CHINA - An education expert called on Chinese universities to fairly share grants for students from poor families in order to protect their personal privacy.
"A series of procedures on determining whether a student qualifies for a grant should be conducted among a certain group of students from poor families and their teachers to ensure fairness. Moreover, universities are responsible for maintaining the personal privacy of those students," said Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute.
About 15 per cent of university students in China come from poor families, he said.
"Those students are generally introverted, sensitive and often have a sense of inferiority. Therefore, university authorities should avoid damaging the self-esteem of poor students when they are offered help," he said.
His comments came after a report by Shenyang Evening News on Wednesday, which revealed that authorities from the College of Business Administration at Shenyang University had asked all students in the college applying for grants to give a speech on how poor they were.
After their speeches, the poorest students would be entitled to the grants according to a vote among students in the college, the report said.
"I was not happy talking about the financial difficulties of my family in front of my classmates, but I had to do so to get a grant," a student surnamed Liu from a poor family was quoted as saying by the report.
"I really could not stand it. I always felt ashamed in front of my classmates after the speech," she said.
Some poor students in Liu's class received a higher share of votes because they did not mind speaking publicly about their private affairs and gave interesting speeches that moved many students, she said.
According to the country's current tuition assistance policy, each qualified university student whose family is in financial difficulties can get 1,000 yuan (S$203) to 3,000 yuan every year.
Chen Zhiwei, head of publicity from Shenyang University, promised on Friday that the system will be changed.
The previous method was designed to select the students best qualified for grants because more than 60 per cent among nearly 20,000 students in the university can apply for grants but the quotas are limited, he said.
In October, a similar situation arose in Guang'an Vocational and Technical College in Sichuan province. Students applying for grants were asked to write an article to describe their personal experiences, Huaxi Metropolis Daily reported on Thursday.
Xiong, the education expert, said besides issuing grants, the country should consider giving more effective and long-term assistance to poor students.
"For instance, China should set up a policy bank to offer more loans for poor students with lower interest rates and longer repayment terms. Compared with offering grants, such loans would help students to be more positive and give them more dignity in their future lives," he said.