人大附中择校费杨东平 (High School Affiliated to Renmin University’s school choice fees, Yang Dongping / Réndà fùzhōng zéxiàofèi, Yáng Dōngpíng) refers to a 2012 decision by administrators at one of Beijing’s most prestigious high school (known colloquially as 人大附中, or RDFZ) to raise its 择校费, or “school choice fees.” Though the government has sought to eliminate many of the tuition barriers facing poor students from attending school, passing a Compulsory Education Law in 1986, unfortunately fees continue to hinder students in poor regions from getting the same quality of education as wealthier areas.
Wealthier families are also better off with regard to education; while schools like RDFZ have an application and admission process, some parents have the option of "donating" a "choice fee" in order to ensure their child can attend the school that they desire. This fee can allow the student to jump the queue if admission is based on test scores or allow them to acquire the appropriate paperwork to attend a school outside of their designated locality. Such fees can exceed hundreds of thousands of RMB at schools like RDFZ, and has turned into a big business, with middlemen companies promising admission, teachers selling their ability to sponsor students, and some local governments refusing to crack down on price gouging in exchange for a kickback.
Yang Dongping (杨东平), an education scholar at the Beijing Institute of Technology, is a fierce critic of school choice fees and writes about inequality in the Chinese education system. He is most well-known for his 2009 blog article attacking the aoshu (奥数), or Math Olympiad—which we’ll cover in our next post…
In a break from our usual series of highlighting words blocked from searching on Weibo, for the next two days I’ll be looking more deeply at the keywords on chat messenger app LINE’s “bad words” list. For more about this series, see this introductory post.