Fierce class battle leaves parents deeply frustrated
Updated: 2011-10-13 08:14
By Wu Yiyao (China Daily)
A foreign teacher and his pupils at a bilingual kindergarten in Beijing's Soho community. [Photo/China Daily]
Camping in line
Parents are struggling to find classrooms for their children.
"We work on a first come, first served system, which is fair," said a clerk at a private kindergarten in Pudong district who gave only her surname, Zhang.
"For kids of foreign nationalities, we have an international class with bilingual teaching that has 30 places," she said. "We suggest that parents come to register a profile of their kids two years in advance, so they will be qualified for enrollment registration."
The monthly fee at Zhang's school is 3,000 yuan ($471), an attractive rate. In comparison, one kindergarten with an international class in Qingpu district charges more than 15,700 yuan a month, and one in Pudong charges 10,000.
Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei province, also has a popular kindergarten that charges 3,000 yuan a month. And one that charges nearly 17,150. That school boasts that all of its foreign teachers are from London, all furniture comes from Europe, even all the nails used in construction were imported - and the education it provides is worth the money.
Two or three days before registration day, usually in mid-May, parents and grandparents in both cities line up at the lower-cost kindergarten gates to obtain registration forms. Some arrive with tents and food to see them through the wait.
"My granddaughter must enter the kindergarten this year," said Liu Shining, a 55-year-old grandparent in Shanghai's Xuhui district. "We missed the opportunity last year, and she is already one year late."
But early registration does not guarantee a place in the end. Children must undergo an interview in which the private school teachers ask several questions and the youngsters deliver talent shows.
"Basically we look at whether kids are healthy, well-mannered and, hopefully, smart," Zhang said.
Interviews at public kindergartens are even more demanding and complex; some require parents to work together with their kids. Both parents and children are anxious about making good first impressions.
"Listen, you behave yourself, and the teachers will like you, and you will be smart and successful. Otherwise, Mom will be upset, understand?" Qi Luting, 32, told her 4-year-old on his first day in kindergarten in Huangpu district.
The boy, Tang Weilian, managed - barely - not to burst into tears, and he passed two rounds of interviews with excellent performances.
That, Qi said, was a result of her training him for more than six months. "We taught him singing and drawing, and he was one of the several who can play a tune on the piano."
The 7,000-yuan investment for pre-interview training was worthwhile, Qi said. "Education for elites should start right now. If he doesn't do well now, he will be a loser at the starting line."
Expatriates, whose choices are even more limited, must come up with other options.
"What's the point of putting my boy into a kindergarten? To educate him, and let him make friends and have fun," Johnson said.
"But after all these days, I realize that hiring a good nanny may do the same with lower cost and more patience with kids than the young teachers at many kindergartens."
Wang Hongyi contributed to this report.