SUNDAY TIMES - Fat test for parents lands Chinese schools in soup
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Sunday Times Business By NEIL CONNOR, 2017-05-14 00:00:00.0

Fat test for parents lands Chinese schools in soup

Primary school students wearing traditional Chinese costumes walk during a sports event in Shenyang, Liaoning province, China, April 27, 2017.
Image: CHINA STRINGER NETWORK REUTERS

Parents seeking a place for their children at leading Chinese schools are being forced to take tests, prove their ancestors' academic credentials and even show they are not fat.

At least two private schools in Shanghai have been admonished by authorities for testing parents and carrying out intrusive surveys, and applicants at a third school complained about a "fat parent" criterion.

"They check parents' body shapes," a parent applying to Shanghai's Qibao Foreign Language School said, according to a screenshot of social media on thepaper.cn website.

"The reason is that fat parents display poor self-management skills."

Education officials rebuked Qingpu World Foreign Language School and the nearby Yangpu Primary School for investigating applicants' family histories and setting logic tests for parents.

China's increasingly wealthy middle class often take desperate measures to give their children a good education in the hope of landing a place at a renowned foreign university.

For most Chinese parents, their sole child will often be the only breadwinner for them later in life - although China abolished its one-child policy in January last year.

The Shanghai Municipal Education Commission said Qingpu and Yangpu schools were forced to "apologise in public" and "cut down enrolment plans next year", without elaborating.

Qingpu apologised on its website, adding that "negative social impacts were caused because of our ignorance of regulatory requirements".

Yangpu said its tests were not related to the enrolment procedure, but were aimed at "relaxing" parents.

The "graphics-based reasoning" was said to be too difficult for most of the test-takers.

An official at the Qibao school said authorities had ordered the school to conduct a "deep investigation". The man, who did not want to be named, said allegations were based on a "rumour", but refused to deny that the school tested parents, saying: "We don't take foreign media interviews."

Qingpu charges 30000 yuan (about R58000) a term for six-year-olds entering the school, while Yangpu charges 11000 yuan and Qibao 12500 yuan.

While many parents took to social media to complain about the strict enrolment procedures, some were less critical.

"Just like some schools in other countries require parents to be Christian, I think the requirements from these private schools are reasonable," a mother hoping to enrol her daughter at one of the schools said.

- ©The Daily Telegraph, London