China’s Ministry of Education has urged local authorities nationwide to deter nontraditional educational institutions from operating and threatened to punish parents who send their children to such facilities.
Taking children out of school for home schooling or to admit them to facilities such as sishu — which focus on teaching China’s literary classics — is illegal under current law, the ministry emphasized in a set of guidelines published Monday. Parents or guardians who violate this rule will be held legally responsible, the ministry said without elaborating.
According to Chinese law, all children must attend nine years of compulsory education from elementary school to the end of middle school. But in recent years, home schooling has emerged as a popular alternative among parents opposed to the government curriculum or the country’s exam-oriented education system.
The ministry further advised local education authorities to be better-prepared for rising enrollment rates to avoid overcrowded classrooms. It also cautioned public and private schools, as well as local education bureaus, against publicly disclosing students’ exam scores or publicizing their acceptance into the country’s top universities — a common tactic for attracting more students.
Schools violating the ministry’s guidelines will be subject to “serious consequences,” which may include having their licenses revoked, the notice said.
Zhang Xinnian, a lawyer at Jingshi Law Firm in Beijing, told Sixth Tone that there should be a space for alternative education models, provided such models meet the government’s academic standards. But the current absence of this space means many parents end up sending their children to unlicensed sishu facilities, which are illegal and in violation of the country’s laws on compulsory education and the protection of minors.
“If parents or guardians can ensure that school-age children receive their compulsory education in a reasonable, legal way that meets academic standards, then alternative compulsory education models such as home schooling or sishu should be recognized and protected by law,” Zhang said.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Students wearing traditional Chinese clothing read classical texts in Jiaxing, Zhejiang province, Nov. 27, 2010. Chu Yongzhi/VCG)