Plan to grant homebuyers exam marks fails

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 June, 2009, 12:00am

A local government in Fujian has been forced to give up a controversial policy designed to boost the city's property prices - by rewarding the children of new homeowners with extra marks in the high school entrance exam.

The city government of Yongan announced in September that people who spent more than 250,000 yuan (HK$284,000) on property from September 1, 2007, to June 1 this year would receive 10 bonus marks for their children's exam scores. Their children's school fees would also be waived.

The policy was reported by local media and drew heavy criticism from all sides. Yongan Education Bureau later admitted that the policy was mainly designed to boost the local property market.

The authorities announced on Thursday that it would be abolished, without explaining the reason.

House prices in the area plummeted late last year amid the financial crisis, meaning big losses for people who had bought the year before. These residents were angry and demanded their money back. The local government introduced a number of policies aimed at stimulating demand, including the exam scheme, Yang Chenghui , the head of the city's housing management bureau, told Southeast Express.

'The 'extra-mark policy' was to keep social stability, and it certainly wasn't prompted by property developers,' Mr Yang said.

However, the policy was given short shrift by the public, which complained it was unfair on children whose parents could not afford to buy a property.

Mr Yang said 33 students were eligible for extra marks out of 3,300 who would be taking the exam this year.

'People didn't lose money in the case, so they can't demand economic compensation,' said Zheng Baosheng , a lawyer in Fujian. 'But they are well within their rights to ask for an apology from the government, because it used an immature policy to cheat people.'

Chen Yihang , an education expert at the Fujian Academy of Social Sciences, said the government's policy artificially created inequality and this 'would increase the tension between the rich and the poor'.

The controversy is similar to a case in Shenzhen between 2004 and 2007, when children of senior financial managers were given marks in a scheme authorities said was aimed at developing the financial sector. It was stopped by the Ministry of Education last year.

Competition in the high school entrance exam is fierce, as the better the score, the more likely students will enter a good high school and then a good university.

Some families have migrated to remote regions like Xinjiang or Tibet, or registered as ethnic minorities, in an attempt to benefit from reduced competition or extra-mark policies. Some parents buy awards in extracurricular competitions that give extra marks as prizes.

The intense competition has also fostered a lucrative business in leaked tests, ghost exam takers, wireless earpieces and even glasses with digital screens.