Protests erupt over college enrollment for minorities at Beijing high school

By Li Ruohan Source:Global Times Published: 2016/6/13 0:53:01

Affirmative action draws outcry from Beijing parents

A Beijing school for students from predominantly minority regions of China announced late Sunday on its WeChat account that its students will continue to sit the national college entrance examinations or gaokao in Beijing up to 2018 and share the university admission quota with Beijing students.

The school's Sunday WeChat post continued, "Some parents misunderstood the admission policy and rallied with irrational behaviors; the school is deeply disappointed." 

The announcement, from the High School Affiliated to the Minzu University of China came after ethnic minority parents protested at the weekend in Beijing over the possible cancelation of the preferential policy which allows students to sit the gaokao in Beijing, where the admission quota is more favorable.

The parents began the protest on Saturday night, right after they were told by teachers from the High School Affiliated to the Minzu University of China in Beijing of the possible policy change this year, though no details had been officially announced, a teacher from the school surnamed Zhang told the Global Times.

Over 2,000 students in the school are expected to be affected, according to the protesters' Weibo posts.

Since 2003, the Ministry of Education has allowed minority students recruited by the high school from underprivileged areas in West China to sit the gaokao in Beijing as part of the country's broader effort to redistribute educational resources to poorer regions. These students are allowed to share the same university admission quota with Beijing candidates.

However, the policy has angered many parents from the Han ethnic group, who make up the vast majority in Beijing. These parents have protested against this affirmative action policy since July 2015, claiming that it has deprived their children of the chance to enroll at a better college, as these students are mostly selected from the best schools. 

In additional to the hotly debated protests, some netizens on Sunday began to do some "dirt digging" on the names listed on an online petition signed by parents from the Minzu high school. Some netizens claimed that a good proportion of the ethnic minority parents come from powerful or wealthy backgrounds.

Officials at the Beijing Municipal Education Commission, who are in charge of post-gaokao college recruitment, could not be reached by the Global Times for comment. 

The protest comes two weeks after parents in Jiangsu and Hubei provinces protested against another affirmative action policy that sharply cut the two provinces' university enrollment quota to increase the chances of students in western regions getting into better institutions.

Continuing debate 

Beijing parents told the Global Times that they will continue their protest if the policy remains unchanged.

Education authorities are in a dilemma, as it is difficult for decision-makers to find a solution that will satisfy all sides when trying to fix problems that involve ethnic and education issues, Xiong Kunxin, an ethnic studies professor at Minzu University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Especially when it comes to the all-important gaokao, every change is difficult, he added.

Many of the protesters, mainly coming from Han parents, do not understand how far some ethnic minority areas lag behind in terms of education resources, said Xiong, citing the example that many of those regions lack teachers and many regions do not provide English classes until high school.

Usually in China, students must return to their hometown where they are registered to sit the gaokao, regardless of where they currently live or study. Many may never have studied in their place of registration, which will impact them as the gaokao varies from place to place. Universities also allocate different levels of admission quotas for students from different provinces.

The gaokao is considered comparatively easier for Beijing students and Beijing is believed to have a higher number of admission quotas for good universities than many other places.

Bonus points given to most ethnic minority students put them at a greater advantage in the exams, some of the Beijing parents said.

Newspaper headline: Protests erupt over college enrollment for minorities

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