Elite Chinese school forced to overturn changes to admission policy after backlash from parents

  • Luoling Foreign Language Experimental School says its roster is full and brought in property rule to ensure children from local families were assured of a place
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2018, 6:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 December, 2018, 8:57pm

An elite school in Shenzhen has reversed its admissions policy, which restricted entry by children who live in flats of less than 50 square metres (538 sq ft), after backlash from parents.

Luoling Foreign Language Experimental School published an official notice on Tuesday banning applications from students who have lived in a flat smaller than 30 square metres for fewer than six years, according to Shenzhen News.

Applicants for the 2019 school year whose home is between 30 and 50 square metres in size must have lived there for at least four years, while students whose homes are bigger than 50 square metres must have lived there for at least a year.

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“The number of student admissions from the school catchment area has continued to increase in recent years and the number of places has reached its maximum limit,” Luoling said.

The school, in Shenzhen’s Luohu district, said that the policy was “to give priority to children whose families have genuinely bought property in the area to live there, and protect their right to attend school.”

But the school quickly cancelled the policy “on the advice of the Luohu Education Department”, according to Thursday’s announcement on its website.

A crowd of parents gathered at the school gates on Tuesday afternoon, according to the blog of local property agency Shenzhen Taofangzhi.

“Yes, I admit I only bought a house here to get a school place. Is it really wrong?” one parent was quoted as saying.

“Today they can require 50 square metres, next year that could be 60 or even 80 square metres. This statement from the school is really extreme, it clearly discriminates against people who live in small homes.”

Another asked what would happen if other elite schools start doing what Luoling has done and they wondered if their property was a waste of money.

“Will that mean our children will never get the right to receive a high-quality education?” the parent asked.

Other parents were more supportive of the policy.

“I’ve lived here since I was small, now my child also studies at Luoling school. I think the rule is very good, these people only moved into the 30 square metre homes nearby here for a place in the school. How can a family live in a 30 square metre home?” another parent was quoted as saying.

“The people who buy small properties here are only speculators and don’t really need the house. They are making a fuss because they’re scared they will not be able to sell them off for a big profit.”

Internet users railed against the policy when it was announced on Tuesday.

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“Is there any way to reverse the situation? We’ve only just bought a 39 square metre house in a catchment area at the beginning of this year to prepare for our kid, who is starting school next year. I feel like the sky is caving in …” wrote one commenter on Weibo, China’s Twitter.

The unusual policy was intended to stop families buying small second properties in the catchment areas of the best public schools for the sole purpose of access for their children.

The practice is also common in first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, which both have booming secondary property markets.

Homes in the most desirable school districts often carry a hugely inflated price tag – up to millions of yuan, even if those homes are old or dilapidated – as a result of intense competition for places.

Many parents buy property years in advance of when their children are due to start school to give admissions officers the impression that they are long-time residents of that neighbourhood.

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Families may not necessarily live in these second properties, but must provide proof of purchase. The address can then be used as the child’s residence when applying to schools.

Authorities in Beijing’s Dongcheng district have also tried to curb property speculation by banning single school applications from families who bought a property in the catchment area after June 30. The policy has been delayed until next year due to parents’ protests.