China today banned profit-led private schools from conducting the nine-year compulsory education programme, which covers primary to junior high school years. A revised law on private education was adopted today.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the new law on Monday at the behest of the Education Ministry at the bi-monthly session, after a third reading.
China’s compulsory education is a nationwide free system, supported by funding from the central government.
The system is a public service that must be provided by the government, Zhu Zhiwen, vice minister of education, said at a press conference after the laws revision was finalised. “Profit-led private schools are unsuitable for the free education programme,” he added.
The new law is likely to affect millions of students who go to private primary and middle schools, according to the data released by the education ministry in 2015.
China has about 162,700 private schools nationwide with more than 45.7 million students, according to figures from the Ministry of Education.
Currently none of the registered private primary and junior high schools are for-profit, and the law will only have impact on those who want to turn their schools into profit-led establishments, Zhu said.
He stressed that private schools are still allowed to offer diversified, market-oriented paid educational services, as long as they comply with the law.
The revised law, which will take effect on September 1, 2017, clearly defines for-profit and non-profit private schools and specifies different measures to support private education.
The new rule leaves room for private education providers to choose whether to register as either for-profit or non-profit high schools.
But only non-profit private primary and middle schools will be allowed from September 1, 2017, academic year.
Once registered as a non-profit private school, providers will be restricted from earning profits and money raised must go back into operating their institution.
Non-profit private schools will enjoy equal policies as public schools in land use and taxation.
“Generally, private schools gain a return of 25% in profit,” said Wang Tongsheng, an official from the education bureau of Lianjiang county in Fujian province in a report by the China National Radio on November 5.
When the new law takes effect next year, the loss of profit may discourage investors to start new private schools and existing institutions may face difficulties in covering operation costs.
All private schools should guarantee the staffs legitimate interests in salary and welfare, and are supposed to pay social insurance contributions for their employees, according to the law.
Private schools must establish a sound internal supervision system and entrust a third-party agency to inspect their educational environment.
They should also establish an information publicity system.
Any institution found to have issued fake degrees or educational certificates, will be punished, state run Xinhua news agency reported.
“Communist Party of China groups in private schools should carry out Party activities according to the Party Constitution and strengthen Party building,” read one of the articles in the revised law.
The ministry believes the new law is necessary to restrict private schooling in this area since the compulsory education programme,must embody the state’s policies, and reflect fairness and public good.
However, in terms of fairness, private schools are considered as complementary to public education, especially for kids of migrant workers.
Migrant workers’ children cannot easily access public education because they are hindered by restrictive criteria, including local residency permits, to apply for public school places in major cities like Beijing and Guangzhou.
During the non-compulsory education period, including kindergarten and high school, private schools actually have provided a more diverse choices to students, a parent Chu said.
Diverse courses in China are provided by private organisations, training institutes and even corporations, but those schools are not examined or approved by local education authorities, and some are not even registered.
There is no clear definition of those schools, nor specific rules to manage them, Chu added.
The regulations need to be improved and completed, but the right of parents and students to make choices about education needs to be respected, Chu noted.