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Govt reassures angry parents over class size

By Zou Shuo | China Daily | Updated: 2018-09-07 09:07

Ministry orders city to handle issues properly, protect interests of students

The Ministry of Education ordered education authorities in Leiyang city, Hunan province, to properly handle issues that gave rise to a street protest by parents over the weekend. The parents objected to a plan to reduce class sizes by moving some children to a private boarding school.

The government is determined to eliminate super-large classes - those with more than 66 students - by the end of this year, ministry spokeswoman Xu Mei said at a news conference on Thursday. In pursuit of that goal, education authorities should be flexible and take local needs into consideration, she said.

Education authorities should seek public opinion before proceeding with plans, and the interests of students should be protected, Xu said. She added that more schools should be built and educational resources should be allocated in a more balanced manner.

Her remarks came after some parents of primary school students in Leiyang took to streets late on Saturday to protest an order by provincial authorities to cut class sizes in the city's crowded education system by relocating all fifth and sixth graders to a new campus - a boarding school at a branch of a high school affiliated with Hunan Normal University.

Some parents complained about unfinished dormitories and expressed concerns over odors in the newly refurbished buildings that they worried could be from indoor pollutants. They also complained about increased fees they would be forced to pay at a private school.

In a statement on Monday, the city government said parents would only be charged the standard amount normally paid for a public school.

The city has ordered tests of the indoor air quality at the boarding school, the statement said, adding that dormitories that exceed safe levels of chemicals will not be used to house students.

Police said on Sunday, the day after the protest, that 46 people had been detained for throwing bottles, bricks and firecrackers at police officers and officials. Charges included disturbing public order and damaging public facilities during the protest outside a police station.

Leiyang's mayor, Li Xiangyang, met with representatives of the parents on Saturday evening, but demonstrators mounted another protest outside the headquarters of the city's public security bureau demanding the release of the detainees, police said.

Of the 46 people detained, only one was a parent of school-age children, they said.

Under a guideline issued by the education ministry in 2016, super-large classes of more than 66 students should be eliminated by 2018, and classrooms with more than 56 students should be eliminated by 2020.

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