China's online education industry witnessing "golden age" amid pandemic
By Cen Ziyuan

Chinese children have quickly adapted to alternative ways of learning as the COVID-19 epidemic shuttered schools for months. Online education has therefore obtained an unexpected opportunity to thrive while many industries have been affected.

As the kids are spending more time than ever before in front of their screens, leaders in the education industry are cashing in.

iHuman Inc. even capitalized by going public on the U.S. stock market, despite increasing tensions between the world's two biggest economies.

Chinese online learning company iHuman Inc. goes public at New York Stock Exchange. /iHuman Inc.

Chinese online learning company iHuman Inc. goes public at New York Stock Exchange. /iHuman Inc.

CEO of iHuman Inc. Chi Yufeng said the company's decision shows it values the educational approaches in China and overseas.

"One major factor we chose to go public at New York Stock Exchange is we value people-to-people exchanges between the two countries," Chi said, "We want to expand our share in the global education market."

The company, established in 2016, is known for its core business, providing online learning apps to children ranging from three- to eight-years-old.

According to the company's IPO, its monthly active and paid users are leading the education section in Chinese app stores.

The team takes pride in the algorithm behind the app, which is backed by nearly two decades of experience in education. It seeks to optimize user experience on the basis of improving content and technology.

Chi shared: "What we have done previously on disks are very popular in China, for infants learning Chinese words and kids' English learning. What we are doing now is a mobile version of that. However, we have a better team now."

This is by no means the first time a Chinese education firm has made the plunge overseas.

NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchange websites indicate there are 13 Chinese educational companies listed in the U.S.

One leader in the field, New Oriental Education, was the very first Chinese education company being listed on the New York Stock Exchange back in 2006.

A projection of China's online education market in 2020. /iHuman Inc.

A projection of China's online education market in 2020. /iHuman Inc.

Data from iiMedia Research projects the value of China's online education market to reach more than 450-billion yuan by the end of 2020, which it is around $67 billion.

Of the 300-million users of e-learning products, 34.5 percent are targeted at students aged from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Andy Mok, senior research fellow at the Center for China and globalization, shares his view on the move.

"With rising incomes and a shift to an increasingly knowledge-based economy," Mok said, "parents are more able and willing to invest in the education of their children.”

However, China's online education market struggled to make profits in 2019 with companies caught in a price war and competition for market share. The pandemic has given the industry a major boost to this year's growth.

iHuman's IPO also comes at a special time as many are still worrying about the impact of the pandemic and the trade friction.

Deloitte said the Chinese education industry is witnessing a "golden age.”

And with iHuman going public, it showcases the ambition of the sector's major players, as they look to capitalize on their success and claim a piece of the international pie.