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August 14, 2018

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Education authorities reassure parents after school deal outcry

CHILDREN enrolled at a privately-owned school in the Pudong New Area will still be able to start the semester in September, education authorities say, despite the school’s involvement in a “management dispute” that had many parents up in arms.

The dispute involves Shanghai Oriental Foreign Language School, which offers education from kindergarten to middle school, and local education group STEM. According to a nine-year cooperation deal signed by the two parties in March, STEM would bring top-drawer staff and faculty to the school. Within a month of the deal’s signing, the foreign language school had lured managers from several of the city’s most renowned primary and middle schools.

Attracted by this talent, some parents gave up the opportunity to enroll their children into public schools and moved to Pudong to study at this self-described emerging elite institution. By the end of June, 96 students had passed entrance interviews and were enrolled at the school.

However, according to a letter sent last week from the school to parents, the partnership between STEM and the school has collapsed as the parties clashed over issues of payment and the school’s board structure. This break-up meant the “dream team” of administrators lined to staff the school would, indeed, be little more than a dream.

Many parents were alarmed by this news, especially as it is now too late to enroll their children back in public schools before classes resume in September.

“Why did we take our children here? We came for the top education team,” said a mother identified as Xu Juan.

Another parent, surnamed Wan, said her son took English and math tutoring classes specifically in order to pass the school’s entrance interview.

“My son was proud that he passed the interview and he loved this school. I have no courage to tell him the truth,” Wan said. “I worry whether the school will still have good teachers, and whether this chaotic management will affect its operations.”

The Pudong Education Bureau eventually intervened in the kerfuffle. It issued a statement last week saying that the school and STEM had “basically reached an agreement on further cooperation,” although the details of this cooperation are still being discussed.

The bureau has also reassured parents by offering to arrange public school seats for those who want to withdraw their children from the private school.


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