Don't create aristocracy, schools told

Chris Yeung

CHINA has warned flourishing private schools not to seek to nurture a new aristocracy, saying they must uphold socialist ideals.

The Minister of the State Education Commission, Zhu Kaixuan, said: ''We must clearly point out that fostering 'aristocrats' runs counter to the education policy of our country.

''It is not conducive to the healthy development of the youth. We do not agree to it.'' Mr Zhu wrote in an article carried in yesterday's People's Daily that China would not approve schools set up to promote ''aristocratic education''.

More than 20,000 private schools have been set up over the past few years since the Government relaxed its control on private education.

Faced with a shortage of funds, Mr Zhu conceded that the private sector could share the state's financial burden in funding education and improving the quality of education.

On the other hand, the burgeoning market economy had given rise to a new entrepreneur class on the mainland who were keen to provide the best education for their children.


Some private schools have offered boarding facilities and special foreign language and computer classes to attract students.

One of the first and best-publicised, the Guangya Elementary School in Sichuan province, which is equipped with colour television and air conditioning, charges a one-time enrolment fee of 180,000 yuan (HK$242,800) and annual tuition of 4,200 yuan.

The average annual income for urban Chinese is 1,826 yuan; the average peasant income is less than half that. As a result, newspapers quickly dubbed Guangya and other high-priced schools in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai as ''aristocratic schools''.

Mr Zhu conceded that the development of these schools fulfilled the needs of high-income people who had made their fortunes in joint ventures or private enterprises.


''But the number of people who can afford to send their children to these schools is small . . . We should also allow differences [of quality of education.] ''There's nothing wrong with those who want to invest more on their children's education,'' Mr Zhu said.

''But the question is whether these schools can fully implement the education policies of the Government.


''We hold the view that no matter how superior the education environment is and how much more money the students have paid, schools must uphold the socialist direction,'' he said.

Mr Zhu said any deviation from the education policy was not just a matter for the pupils and their parents but the nation.

''It is imperative every school run locally persists in the principle of benefiting the public, and making profits should not be the prime purpose of running a school,'' the minister said.


Mr Zhu said the Education Commission was formulating a set of laws governing the operation of private schools, which would promote private-run education while strengthening government supervision of these schools.