The lucky draws have been used for the past three years to give every child a chance to go to the school of their choosing as applications outstrip places at State schools. With this method, parents said they no longer had to stay up all night to queue for application forms. However, many admitted that their child’s chances of going to a public school weren’t great.
In Linh Dam Urban Area in Hoang Mai district, one of the most crowded districts in the city, many parents queued last week to join the draw for the Linh Dam Practice Pre-school.
Le Ngoc Lien, a mother, said the school would only enroll 40 of the 99 applicants. She said she and her husband were both State employees. Their wages were too low to pay for a quality private school.
"I’ve accepted that there will likely be 60 children in each classroom. This means that teachers won’t be able to look after all the kids,” she said.
Lien said many private schools offered affordable fees near her house, but conditions there in terms of hygiene and teacher quality were worse than at State-owned schools.
Luckily, Lien’s number came up and her son got a place at the school.
Nguyen Quoc Minh, another resident of the Bac Linh Dam Apartment Area, was not so fortunate.
He didn’t get a winning number, and was forced to send his daughter to a private pre-school nearby.
Minh said he, like other parents, had been waiting with baited breath for the lucky draw, and nervously opened the results. Some shouted with happiness, while others sighed or smiled bitterly.
The first model urban area in Hanoi, Linh Dam Urban Area has become one of the most densely populated areas in the city, housing about 52,000 residents. In May 2015, the population was some 32,000.
However, there are few pre-schools. In Hoang Liet Ward, there is only one public pre-school, school 13 per cent of local children. The same situation occurs in Dinh Cong Ward. This only pre-school receives nearly 30 percent of total local children.
Meanwhile, there are 100 and 50 private schools in the two wards respectively.
The same overcrowding occurs in Cau Giay district. Pham Minh Hai, a resident of Dich Vong Hau Ward, said he was concerned that some parents whose children were five years old had to take part in a draw for Dich Vong Hau Pre-school.
Under instructions from the city’s education department, five-year-old children are to be prioritised by schools if the number of applicants exceeds capacity.
Nguyen Thi Kim Xuyen, deputy head of the district’s Sub-department for Education and Training, said most schools had to conduct a draw as the number of applicants was much higher than capacity.
Dinh Thi Thanh Hang, deputy head of Hoang Mai district’s Sub-department of Education and Training, said State-owned pre-schools in the district only met 40 percent of demand. Thus, draws seemed to be the best method to avoid chaos.
But education experts say draws for pre-school enrollment are not the solution. Instead, the city’s People’s Committee needs to build schools as quickly as commercial centres or high-rise buildings are built and draw up a roadmap to end school shortages in the city.
Figures from Hanoi’s Education and Training Department show that there are about 30,000-35,000 children every year who need to go to nursery schools. But the number of schools remains limited – roughly 1,000 schools, 733 of them State-owned.