2017-05-08 12:06:37

An education authority has launched an investigation into a primary school’s admissions procedures upon learning that it tested both prospective students and their parents.

On Sunday, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission published a statement on their Weibo microblog saying that they had ordered local education bureaus to investigate cases in which parents were given logical reasoning questions while their children interviewed at a private primary school.

According to photos circulating online, Yangpu Primary School gave parents a sheet of questions in which they were presented with a visual pattern and asked to choose the next item that should logically appear in the series, reported Party-affiliated news outlet Shanghai Observer.

“[These actions] have violated the basic principles of equality in education, and of protecting elementary and middle school students’ educational rights, as emphasized in the compulsory education law and our city’s admissions policy,” the statement read, adding that local education bureaus should report cases of parental testing to the offending school’s board of directors, discipline any personnel involved, enforce a public apology, and reduce the school’s student enrollment next year.

Yangpu Elementary School later said that the questionnaires were intended to “allow parents to use their brains if they were bored” and were not related to admissions decisions.

For many Shanghai parents, getting their kids admitted at a good private school is an especially daunting task. In addition to the children needing to pass competitive admissions tests, parents are often not immune to scrutiny themselves.

Parents hoping to secure their children a spot at Shanghai Qingpu World Foreign Language School were asked to provide detailed information about their families, such as the name of the child’s primary caregiver, the names of their four grandparents, and even their grandparents’ occupations and educational backgrounds.

Southern China’s Guangdong province witnessed a similar case of questionable admissions practices in March. Parents of prospective students at a private foreign language school were asked to submit proof of their university degrees to the admissions department, which required a bachelor’s degree or higher. After a public outcry, the school erased the policy notice from its electronic display board and was later reprimanded by education authorities, who told them to “rectify and improve” their methods.

In recent years, one of the surest ways for parents to secure their child a spot at a topflight educational institution was to buy a home in the same district as the desired school — a trend that has fueled skyrocketing real estate prices in major cities. As local governments like Beijing try to rein in ballooning property markets, however, a coveted address may not guarantee a spot at an elite neighboring school for much longer.

Along with increasing competition in public schools, private schools, too, have become popular alternatives for urban middle-class parents: If they can afford private tuition, this allows them to skirt cutthroat admissions procedures at public institutions. According to the Ministry of Education, there were a total of 162,700 officially licensed private schools in China in 2015, up 24 percent from 2011.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Young candidates wait with their parents before an interview at a private primary school in Shanghai, May 10, 2014. IC)