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July 24, 2019

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Warning over fake gaokao study programs

Students taking cramming classes outside the city have been reminded by the local education authority of the risks after a program claiming to be run by the renowned Maotanchang Middle School in Anhui Province to prepare them for gaokao, or the college entrance exam, was shut down.

An official with the education bureau in Luan’s Jin’an District in Anhui told Shanghai Daily yesterday that the program had not been registered with the bureau and had falsely claimed to be run by the Maotanchang school, which is famous for gaokao preparation.

An advertisement went viral over the weekend, saying the school had launched a special program to admit Shanghai students who were not satisfied with their performance in this year’s college entrance exam. It said classes would start on August 15.

Named after the east Chinese town of Maotanchang, the school is known as “China’s largest gaokao factory,” putting students through at least 14 hours a day of rigorous preparation.

The program was to charge 60,000 yuan (US$8,723) for each student with a gaokao score at or above 403 points, this year’s minimum requirement for Shanghai students to be accepted by bachelor-degree programs, while those with lower scores would have to pay 1,500 yuan extra for each point below the standard.

The advertisement quickly spread on social media, with some questioning whether the Maotanchang style could work for the Shanghai gaokao, while some said it was a backward step for Shanghai students to take test-oriented classes when the city has been promoting all-round development in education.

Shanghai Daily contacted Yu Daojiang, who claimed to be an alumnus of Maotanchang Middle School and that his company, Shanghai Maijianshi Information Technology Co, was the only agent for the program’s admission in Shanghai, and visited his office in the Zhonggeng Global Creative Center in Shanghai’s Minhang District, pretending to be a parent interested in the program.

‘Different but the same’

Yu said a lot of parents had approached him and an organized visit to the school on Saturday had been fully booked.

When asked whether Shanghai students will be taught inside the Maotanchang Middle School by its teachers, he said the program would not be run directly by the famous school, but by a training center at Jin’an Senior High School, a private school set up by Maotanchang Middle School.

“Although they will be taught by different teachers, they will be trained in the same model,” he said.

He also said teachers had carried out research into Shanghai textbooks and gaokao outlines, and they were prepared for teaching Shanghai students.

He said the program planned to admit 300 Shanghai students, who will have to do 1,000 to 5,000 sets of exercise papers in the following year, depending on their ability, to help each of them improve 100 to 150 points in their final score. But he also said no refunds would be given if students failed.

Calls to Maotanchang Middle School were not answered. However, an official surnamed He from the Jin’an District Education Bureau said they had noticed the program and launched an investigation.

“We’ve found that it had nothing to do with the Maotanchang Middle School, which is a public school and not allowed to run (external) cramming programs,” he said. “As far as I know, it was a Shanghai-based company that authorized the training center at the Jin’an Senior High School to offer cramming classes for Shanghai students.” He said the center was registered with the bureau but the program was not.

“We decided to stop it because it had not gone through any feasibility verification against the backdrop of different educational systems in Shanghai and Anhui.”

Shanghai Daily found that notifications about the launch of the program on the websites of the two schools had been deleted while a channel on WeChat for parents to pay a trip to the school on Saturday had been closed. Yu did not reply to further phone calls or WeChat messages.

The education bureau in Shanghai’s Minhang District has asked the local market supervision and management department to investigate.


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