A new report on the conditions of Chinese education reveals a severe shortage of quality education resources. With few choices available, thousands of Chinese parents have to buy quality education for their children. The price, as a result, has skyrocketed. There are now concerns that the practice causes corruption in the education system.
One of the problems of the Chinese education system has been an unequal distribution of resources and educational provisions between schools. In consequence, a climate of corruption exists where no one will speak out as no one wants their child’s education compromised. Schools participate by raising fees in line with application expectations over and above national standard requirements. This is called sponsorship.
Today, nearly all developed provinces and big cities have abolished the key ranking school system, where allocated resources would differ between schools, for the compulsory education phase, yet the system unofficially remains.
The official principle now in operation is for a student to attend a school within the district where they live. Along with improved living standards, there is a higher expectation for a child’s education in China which creates popularity amongst schools. Being the envy of parents, the popular schools have allowed a corrupt system to flourish by making admissions a flexible procedure.
What is of concern now is the fact that schools with limited resources cannot produce good results and that what seems to make a school good is provided by school management policy in increasing its funding level. This inequity calls for standard procedures and greater transparency in the educational system.
For example, insiders in education say that the popular middle schools gain advantage by enrolling large numbers into the junior school through high-fee scales but keeping senior-school enrolment based solely on performance.
In Guangzhou, the capital city of south China’s Guangdong Province, this practice unofficially still continues with school-chosen fees or "sponsorship" being paid up to 30,000 yuan (US$3,625) for a once-off payment for a provincial key primary school and 50,000 yuan (US$6040) for a provincial key junior high school. It is said that in Beijing it is even higher.
While donations to such schools by parents is incomprehensible, some enterprises appropriate large sums of money precisely, so they claim, to provide and support quality education, in turn making room for the children of those that make the donation.
One of Beijing’s most prestigious schools has a yearly intake of 400 students for junior middle schooling. Among them 300 come from compulsory education area intake with no additional charge and the remainder creating annual revenue of 4 million yuan (US$483,000) – from 40,000 yuan per student.
This figure appears surplus to local government budgets and remains hidden from accounts and therefore beyond control or supervision. The local authority advise that it be used according to the needs of the school and not the teachers though, it is common knowledge that the teachers will benefit too.
This system is not without its detractors. The criticism centers on the fact that it creates a culture of corruption rather than a culture of education and runs counter to a fair system where progress depends on putting in the work, reaching set goals and beginning at a new level.
Huang Taikang, a deputy to the 10th National People’s Congress, China’s legislative body, noted that it is not the intention of the government to allow education development to happen in the face of corrupt methods; without supervision and correction.
It has been the advice of educational advisors to make the system more accountable and transparent. Thus, a system could be created where school management takes place in plain view of the public and where a legal system would allow the listing, implementation and standardization of all school management practices.
According to this view, the parents and teachers should not ignore what takes place nor keep silent or take part in this corruption. It has also been suggested that the authorities concerned should take prompt action to drive out the source of a culture of corruption in schools and make sure there is a reallocation of all resources in a fair and balanced manner.
(China.org.cn translated by Wang Zhiyong, April 2, 2003)