With a 13-year ban on video game consoles recently lifted and a bankable collection of iconic rebels coming to Shanghai soon, you’d think that Chinese queues would have an exciting collection of things to line up for. Bread lines and ration coupons are sooo last generation.
But line up they did (or close approximation thereof) for something less novel than the next iPhone model but more important than an autograph on your mint collectibles: As reported by 163.com, ten thousand expectant parents descended upon a new Beijing kindergarten last Saturday in order to snag one of its prized spots available for enrollment.
By 7am on January 18, traffic had already been backed up for an hour outside the Longtanhu kindergarten; by 8am, a line of cars over a kilometer long stretched out before the kindergarten like a football field-sized parking lot for a Krispy Kreme drive-thru. Expectant parents had lined up overnight, though no one had cosplayed as their favorite Star Wars or Trek character.
The enrollment process finally began at 8.27am. Without the relative order deftly put into place by a wristband/groovy tribal handstamp policy, a mass of people surged forward when the line was first opened; within five minutes, the crowd had destroyed the gate to the entrance.
Twenty security guards belonging to the daycare formed a human wall to try to keep order. By 8.40am, the interior of the hall was filled beyond capacity with waiting parents while 3000 more waited outside. By 10.40am, a two hundred meter long queue still remained, edgy and restless at the lack of a beachball to bounce around. As the crowd became more packed, children had to be carried out overhead to escape the crushing crowd. By noon, the enrollment quota had already been half-filled.
Competition for enrollment in Chinese kindergartens has become increasingly fierce as parents try to gain an advantage for their children. As Chinese prosperity rises, so too does having the collective dream of having their children become university graduates; however, the universality of this “Chinese dream” is refuted by a national gaokao examination that only allows admission to a fraction of its applicants. This makes previous academic accomplishments a competitive factor – a factor that stretches right to kindergarten.
The absurdity of gaining such an early competitive edge for your children was deftly satirized/soberly chronicled earlier this year when a resume of a child applying for kindergarten went viral.,
In the end, the kindergarden temporarily inflated its student placement by 480 to have an opening total enrollment of 5644 students. An enrollment process was supposed to take four days, but only needed one day to complete.
The last academic subjects to be filled by these ambitious parents? Dancing and painting – you know, kids’ stuff. While such subjects aren’t as impressive on the resume of a budding student – and thus negate the whole point of enrollment at a prestigious daycare – we’d like to think children doing children stuff should remain important for a child’s personal development, let alone an academic career.
As one learned generation once pointed out to another: “The kids are alright“.
Photo courtesy The Puppeteer of crowd attending Bassnectar