China public schools are, theoretically, places where rich and young alike can receive a decent quality education. In practice, according to a recent piece published in the Washington Post, admission into many public schools hinges on bribes and ‘informal contributions’ that are so high that all but the richest are unable to attend.
The full WP article is worth a read, but here are some noteworthy excerpts:
[W]ith her daughter entering the anxiety-filled application process for middle school, Yang is questioning that principle. She has watched her friends shower teachers and school administrators with favors, presents and money. One friend bought a new elevator for a top school. His child was admitted soon after. […]
During a recent tour of Beijing’s Jingshan School, administrators showed off a $326,000, one-story-high telescope for astronomy lessons, housed in a rotating room with retractable ceiling; flat-screen televisions in every class; pricey computer labs; an Olympic-size pool; and a state-of-the-art hydroponics garden. The school recently began requiring doctoral degrees for all upper-grade teachers.
Meanwhile, just miles away, at a private school for migrant families, kids walked off a dirt road into a ramshackle facility with cracked walls, overcrowded classes and a single bathroom consisting of cement-lined holes in the ground. […]
The hyper-competitiveness has driven many parents to curry favor in any way possible — delivering organic rice to a teacher worried about food safety, bringing back lavish gifts from abroad. When all else fails, store gift cards are always a safe bet.
“Sometimes, you open these cards on National Teacher’s Day and find crazy amounts inside,” one Beijing teacher said.
Such gifts, several parents explained, can lead to more attention for a struggling student, extra praise for gifted ones or even a seat closer to the front of the classroom.
“It’s human nature,” said one parent who regularly sends her son to school with gift cards. Like many adults interviewed for this story, she asked for anonymity to talk frankly about school corruption. “If the teacher is choosing between two kids on equal footing, the effect of a gift may be small, but it could make all the difference.” […]
Her mother recalled the time in second grade when Qianyi lost out on a top award. “My daughter said to me, ‘The teacher chose that girl because her mother was smart and gave medicine to the teacher when she was sick.’ She asked me, ‘Why didn’t you give any medicine?’ ”
Xi Jinping’s corruption crack-down has certainly made for plenty of big headlines, but has focused almost entirely on eliminating official corruption. For now it looks as though small-scale (but quite important) corruption like local middle/elementary school admissions is probably still under the radar.
[Image via Xinhua]