Bribes Not Uncommon to Secure Places in China’s Schools

In China, equality of opportunity in education has a long way to go, as students are often admitted to the best schools depending upon how much their parents are capable of paying to school authorities rather than the merits of the child.

William Wan of The Washington Post writes that Yang Jie, a businesswoman was told that she must start saving money early in order to finance her child's transition in to a top school. She'd always believed that admission was based upon merit and not on bribes, but with the passage of time, she began to realize that her view of the education market was flawed. Many parents in China give expensive gifts to schools, such as buying them elevators, as well as presents for the administration, to secure admission for their children.

"Almost everything, from admission to grades to teacher recommendations, is negotiable in Chinese schools if you know the right person or have enough cash, parents and teachers say. As a result, many believe, the education system is worsening rather than mending the vast gap between the elite and everyone else in China."

Xi Jinping, the new president of China, has pushed for strong actions to cull excessive corruption within the country. However, his campaigns have not made a quick or significant impact in a country with a population of more than a billion people. From primary school age, children are shown how to navigate a school system that depends less on merit and more on connections and incentives that encourage better treatment.

Even if a person wishes to avoid bribery within the country, it can be very difficult — if everybody else is paying, one's refusal would only cause damage to the progress of one's own child. And rather than settle for enrolling their kids at a second rate school, parents readily pay up vast amounts to gain a place at the best.

China is not alone when it comes to bribes and corruption playing a role in the education system. A recent report conducted by Transparency International revealed that in numerous countries, including Ghana, parent bribes paid to teachers and school administrators are a common facet of the education system. The question then arises: what do parents who are unable to cough up the required funds do to ensure their child has access to a quality education?

In most cases, their children settle for going to schools and colleges that are located in far off areas, generally connected with dirt roads and situated in ramshackle cities.

10 15, 2013
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