytime students, Li noted. 

Unlike the business night schools, Jinan night school, as a public welfare school, offers low prices charging only 20 yuan per class and they also provide after-school counseling. The highlight of the courses in Jinan night school is the teachers, who are highly qualified. The school invites inheritors of intangible cultural heritage to teach students and their teachers are mostly from Jinan's universities, Li told the Global Times.

The night school with their own characteristics in Jinan, hope that they can more accurately meet the public cultural needs, enrich the cultural life of the city at night, and satisfy the needs of cultural life, skill learning, and physical and mental health, Li stressed.