BEIJING, July 23 -- The discovery of a preferential university enrollment policy for children of school staff has prompted renewed debate about education fairness in China.
"The children of school staff at the local universities and colleges should be given admission to the school of their parents as long as their scores meet the school's minimum requirement," reads a document from the Education Department of Hunan province.
The policy, begun in May last year, is still in effect but will be annulled in 2010, according to the education department.
Students who took the national college entrance exam in June found the document on the official websites of several local universities and reported it to local media, the Beijing News reported Wednesday.
Regarded as a benefit or reward for the parents' contribution to education, the children of school staff have enjoyed various privileges to quality education in China.
But it has always been an unwritten rule and conducted largely in secret, education insiders said.
"Children of teachers or other employees in the educational system are given privileges in education and even in employment within the system in my hometown," Li Ding, 26, a fashion editor in Wuhan, told China Daily yesterday. Her mother used to be headmaster of a primary school.
To ensure equal access to higher education, officials from the Ministry of Education said they were strongly against the practice and asked local departments to stop it.
"A lot of Chinese universities used to have similar preferential polices but now the majority of the schools have stopped doing that," Yang Dongping, president of 21st Century Education Development Research Institute, a nongovernmental organization promoting China's education system, told China Daily yesterday.
He said the Hunan education officials were "obviously acting against the ministry's rule."
Zhang Fangwei, a 29-year-old teacher at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said yesterday that such preferential treatment infringes on the principle of education equity.
"The universities could give other benefits or rewards to their hard-working staff rather than enrollment privileges."
But many universities have faced great pressure from their employees when canceling the policy.
Zhou Qifeng, president of Peking University, is one of the school leaders against the practice. In 2006, as the president of Jilin University, he encountered a big protest from colleagues when he decided to raise the enrollment requirement of the school staff's children.
Some people outside the school system have shown their understanding and tolerance towards the policy.
"Workers in public transportation can get free rides, why can't teachers let their children study in their schools?" said Liu Wei, mother of a nine-month-old baby.
Due to the limited education resources in the country, every parent is trying their utmost to get their children into a good school, she said.
"We can accept some privileges for school staff but it can't go too far. Their children should at least meet the minimum requirement for the school."