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    School District to Parents: Report Your Civil Service Ranking

    Ostensibly aimed at preventing government officials from inflating their children’s test scores, the measure was later denounced by local education officials.

    Update: The Shuocheng District education bureau issued an apology on Wednesday.

    A district in the northern Shanxi province has sparked controversy on the Chinese internet for requiring students to report their parents’ civil service rankings, Sixth Tone’s sister publication The Paper reported Tuesday.

    Though a middle school in Shuocheng District responded the same day by saying the measure was intended to stamp out corruption and academic fraud, the head of the education bureau that issued the order has since called it “improper” and vowed to end it.

    On Tuesday afternoon, a netizen posted screenshots online from a chat group on social app WeChat. In them, a person using the name “Teacher Wang” asks the parents of a junior high class at Shuocheng No. 7 Middle School to report their civil service ranking, if any, to the school. The parents are told to write their standing down — whether they serve in government at the national, provincial, or county level, for example — and have their children bring it to school. Liu Chan, the school’s Communist Party secretary, confirmed the screenshots’ authenticity to The Paper Tuesday.

    On microblogging platform Weibo, netizens have raised privacy concerns as well as suspicions about how the information might be used. “This is grading the children (based on who their parents are),” one Weibo user commented Wednesday under The Paper’s post about the case. “What do the parents’ civil service rankings have to do with the students?” asked another.

    Among the various views voiced, however, were many from people who said they recalled receiving similar orders when they were in school.

    The skepticism online isn’t unfounded. Research shows that top-tier universities disproportionately admit applicants whose parents hold influential government posts, and officials occasionally make headlines for flexing their metaphorical muscles when it benefits their children. In November of last year, Yan Chunfeng, the deputy secretary of a municipal party committee in Sichuan province, was removed from his post and expelled from the party after his ex-wife threatened her child’s kindergarten teacher by invoking Yan’s title.

    Liu, the school’s party secretary, told The Paper that the directive had come from the district education bureau, which holds jurisdiction over the school, and that it was meant to stop officials from abusing their power by “adding points” to their children’s high school or college entrance exams, scheduled to take place in June.

    Zhang Yixin, the party secretary at the Shuocheng District education bureau, told online media outlet Red Star News that the measure was aimed at “keeping cadres whose children are about to take standardized exams from participating in exam-related work” and taking swift action against those who abuse their power to give their kids a leg up.

    However, the bureau’s director, Wei Lishan, told The Paper on Tuesday evening that the order was “improper” and could “easily create misunderstanding among parents and the public.” Wei — who said he was away from the bureau “out studying” when the order was given — has vowed to cancel the policy and prevent “cadres cheating for their children” in other, more reasonable ways.

    Editor: David Paulk.

    (Header image: Ninth-graders take an exam at a secondary school in Jilin City, Jilin province, March 29, 2012. IC)