Chinese couples fake divorce to get children to preferred schools-Sino-US

Chinese couples fake divorce to get children to preferred schools

A couple poses for a wedding photo in Shanghai. Photo: AP

A controversial admission policy adopted by the education authorities of Shijiazhuang, the capital city of northern China's Hebei province, has led to the anomaly that some parents are purposefully getting divorced in order to get their children into preferred elementary schools.

The admission policy requires that preschoolers, whose household registration, or hukou, is tied to those of their parents in the same district, are eligible to be enrolled to the district's public primary schools; otherwise, the students have to study at schools in the adjacent districts through the local government's random allocation.

In order to circumvent the admission policy barring their children from getting into the desirable schools in their districts, many parents have come up with the idea of getting divorced to meet the requirement.

"I have divorced my husband whose hukou is registered in another place in order to get my child into a primary school in Shijiazhuang's Changan district," a woman told the China Youth Daily. The mother reluctantly said that she and her husband had no choice but to follow this path as many other parents in the district also did the same thing.

She also revealed to the China Youth Daily that many couples she came across at the divorce registration center got divorced just for their children's elementary education.

"We will get remarried after our child receives the letter of admission on July 19," said she.

The school season begins in September in China.

Caixin quoted an employee working at a divorce registration center in Changan district as saying that the number of couples getting a divorce has tripled in the recent days, with many getting divorced for the sake of schooling of their children.

Most divorcing couples are young people in their 30s, another employee from the divorce registration center told the China Youth Daily, hinting that they are probably parents of school-age children.

Facing the controversies over its admission policy, the municipal education bureau of Shijiazhuang responded with a statement, which promised that even if preschoolers are unable to get into their first-choice schools, they will be enrolled in nearby schools. The statement also said that school-age children who hold a Shijiazhuang hukou and the children of migrant workers who meet the requirements are allowed to be educated in the city.

Xue Guofeng, a professor at the Education College of Hebei University, attributes the education-driven fake divorce to the imbalanced allocation of quality educational resources.

"Perhaps, the education authorities had no alternative but to introduce this 'harsh' measure in the face of a growing number of children in the same school district," said Xue.

"But the authorities have to think about how to make the cake bigger rather than racking its brains to think about how to cut the cake when everyone wants to eat it," added Xue.

Statistics from the municipal education bureau of Shijiazhuang show that the number of first-grade pupils in the city is expected to increase by 15,000 in 2018 compared with the number in 2017, which will result in the short supply of educational resources especially in the sought-after districts where good public schools are located.

The increase in the number of preschoolers is also caused by a baby boom six years ago, when many Chinese couples wanted to give birth during the traditionally auspicious year of dragon.

"This year, most of the students who will be enrolled in primary schools were born in the year of dragon, leading to the increase in the number of preschoolers," said a deputy headmaster of a Shijiazhuang primary school, who is in charge of admissions.

Government crackdown on fake divorce

Except for gaining quality education, fake divorce is also used for the purchase of hot residential properties in China.

With the rapidly soaring home prices in Chinese cities in the recent years, the stories of Chinese husbands and wives pretending to end their marriages to circumvent the country's strict second-home ownership rules banning purchases by existing property owners frequently hit the headlines.

A fake divorce can also enable a husband or a wife to apply for a preferential loan as a so-called first-home buyer. And after that, the two would normally marry again. But there was an exception for those who just use the second-home purchase as a reason to divorce their spouses.

The second-home ownership rules have given rise to the emergence of a dark industry which offers counterfeit divorce certificates to customers on the Internet. And even some banks and real estate agencies have encouraged such illegal practice.

In order to clamp down on fake divorce for property, mortgage and education purposes, the National Development and Reform Commission and other related government agencies jointly released a document in February 2018 to strengthen punishment for the people who fabricate non-spouse certificate and violate the country's marriage law and marriage registration regulation.

In Beijing where many couples have to temporarily divorce for buying a second house, the local government last year rolled out a new policy to cool down the fake divorce-driven overheated real estate market. The new measure stipulates that people who have been divorced for less than one year cannot be granted the benefits as a first-time property buyer.

Shanghai also adopted a similar policy which bans divorced people from trying to get a loan as a first-home buyer.

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