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Random School Charges in Spotlight
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Deputies to the Guangzhou people's congress voiced their concern this weekend over random charges being directed at students and the use of donations and fees levied on students for their choice of school.


Zhu Yongping, a deputy from a law firm, proposed in his motion that Guangzhou Education Bureau should make public the punishments handed down to the city's Zhixing Middle School and Xiehe Primary School, which were both found in a recent official audit to have abused the donations they received from students' school choice fees in 2003 and 2004.


Zhixing and Xiehe are two of the top schools in Guangzhou.


Zhixing Middle School was found to have misused donations of 6.16 million yuan (US$760,000) on staff welfare and premiums in 2003 and 2004; and Xiehe Primary School, 5.87 million (US$724,000), for a similar purpose.


It is reported that the headmasters of both schools were punished by the municipal education bureau internally last year.


It is a very common practice that schools, especially key schools, levy extra fees or ask for donations from students who choose to study at schools they would not normally be able to attend for different reasons, such as their scores not being sufficient or living out of the school's area.


The extra fee or donation can reach as high as 100,000 yuan (US$12,500) for each student.


The schools are required to hand in 60 percent of the extra fee levied to the municipal education bureau for the improvement of other schools lagging behind in Guangzhou.


However, they have kept the donations they received themselves.


"Internal punishment is the last choice and aims to deter others from breaking the rules," Zhu said.


"The education and auditing bureaux of the city should jointly make public how the cases have been dealt with, how the money was used, and whether the money can be retracted," he added.


Guangzhou should abolish donations from students' school choices and control the number of students who choose to give extra fees to key schools to avoid random charges, he proposed.


At a press conference over the weekend, Guangzhou Mayor Zhang Guangning said the city would make greater efforts to correct schools' random charges on students and would reconsider charge items.


"We will adjust those charge items that citizens complain about frequently and increase capital input into schools that are not so good, to narrow the differences between schools."


He said when the difference between schools diminishes, fewer students would make pointed choices about what school they wish to attend.


(China Daily March 27, 2006)


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