Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, October 14, 2013

The distortions of corruption

Minor league corruption is endemic in China. But now that some people have real money and a growing middle class has some money, corruption and guanxi are distorting many parts of civil society. Schools, for instance…

In China, parents bribe to get students into top schools, despite campaign against corruption
Reining in corruption has been the main focus of China’s new president, Xi Jinping. But such campaigns are barely making a dent, critics say, in a country where children are shown as early as elementary school how to game the system.

Lunch line at a prestigious Beijing school
Almost everything, from admission to grades to teacher recommendations, is negotiable in Chinese schoolsif you know the right person or have enough cash, parents and teachers say. As a result, many believe, the education system is worsening rather than mending the vast gap between the elite and everyone else in China…

In Chinese cities, the best schools are the public ones.

Private schools are often aimed either at foreign expats or children barred from city schools, such as the offspring of low-income Chinese migrant workers.

Even by Western standards, the top public schools are often astounding…

Academic performance still matters greatly. [M]any students… [spend] every night… even on weekends and vacations, attending expensive cram classes…

The hyper-competitiveness has driven many parents to curry favor in any way possible — delivering organic rice to a teacher worried about food safety, bringing back lavish gifts from abroad. When all else fails, store gift cards are always a safe bet…

Education in this communist country is supposedly free and funded by the government. But elite schools benefit from hefty fees and donations. These days, admission to a decent Beijing middle school often requires payments and bribes of upwards of $16,000, according to many parents. Six-figure sums are not unheard of.

In theory, middle school admissions are guided by where children live, but independent studies have shown that only half the students at Beijing’s top public schools are chosen that way.

Instead, getting in often comes down to three things: talent, money and relationships, particularly ties with government or party officials.

“If you know someone, you pay a lot less,” said a mother in Beijing’s Chaoyang district…

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