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School ordered to repay fees for 'smart classes'

By ZOU SHUO | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-07-06 09:26

Authorities in Pu'er, Yunnan province, have ordered a middle school to return money it has charged students for buying tablets so they could get into better classes, according to a release from the State Council, China's Cabinet, on Monday.

A father surnamed Zhang contacted the State Council's online accountability inspections platform to report that Simao District No 4 Middle School had divided its students into "smart" and "regular" classes based on whether they had purchased tablets and related equipment from the school for 5,800 yuan ($866).

The State Council accountability inspections office directed local authorities to investigate the case.

The investigation by the Yunnan government found that since 2020, the school had divided 719 students into "smart" and "regular" classes based on whether they bought the tablets, supplementary equipment and software.

The middle school's 5,800 yuan asking price was for use of the tablets, equipment and software for three years. All students at the school paid a one-year usage fee of 3,400 yuan.

Authorities in Pu'er have ordered the school to refund the money. The Simao district education bureau has held a special conference to admonish the school and vowed to increase supervision.

Although dividing students into different classes is banned by education authorities in China, some schools have done so based on students' grades in order to push those with better marks to enroll into better high schools and universities.

Schools should not ask or require students or parents to buy teaching materials or software, according to a guideline issued by the Ministry of Education and five other departments in 2020.

Another guideline issued by the ministry and eight other departments in 2019 said schools should not charge any fees for digital software that is used for teaching and student management.

The incident became a trending topic on social media platforms on Tuesday with netizens calling for accountability for the people involved.

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