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Parents want more free public preschools

2010-07-07 07:26

BEIJING - Most parents believe kindergarten tuitions are too high but there is nothing they can do about it, a recent survey found.

More than 90 percent said preschool should be included in the free compulsory education laws and more than 70 percent believed more public kindergartens should be opened.

About 64 percent of the 10,400 young parents who responded to a China Youth Daily online survey last week said high tuition is the biggest obstacle to their children's enrollment.

Among them is 29-year-old Beijinger Liu Jingjing, a homemaker who believed she could not get her 2-year-old into a decent preschool.

"I've talked to several public kindergartens, which all told me the annual tuition will be around 10,000 yuan ($1,500), but I believe the total could be even more," Liu said.

"Even if we could afford it, our son probably couldn't get in. Good kindergartens usually consider their employees' kids first and those of their connections next, leaving only a few positions remaining."

Hu Hua, director of the experimental kindergarten affiliated with the China Women's University, said the problem is greater demand for, than supply of, kindergartens - an imbalance intensified by the influx of young parents to metropolises.

In addition, children from the baby booms of 2007 and 2008 - particularly auspicious years for having children, according to the Chinese lunar calendar - are reaching enrollment age this year.

Wang Huamin, former secretary-general of China's preschool education research center, told China Youth Daily that powerful and rich households could get their kids in more easily.

"Young parents have to pay mortgages while feeding their families," the newspaper quoted Wang as saying. "They have no means to pay such high tuitions. That's a stressful burden for them."

A tutor at Baston Bilingual's Wangjing branch, surnamed Wang, told China Daily parents must pay 29,400 yuan every six months. "We aren't bothered by the excessive applicants because that happens to nearly every public kindergarten," she said.

The number of affordable public kindergartens began shrinking in 2000. That year, the government reformed preschool education and required many preschools to become commercial operations.

Also, preschools receive little public funding, accounting for only 1.92 percent of Beijing's 2007 educational budget, Xinhua News Agency reported.

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