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2019-01-24 10:37:22

A private high school in northern China’s Shanxi province used a “fake campaign and overenrolled students,” a local education bureau announced Tuesday. Earlier that day, a media report had said the issue left some upperclassmen without official student identification numbers, which are needed to take college entrance exams.

The education bureau of Jincheng City wrote that Fenglan School admitted students who hadn’t met the necessary enrollment requirements, leading to overenrollment. State broadcaster China National Radio (CNR) first reported the issue hours before, saying that such students had not received official identification numbers from the bureau as a result of the school’s actions. Student ID numbers are required for students to sit for college entrance exams and receive high school diplomas.

The parent of one student told CNR that they became aware of the matter in November — the month of the registration deadline for the 2019 college entrance exam — but that the school assured them the problem would be resolved.

According to a provincial guideline, the scores that students receive on the junior high school graduation exam determine which high schools they are eligible to apply to, and the high schools that enroll eligible applicants are required to register them with the local education authority for identification numbers. One parent told CNR that he chose to enroll his child at Fenglan because the school admitted students even if their scores were lower than the guideline allowed.

Sixth Tone’s calls to the school on Wednesday went unanswered. An unidentified Fenglan staff member, however, told CNR that “the issue with student identification numbers has been a yearly thing, and every time it has been handled properly,” without further explanation of how this was done.

A Jincheng education bureau official surnamed Zhang told Sixth Tone on Wednesday that some of the students’ parents had reported the problem in November. Zhang said “around 200 to 300” students had been affected. The parent of an 11th-grader told CNR that there are over 700 students in that grade at Fenglan, while the school’s official enrollment figures reported to the education bureau show only 300.

The education bureau said students in limbo have two options: They can transfer to vocational high schools to receive identification numbers or, if they wish to remain at Fenglan, they can still register for the exam as test takers who are not in the high school student category by proving their eligibility to do so with local educational authorities. But one parent told CNR that they had concerns about both solutions, as vocational schools have lower educational quality and some tertiary schools only accept applicants who have registered in the high school student category. The bureau did not mention whether the Fenglan students in question had submitted applications for the upcoming college entrance exam by the most recent registration deadline.

Yuan Hongwei, a deputy bureau chief overseeing secondary education, told CNR that the city’s education bureau might suspend new enrollment at Fenglan pending the results of an investigation. The bureau had said in 2017 that it would conduct an annual inspection of private schools to review their school management and enrollment procedures.

This is not the first time that Chinese students haven’t received their identification numbers. In 2016, nearly 2,000 freshmen at several high schools in the southern province of Guangdong had to drop out after a local education authority found they did not meet enrollment standards.

In the wake of the Jincheng case, experts have urged education authorities to solve the overenrollment problem while protecting the interests of students. “Enrollment via illegal or unregulated channels will not be protected by the law,” education policy expert Xiong Bingqi wrote in a commentary published Wednesday in The Beijing News. “This would only negatively affect the children’s education and future.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Students attend an evening class in Hefei, Anhui province, June 2, 2012. Stringers/Reuters/VCG)