BIZCHINA / Review & Analysis

China exploring ways to tackle corrupt schools
by Xinhua
Updated: 2006-02-21 09:36

China, a country that traditionally prides itself on its education system, now faces an embarrassing problem in providing a satisfactory standard of schooling for its people.

China's State Development and Reform Commission (SDRC) on Sunday publicized a "blacklist" of eight schools, which were foundto be charging exorbitant tuition fees totaling some 22.7 million yuan (nearly 3 million U.S. dollars).

In fact, arbitrary fee collection by schools and universities has become a major obstacle preventing students from medium and low-income families from receiving education.

In recent years, Chinese families have found they are paying much more than before for their children's education. In the early1990s, an ordinary university student in Beijing paid about 400 yuan per year, but now the figure is ten times higher.

Many Chinese parents in rural areas cannot afford the rocketingfees charged by schools and colleges, even forcing their children to quit compulsory education, which ends at the graduation from junior middle school in China.

For two years, the price of education has triggered the most complaints from the public, followed by high charges in the medical sector and soaring housing prices in the real estate sector, according to an investigation by the SDRC on pricing complaints.

In the first seven months of 2005, about 23.8 percent of the total pricing complaints concerned arbitrary fee collection by schools and colleges, the SDRC said.

The standard fees for a student majoring in art and design at China Xi'an Academy of Fine Arts was 9,000 yuan (1,100 U.S. dollars) for last year, but one student paid 15,000 yuan. Over-charging by the university totaled 5.59 million yuan last year.

To solve the social problem that aroused public anger from as early as 2003, China has started to crack down on the arbitrary fees collection in the education sector.

Last September some government departments including the SDRC, the Ministry of Education and the National Audit Office took jointmeasures, promising to fine schools and punish officials who set their own fees.

The SDRC says the punishment of these schools is on-going and encourages people to report arbitrary fees collection through the hot line "12358."

Standardizing tuition fees is one of the measures China is taking to ease the expense of education, and exposing the offending schools through the press acts as a major deterrent, insiders said.

Recently, Wu Guanzheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, once again urged schools to halt arbitrary fees collection in order to safeguard the people's interests.