Chinese families pursue fierce school admission journey
Future decisions
Published: Jul 24, 2019 05:58 PM
Zhan Yan, the father of Zhan Chenglin, a grade 12 student from Shanghai, was quite satisfied this summer as his son was admitted to Fudan University in Shanghai, one of China's elite educational institutions. 

Zhan is a representative of successful Chinese parents whose children have harvested desired results against fierce peer competition over their past 12 school years. China's large population makes almost all of the good resources scarce and precious, and education is of no exception. To grab a seat in a dream school, both parents and children in China have to endure a long-lasting battle from the very beginning. The Global Times (GT) interviewed four families who have just participated in different "enrollment wars," which is a miniature of China's educational ecosystem. 

"Good habits formed at an early age help him to be efficient and concentrated in learning," Zhan told GT. "On the other hand, it's important to keep competitive despite failure. Never give up but always make a breakthrough."

Zhan Chenglin ranked 188th out 51,000 examinees in Shanghai who took China's national college entrance examinations, or gaokao. He chose mathematics as his major at Fudan University as mathematics is his favorite. It also serves as a solid foundation for future development in science and technology, which can help him choose other majors in his postgraduate pursuit after four years. 

China's large population makes almost all of the good resources scarce and precious, and education is of no exception. Photo: VCG


Parent involvement

Like the Zhans, ninth-grader Zhang Zhao and her mother Xiong Minfang also cooperate well in Zhang's study. 

"We gave enough freedom and rights for my daughter to make her own decisions as a junior high school student," Xiong told GT, "She got 23 awards as an eighth and ninth-grader. She applied and prepared all by herself. She has the ability to handle her own issues."

Zhang confirmed with GT that her independence is thanks to her parents' trust. As top ninth-grader in Shanghai, it can be recommended by the junior high school to apply for prestigious senior high schools before the standard admission exam, and Zhang carefully chose the schools she matches well with over the past semester.

"Regretfully, I didn't perform well enough in the mock exams before the official, united exams. So I had to be conservative in choosing my recommended school. But I still stick to my decision considering the context of the circumstances," Zhang said.

"I hope to study law in university after three years' study in senior high school. I will collect information in this field and aim to realize this dream in the near future," Zhang said.

For families with children of younger ages, parents usually make all the decisions. Zhang Hui, mother of Jiajia who just graduated from her primary school, spared no efforts in planning an ideal way for her daughter.  She finally chose an international education-oriented junior high school for Jiajia.

"Looking back, choosing a school reflects the family's value and perspective toward society. What kind of person do you want your child to be? Try to find the appropriate school that matches your target," Zhang said.

More options at hand

"Luckily, Jiajia's homeroom teacher and mathematics teacher gave me good advice when I consulted with them about high school options. They observed that Jiajia has her own critical thinking and creativity; besides, she isn't a traditionally obedient student on campus. It will be a disaster if she were put into a class that is score and standard answer-oriented. Both teachers agreed that a Western-style education fits Jiajia better."

Zhang and her husband made a decision that Jiajia will either go to an international school in Shanghai or study in a foreign country when she begins junior high school. 

They took quick action to buy property in Greece and visited two international schools in Athens as one option for Jiajia, thanks to the Golden Visa promotion that attracts affluent Chinese families. 

"But my biggest concern for that option is that I would have to quit my job and accompany her in a foreign country if we choose to study in Greece, which is really costly," Zhang said. "Experienced friends in Shanghai told me that in fact Shanghai has well recognized international schools whose graduates were admitted to top universities worldwide every year." 

Thus Zhang and her husband surveyed Shanghai's international schools. During their inquiry, a friend even introduced them to an agent who claimed to have previous successful cases helping children to get admitted into their target school, but at the cost of 400,000 yuan ($58,140).

"I chose to trust the official admission channel by the school instead of being misled by the illegal agent. Luckily, Jiajia was admitted," Zhang said.

Atypical family

But not all parents are the same "tiger mother" as Zhang. Although most parents fear that their children may lose at the starting line, there are still carefree "Buddha-style" parents. GT interviewed Su Hui, a mother of a would-be primary school pupil this September, who is an exception. 

"I don't think of myself as an ideal interviewee for your story," Su giggled. "I didn't do anything special for my son's school application. I totally followed what my friend told me to do. And that's it, my son was admitted," she said. 

Su noted that she hasn't considered whether her son will be educated in China or in a foreign country in the future.

China's large population makes almost all of the good resources scarce and precious, and education is of no exception. Photo: VCG