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Primary Schools' VIP Classes Halted in Hubei

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Primary schools in a city of Hubei Province that have been offering VIP classes for extra tuition payments have been ordered to stop the classes and return the tuition, so as to ensure equal compulsory education for all, officials in the city said.

In Huangshi, an industrial city in central China's Hubei Province, many primary schools had created two kinds of classes for students.

The fee for an "experimental class" is much higher than the cost for an ordinary class. These experimental classes cost from 4,000 yuan to 14,000 yuan (US$2,050), China National Radio (CNR) reported.

In Zhongshan Primary School and Yanhulu Primary School, experimental classes have about 20 students, and are equipped with air conditioners, TV sets, water dispensers, newly painted walls and good-quality desks and chairs. These classes also have the best teachers, the report said.

The ordinary classes do not have all these luxuries, and they often have as many as 50 students - more than twice the enrollment of the VIP classes.

"Senior officials of Huangshi government have ordered relevant schools to stop organizing experimental classes immediately," Ding Yuanshi, an official with the city's Party committee's publicity department, told China Daily yesterday.

Zhongshan Primary School and Yanhulu Primary School were asked Friday to return the tuition fee to parents, and school officials are under investigation, he said.

The local education bureau also has organized a special team to crack down on the "luxury" classes in citywide public primary schools.

China's nine-year compulsory education law, launched in 1986, enables students older than 6 nationwide to have free education at both primary and secondary schools. The schools operate with government funds.

The law stipulates that primary and secondary schools cannot charge students tuition and incidental expenses, Gao Xuegui, a senior official with basic education department of the Ministry of Education, was quoted by CNR.

"Primary schools in Huangshi provide better education conditions to students who pay more, which apparently goes against the compulsory education law," he said.

According to the law, schools should ensure students' equal access to compulsory education, and those schools that do not should be punished, he said, without elaborating how the schools' officials would be punished.

"What the schools did with the VIP classes is improper and might hinder some children's growth," Zhao Guanghua, an expert with the education administration branch of the Chinese Association of Education, told China Daily Friday.

(China Daily October 17, 2009)

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