School subsidies benefit rich over poor

Published: 22/03/2011 05:00

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The richer the parents, the more they
benefit from State subsidies for preschool education.



Conversely, their poorer counterparts pay as much if not more for lower quality
schooling.


This is
the paradox that has characterized pre-schooling in HCM City for several years
now.


The Hong
Nhung Kindergarten in Go Vap District is known for its national standard
facilities. Parents in the district prefer to send their children to this school
also because its tuition fees are reasonable at VND800,000 (US$38) per month.


There
are other kindergartens in the same district that charge similar fees but the
facilities and quality of education are of lower standards, with smaller spaces,
shortage of toys and skilful teachers.


As one
of the most popular kindergartens in the area, Hong Nhung gets a State subsidy
of VND1.8 billion ($86,000) every year to maintain and improve its facilities as
well as the quality of teaching.


However,
good quality kindergartens like Hong Nhung are limited in number and it is not
easy for parents to get their children admitted to such State-run preschools,
reports the Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.


This is
why private kindergartens of lower quality are still in demand, and are able to
charge relatively higher tuition fees.

However,
most children attending State-run kindergartens that provide good facilities and
education at reasonable fees are from wealthy families, said Nguyen Thi Kim
Thanh, head of the HCM City Department of Education and Training’s Preschool
Education Office.


“The
wealthy parents pay the same amount that the other parents, who earn less, to
have their children enjoy better facilities and higher standard education,” she
told Tuoi Tre.


“Children of working class parents end up not receiving the subsidy that they
should,” said Thanh, criticizing the current investment policy for preschool
education as a manifestation of “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”
syndrome.


The most
popular State-owned kindergartens in the city – May 19, HCM City, Be Ngoan and
District 1 – provide the best facilities and education for monthly school fees
of between VND1-1.2 million ($45-54), while private preschools provide lower
quality services for similar or even higher fees of VND1.5-2 million ($68-91).


The
choice for parents is obvious, but it seems that only wealthy parents are able
to get their children qualified for admission to the favoured kindergartens.


One
parent who wanted to remain anonymous said, “You need to have good connections
with those (State-run) preschools and also pay well to have your children placed
there.”


The
annual subsidy from the Government to each State-run kindergarten in HCM City is
between VND1-2 billion, depending on the number of children and teachers.


The HCM
City Kindergarten, for instance, receives VND2 billion, while the April 30 and
District 1 kindergartens get VND1.2 each.


Anonymity


The head
of a State-run kindergarten in District 1, who requested anonymity, said that
the children sent to his kindergarten are mostly from wealthy families who are
willing to pay more than the current fees, which are not enough to maintain the
facilities and provide quality education.


“This is
why each year our kindergarten needs a subsidy that can cover at least VND1.8
million ($86) per child,” said the principal.


He said
children sent to private kindergartens that do not get such subsidies and have
to rely solely on parents’ contributions will of course have lower quality
services.


The
owner of a private kindergarten in Go Vap District confirmed this. He said that
with school fees of VND800,000 per month, he had to carefully calculate payments
for rent, facilities, teachers’ salaries and food for the children. Sometimes
the profit was very low, he said.


Thanh
said more than 100 preschools in HCM City were receiving annual subsidies from
the Government, which meant a State budget outlay of around VND200 billion
($958,000).


“If
these preschools can support themselves by properly mobilising contributions
from the children’s families, they will not need that subsidy,” said Thanh.


He
suggested that a solution to the current paradox in the city could be based on
taking higher contributions from the wealthy parents.


“The
subsidies can then be poured into areas that are really in need of the financial
support, especially those that accept children from poor families.”


The
education sector could then use the subsidy to build State-run preschools in
disadvantaged areas, upgrade kindergartens and even support private schools, not
to mention providing support for children from underprivileged backgrounds, he
added.


VietNamNet/Viet
Nam News

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