|Linchuan First High School, one of China's "super" high schools. (China.org.cn)|
Chinese "super" high schools have been recruiting top students from their local areas, out of motivation for profit, a local newspaper reported.
As the new school term began on September 1, Yanzhao Metropolis Daily visited several "super high schools" in Jiangxi, Jiangsu and Henan provinces and was suspicious about their colossal sizes.
This kind of school is much bigger than a normal school, the newspaper said, even bigger than some universities. Henan Experimental High School in Henan Province has 10,000 students and teachers, and Huaiyang High School has more than 20,000.
In Jiangxi Province, there are two super high schools - Linchuan First High School and Linchuan Second High School in Dundu Town, Fuzhou City, both with more than 10,000 students. Many students from outside the town also came to the city, hoping to get a place at the school.
The schools are not just taking on more students; they actually pay money to admit more top students.
"The reason why Linchuan First and Second High Schools have better college entrance examination scores is because they paid additional fees to take top students away from us," headmasters in Jiangxi Province told the newspaper.
These super schools give scholarships and free meals and accommodation to lure top students. After the top students get high scores in China's national college entrance exam, the schools use them as advertisements to increase the schools' value and fees.
According to Yanzhao Metropolis Daily, the local government and schools exploit the loopholes of China's education policies to raise tuition fees.
Families try their best to get their children into the "super schools," but there are limits to the quotas. The fee to "choose" a school can be as high as 100,000 yuan (US$16,350) on top of thousands of RMB in tuition fees.
As Chi Fulin, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), pointed out, some super high schools are becoming like large companies, building more school campuses and enlarging pool the of students. What they are aiming for, is not top-quality educational resources for students, but are merely pursuing profit.
The rapid development of the "super" high schools has changed local life. In Dundu, two high schools have boosted local housing prices to a level that only people from the city center can afford. As tens of thousands of parents and students have come to the area, there has been a spin-off effect on related industries. Many parents are in heavy debt after sending their children to the schools.
However, the local governments see the bloated schools as a political achievement. In Yichun in Jiangxi Province, the government invested 200 million yuan (US$32.67 million) to build a super school, merging two smaller schools. After this, top city officials bragged about the achievement.
When Song Chenguang, the Party secretary for Yichun at the time, was sacked for corruption, the local people were aware of the corruption and interest groups behind the schools. But the merger of the schools led to a decrease in the quality of education and increased costs. Therefore, in 2012, the new city leadership were forced to split up the super school, to resolve the problem.
The local government is behind the problem, Chi Fulin said. Many local officials are "proud" to host a super school in their region. Some educational administrations even impose targets on school principals. If the target is not reached, the principal will be sacked.
Some industry insiders believe that the problem is caused by China's education system. "The super schools can increase in scale, but what they should increase, is not their fees, but the quality of educational resources," said Zhang Yuangui, Principal of Huaiyin High School in Jiangsu Province.