Cost of educational e(quality)

Following the pervasive, highly pressurized third and final year of middle school in China, preparing for the entrance examination, Jenny’s daughter will enter high school this fall. Top scores equal entrance to the top schools. And in China, entering the top high schools is deemed to be the best path to top universities, which all hope will translate into a “bright and happy” future.

There are two “top” high schools here in Xiangfan – No. 4 and No. 5. Though most locals appear to favor No. 5, which just completed construction of a new campus that opens this year, to the tune of 200 million RMB ($29 million). After the entrance examination is held, all parents and students hold their breath waiting to find out the results. But, even more important, they anticipate the school’s announcement of minimum entrance scores.

Not to worry, however, if your child’s score is less than the minimum, it doesn’t mean they can’t attend the school. It simply means you’ll have to shell out more moolah to secure a spot in that year’s class.

Here’s how it played out this summer…

Anny’s score was 561.5, out of a possible 600. About two weeks later, No. 5 announced that the minimum entrance score was 566. But here’s where the sleight of hand lies. Anny’s middle school is located north of the Han Jiang. There are other school districts south of the river, where the announced entrance requirement is 553. Most of the lingdao (leaders) live south of the river.

If Anny had attended school south of the river, it would have cost only 3,000RMB ($437) to attend No. 5. One of her classmates, who lives next door, scored 571, so her parents only have to pay the same, 3,000RMB. (By the way, these tuition costs are for all three years of high school. You have to pay in full, not year by year.)

This morning Jenny walked across the street to her bank and withdrew 27,000RMB ($4,000) – the tuition for Anny’s three years of high school.

Mei ban fa…

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