In search of quality education for kids

13:10, July 09, 2010      

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By Fumiyo Layman

I moved with my husband and children to Beijing last summer and started looking for a pre-school/kindergarten for our two-year-old daughter. We did not consider local public schools. Yet I checked out some Chinese private pre-schools and kindergartens. Considering that the average annual income in Beijing is less than 50,000 yuan, I found the tuition to be quite high.

When it comes to international (English curriculum) schools in Beijing, they are three or four times more expensive than some private schools in Japan and the United States. One of my Chinese friends who sent her son to a major international kindergarten in Beijing's Shunyi district told me that she had calculated the daily tuition to be more than 1,000 yuan (equivalent to one month's tuition in public kindergartens).

Nevertheless, she will send her two sons to the school for the next session too, because she believes it provides good education. Her comment is not surprising - even understandable.

But the reality is that very few parents can afford such extravagance. The lack of affordable public kindergartens makes it difficult for most children to have fair and equal access to quality education in China.

Public kindergarten tuition in Beijing is between a 500 and 1,000 yuan a month, whereas for private ones it is 3,000 to 6,000 yuan. Average-income Chinese parents cannot afford to admit their children to private kindergartens, because the fees can be 50-80 percent of their annual income. If they cannot afford such expensive schools, how can they get "quality" education for their children?

Japanese families face a similar problem and the policy trends in Japan give an idea of how China could tackle it.

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