As any Chinese family in Beijing can tell you, the cost of school doesn’t end at tuition. From elementary to high school, families have been reported paying upwards of RMB 50 000 per year to send their child to a top school.
But educational privilege is not something reserved for the rich. A recent article in The China Post shows how far a couple of renminbi here and there can go at any school – not just the most coveted.
The story states that schools, even in poor rural areas, are ‘getting creative’ when it comes to what they can charge parents for. Milk money, heating fees during winter, after-school enrichment programs: it seems any excuse to make some more grey income is becoming standard practice.
But the real news is not how much families pay, but what they won’t receive if they don’t pay these ‘optional fees’.
As reported in the China Post piece, kids whose parents don’t pay up will find themselves sitting in the colder corners of the class, in the back, or in some other not optimal position. It seems that you get what you pay for – even in China’s public schools.
So, inferred from the China Times article, it seems this is the best way to get your kids on the path to higher education is: buy all the extra classes you can, all the private tutoring you can, all the uniforms you can, all the milk you can, all the heating you can, all the New Year’s presents you can (for teachers), and you might as well bring the teacher an apple for good measure.
It’s reported that on average 14 per cent of family income is spent on education in China, compared with 1.9 per cent in the US. If you look at families in China that earn less than RMB 80 000 a year, that figure jumps to 17.3 per cent.