Owing to a paucity of high-quality education options in China, parents with young children tend to become anxious in May. That's when the fate of school and junior high school admission applications in major Chinese cities is decided.
The struggle for a school seat can get fierce. Many parents are willing to pay big money to buy a home in the neighborhood of their child's school, particularly if it happens to be a reputable institution. Many parents I know started their house-hunts both overseas and in China very early.
Qin Hao, a father of two boys, spent more than 10 million yuan ($1.4 million) to buy a 200-square-meter duplex apartment in Pudong New Area of Shanghai in 2014, which allows his kids to go to a well-known public primary school in the district.
His older son will enter primary school next year; his younger son will enter kindergarten in September.
Chen Xuan, mother of an 11-month-old baby girl, started her preparations to buy a home even before she got married. She spent 3 million yuan to buy a 60-sq-m flat in Shanghai for her future baby's education five years ago.
"In the past year, home prices in Shanghai districts with schools did not rise to sensational levels. This was probably because the school admissions policy changed," said Lu Wenxi, a researcher with property consultancy Centaline Shanghai.
In Shanghai, local education policy was altered to require parents to choose between public schools and private schools at the application stage itself.
Those deciding to apply for private schools will forego their opportunity to admit their children in premium public schools even if their home is located in a school district.
According to Lu, the average price of flats in school districts is getting more rational and more acceptable, up by 15 percent to 20 percent compared to similar homes in other localities without schools.
In Beijing, even inhabitable flats commanded very high prices in the market not very long ago because of their proximity to schools. In many districts of Beijing, local public schools have digitalized their admissions process.
This meant that a kid could no longer enroll into the school by merely invoking old rules. In the past, a student was entitled to a seat in a school nearest to his or her home, according to a report in China Economic Net.
Chu Chaohui, a researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, suggested that in order to make the new policy more effective, the quality of education offered by various public schools within the same district should improve.
The central government asked 12 cities other than Beijing and Shanghai to carry out a trial rental housing equality scheme in 2017. The idea was to ensure more balance in the way local educational resources were accessed by children from families that owned local homes and others from families who rented them.
Such measures may have eased long-standing concerns relating to children's education. But, as Xu Yan, an education researcher with Beijing Normal University, stated, the fundamental reason for the fierce competition for admission into high-quality schools is the insufficient good-quality educational resources.
This factor has been stoking Chinese parents' anxiety. So, part of the solution to home woes lies in increasing quality schools, he said.
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