Teaching under opportunism: The predicament of academic tutors in China


Academic tutoring as a supplementary form of education has quickly spread across China. Tutoring has attracted young college-educated practitioners and has become a highly organized industry. The industry is fast-churning and opportunistic. This article examines the nature of tutors’ work using the qualitative data of 31 tutors and their managers in Beijing. Characteristics of tutoring are typical of precarious service labor with irregular work schedules, blurred work–life boundaries, and artificial emotional labor. However, we also found that tutors’ work was constrained by their invisible neighbor, schoolteachers, in a linked professional ecology. Tutors have limited jurisdiction over daily tasks and perform reactionary teaching based on school subjects. This lack of control has allowed the industry to rationalize their work, making tutors disposable. Our research offers new insights into the linked professions of tutors and schoolteachers. It enriches the concept of precarious and opportunistic labor practices from the sociology of professions perspective.

International Sociology (38)