A recently survey conducted by China National Statistic Bureau shows that more than 60 percent of Chinese families spend one-third of their income on their children’s education. The survey covered 502 urban residents living in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
According to the survey in Beijing, a family’s spending on their children’s education is second only to their spending on food.
Many factors contribute to the rapidly increased family spending on education, and “making sure my kid gets the best possible start” is one of them, as witnessed by the high spending on pre-school education. Many parents try to send their children to the best kindergarten regardless of higher tuition fees. The tuition fees charged by a kindergarten in Beijing can amount to 9,600 yuan (US$1160) per year, even higher than tuition costs for Peking University, the best university in China.
Choosing better middle school for their children also takes money. According to China’s education policy, children must attend the middle school within the district where they live. However, many parents want to send their kids to better known or better-equipped schools in other districts, and thus their children’s attending those schools entails a lot of money.
Thirty-nine-year-old Ms. Liu works for an insurance company. Not satisfied with the district school to which her son was assigned, she sent him instead to a prestigious middle school located in the suburb of Beijing. The entrance fee of the school came to 26,000 yuan (US$3145), a total Liu had saved for a long time to redecorate her house.
In recent years, going abroad to study has become a trend among young Chinese. Chinese parents believe there are several advantages to their children’s going abroad to study – getting direct exposure to foreign languages and culture may be the most important one. As a result, many Chinese families sent their children to study in Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand to study at extremely high cost. Quite a number of the parents are on debt because of the heavy expenditure.
A case in point is a mother who recently sent her 16-year-old daughter to the United States for her high school education. “I have spent too much on my daughter’s education over the past years,” she said. “If she continues her study in China, I again will spend a huge amount of money for her high school, never mind the ever-rising costs of college.” But she added that with China’s WTO entry, international professional people will be much more in demand so the study abroad should better prepare students for the coming challenges in the years to come.
“In the US, she can easily master English language very quickly, more importantly, with a foreign diploma, she will be more competitive in the job market should she come back after graduation,” She Said.
With only one child to shoulder their hopes and dreams, parents are making every efforts to shoulder any financial burden to endure their children’s future through a good education. According to these parents, given the fierce competition behind the national college entrance exam, as long as there are prestigious schools and normal schools, there can be no real equal education opportunity for students. In the eyes of both parents and their children, the prestigious schools without question will deliver a quality education in a good study environment with qualified teachers. More importantly, the best schools are regarded as places that will guarantee a bright future.
(China Today by Xiao Zhang, edited and translated for china.org.cn by Feng Shu, November 23, 2001)