Domestic service program attracts highly qualified students
Peng Aili, a faculty member of Fudan University with a doctorate in social sciences, is among students taking a bachelor's degree program on domestic service at Shanghai Open University.
"I'm not planning on working in the industry in the future," she said. "I applied for the program just to enhance happiness in my family."
The program was launched in March with a first batch of 50 students who were mainly from the domestic service industry. One of this year's autumn classes admitted 14 students – three men and 11 women, aged between 30 and 35.
Of them three already had a bachelor's degree, two boasted a master's degree and one was a doctorate. These six had never worked in the domestic service industry.
Peng, 32, the only student with a doctoral degree in the class, said she decided to apply for the program to learn better skills in handling family affairs.
"We have a three-year-old son and an 18-month-old daughter, and we live with my parents-in-law," she said. "Doing household work efficiently and taking good care of the children while avoiding conflicts among family members is much more challenging than my job.
"Sometimes, we hire domestic helpers, or ayis, but communication with the ayis is also a challenge. I don't know how to balance my attitude of being not too harsh while also not being too tolerant."
Peng said the classes are arranged on weekends and some can be taken online, which is convenient for someone like her who works on weekdays. The program allows students to finish all the courses in up to eight years.
Having taken several classes, she said she found them helpful.
"In the class of introduction to domestic service, I learned how to classify things that must be done and those that can be ignored to achieve goals efficiently," Peng said. "In a psychological class, I got to know children's cognitive development and became less anxious about my children's growth."
Peng revealed that some of her classmates do work in the domestic industry, which might be helpful for her in finding a more suitable ayi in the future.
Unlike Peng, Hong Ye, 27, is taking the courses with hopes of positive prospects in the housekeeping industry.
Hong was a human resources officer in several companies but now wishes to be a private housekeeper or an administrator in a domestic service company.
"Domestic service is a rising-sun industry," she said.
"There are irregularities in the sector but the government is attaching greater significance to the benign and sustainable development of the industry. So when I got to know that Shanghai Open University was offering systematic education and training for domestic service and management, I promptly filed my application."