Perfect test scores and a manic work ethic are no longer sufficient at Beijing’s public schools. Now even the best and brightest students can’t even enroll — let alone succeed — at top-tier schools without the most elusive placement of all: their place of residence, that is.
New regulations were just put into effect that no longer allow parents to select the best public school for their children regardless of location: they now need to be live in newly drawn school districts in order to enroll.
A recent editorial in the Global Times bemoaned the entrance stipulations at primary schools, which require parents to have a hukou (Chinese residence permit) and own an apartment in the vicinity of the school for their children to gain admittance there.
However, even deeper censure was reserved for the ensuing abuse of those policies, which have prompted wealthy families to snatch up real estate in the radius of esteemed schools, leaving parents with lower incomes in the margins.
Another article published by wenxuecity.com summed the situation up by saying: “as good as their [wealthy parents’]intentions are, this trend is contributing to a staggering inflation of housing prices in Beijing, and is hampering efforts to promote equal-opportunity education.”
In Beijing, these school related spikes in housing prices occur all to frequently in Xicheng District, which has a long-standing reputation of having many of the city’s top schools.
The aforementioned wenxuecity.com piece highlighted Beijing Number 2 Experimental Primary School as one of this trend’s quintessential examples. “The houses surrounding the school are mainly old courtyard homes. However, because of the area’s proximity to the school the houses are priced at nearly RMB 300,000 per square meter and listings are scarce… There is no bargaining for a lower price.”
The article also noted that such sky high rates would leave a 10 square meters room costing RMB 3 million, noting that such a space would be “no bigger than a bathroom.” While the neighborhood around Number 2 Experimental Primary may be one of the most outrageous examples, the piece also noted the inflated real estate prices near several other top schools, which have also inflated to prices well beyond the budget of many average Chinese families.
Those less fortunate parents are growing more frustrated, as they long for policy reforms that will grant their children easier access. An in-depth USA Today feature about the issue said such families, who lack the hukou needed to buy coveted “school district housing” can only “resort to poor-quality schools at risk of closure.”
The article then quoted one such parent, whose sentiment is no doubt shared amongst other slighted families: “"Why can’t the same children have the same opportunities? We all want the best for our kids.”