Public school Open Day events see more parents due to policy change

Some public schools in Shanghai opened their doors to potential applicants and their parents on Saturday for them to know better about the schools.
Dong Jun / SHINE

Students and parents arrive at Zhongshan School Affiliated to Shanghai Huangpu Institute of Education to attend its Open Day activities.

Some public schools in Shanghai opened their doors to potential applicants and their parents on Saturday for them to know better about the schools before deciding which one to apply for.

Some schools found more families appear on their campuses than the previous year due to a new policy that requires public and private primary schools to do the admission process at the same time.

At the Zhongshan School Affiliated to Shanghai Huangpu Institute of Education, about 600 students had made registration for its Open Day on Saturday morning, compared to 400 some last year, according to a school official surnamed Lu.

A father surnamed Lin told Shanghai Daily that the policy did have pushed his family to give up the "gamble" in private schools.

"Under previous policy, we would be bold to have my son try his luck in private schools first, and even if he fails, it will not have any impact on his application at Zhongshan," said Lin. "But now, an unsuccessful application at private schools will put him behind others on the waiting list of the public one. We would not take the risk."

The change Lin mentioned was the main influence caused by the new policy.

In Shanghai, private schools are allowed to interview students while public schools generally admit students from the locality without testing them.

Previously, students are allowed to submit applications for both kinds of schools. Private schools selected students first while those failed to be admitted could be at an equal place with others in public school recruitment.

But this year, parents have to decide whether to apply for public or private primary schools at the very beginning. And the eligibility verification procedure at public schools will be carried out simultaneously with the interviews at private schools in May.

It means students may lose the chance to enter popular public schools if they apply for private ones but fail to be admitted.

But Lin and some other parents did admit that the Open Day activities at Zhongshan changed their views on public schools and made them less upset. The school showed students’ talents learned from 18 courses developed by its teachers, such as the art of tea making and ceramic craft. In total, it has 86 such courses.

“The school is well-equipped with a variety of curricula. And more importantly, the students here seem happy,” said a mother surnamed Zhou.

Zhou also said that the school featured class size no more than 35, much smaller than the size in popular private schools.

“Even before the new policy was introduced, we hesitated in fear of too fierce competition in private schools,” she added. “What we have seen today firmed our decision to choose the public school.”

It is the second year for the Shanghai Education Commission to require all local public schools to organize Open Days for nearby families, who are eligible for application.

It’s a practice introduced based on experiences from international and local private schools who are good at promoting themselves, according to a commission official.

On weekends of this month, all the public schools will all organize such campus visit activities, while the private schools will arrange the visits next month.