Ban on entry fees for kindergartens
Beijing is banning kindergartens from charging admission fees and additional charges for special interest classes in its latest bid to crack down on overcharging.
A joint statement by the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance said kindergartens would be prohibited from collecting fees in the form of sponsorships, donations, building funds or other charges as a precondition for enrolment.
They would also be forbidden from collecting extra fees for organising special interest groups, learning workshops, after-school training programmes or parenting classes.
Kindergartens will be allowed to charge fees for education, child care and accommodation, but fees for services provided by others should be collected on a voluntary basis and publicised regularly.
The foundation for kindergarten education on the mainland is still weak, an unidentified NDRC official was quoted as saying, and the public still felt strongly that it was difficult to get a child enrolled at a kindergarten and that they were expensive.
The lack of kindergartens has become increasingly acute in cities following a baby boom in recent years, and the central government only began to address the problem seriously in 2010. In July of that year it unveiled a blueprint for education development over the following 10 years that listed improving the poor state of kindergarten teaching on the mainland as its top priority. Three billion yuan (HK$3.7 billion) in subsidies were provided for kindergartens in central and western regions and areas with ethnic minorities.
'This plays an important role in regulating kindergarten fees and protecting the legitimate interests of both the students and the kindergartens,' the NDRC official said.
Chu Zhaohui, from the National Institute for Educational Research, said such bans would achieve little in making kindergartens more accessible because they did not go to the root of the problem.
Kindergartens were only able to charge 'donation fees' when places were in short supply or when they had better educational resources than competitors. With 70 per cent of educational resources, funding and good teachers going to model public kindergartens, they were well placed to charge more, Chu said.
Tuition fees for such public kindergartens are usually cheap compared to private ones, but because they have better facilities, parents are willing to pay more to get their children enrolled in them.
'The key is for the government to provide enough seats for children and eliminate the difference between heavily government-subsidised public kindergartens and the rest so that parents do not need to find the means to get their children into only a few kindergartens,' Chu said.
What some public kindergartens in Beijing demand, in yuan, for a 'donation fee' before enrolment. Monthly tuition fees are 1,000 yuan