After code review, I understood why people say bad programmers destroy wealth. Their productivity is less than 0, which means they are creating bugs and drag the team to fix it. I consistently saw really bad and buggy code here and there, by one programmer who is not at our company. But the code there is guaranteed to be bad, and buggy. Interestingly, bad programmers are very productive if you measure by lines of code they created. So identify them! Early!
Some interesting things about today.
I haven’t realized that it is the day for 10.2 million students to go to the Gaokao (College Entrance Exam) today, until I saw there are some traffic control around some schools. The big signs wrote: “No horn!”.
Yes. It is Gaokao time, the most important day for most students at age of 18. My Gaokao was 14 years ago. Today, it is not very hot in Shanghai, good for them!
I didn’t read too many novels. The completed novel are still a little bit more than single digit in my memory. Dan Brown did a nice job – not as good as Da Vince Code, but it is still very attractive one.
In the afternoon, Wendy and I went to Tianzifang, an art area at Taikang Road 泰康路. Very nice place, and I would highly recommend people to go there – there are many art galleries, nice food, and many interesting stores. Wendy was so attracted by a oil painting class there, and may be enrolling into the program for some time.
This is a series of articles on education in Shanghai (I tried to avoid big topics like Education in China:
After writing for a week about all the pressure the Chinese educational system put to students, let me spend one article to discuss about the output of this system.
The idea and even title of this article was inspired by Hong-Wei Hua’s previous article with the same title. He did great job in analyzing the current situation and answered one question: “Why University Students Cannot Find a Job after Graduation?”
Reality of University Graduates
After 16 years of school education (9 years preliminary + 3 year high school + 4 year university), and high pressure education, the graduates from universities seem should be very capable. The reality is just the opposite.
The university students today cannot find a job!
To be fair, one of the key driver was there are too many graduates compared to 10 years ago, and there are impact of current job market, but it is far beyond that reason.
Since all the students were educated in a way to pass a certain exam, I am sure they can do it much better than other students. My bias is, if you put the same students from all countries to do exactly the same paper of the College Entrance Exam (the version China is using), they may win over others.
Unfortunately, after they graduate, they are facing challenges of real world, no longer an exam. Students got lost, and suddenly found out that they are not taught of the practical skills to handle the job.
From a student’s perspective, let me share my own story. In the third year of university, once I walk over the job posting board on campus, and started to read the job requirements: SQL Server, Java, PowerBuilder … I was so puzzled that all the skills a company required never appeared in our books – we are still struggling in C. That was the main trigger I shifted my focus, and self-studied by my own in the following two years. To be honest, I skipped most of the classes, and learn the useful things I chose. I am proud that I did it.
As a business owner, I also hire students. My feedback is, I need to invest huge in education. University students don’t have the basic skills to do the job, and we need to turn ourselves into a training center in the first half year. The dilemma is, all best performing students go to good universities. They have huge potential, but knows very few. The students who go to not so good universities, or who didn’t go to university appeared to be more skillful, however, with limited potential.
That comes to the point why I would agree with Hua that our educational system was hijacked by scientists. Look at the courses even in today’s university in China – the goal of most of the courses is to train an academic researcher, not for working in a company.
The reality is, most of students (more then 90%) in undergraduate education have to be given up by the system because they don’t really qualify to do the academic research (and they are not interested), and those small portion go to graduate school, and then the non-qualified will be thrown out of university, and those continue to go to doctor degree.
It seems to me that the whole high education was aimed to select a certain type of people (academic research) at a cost of 98% of students’ future.
An analogy will be: thinking about a school with the only goal to select and build the fastest runner and send him to Olympics Game. But the school has the authority to recruit all young men in this country. Yes. Finally, after tough selection, there will be one or two succeed in doing that and get great result, the cost will be, however, millions of other runners who were abandoned get out of the school, only to find out that no runner is needed in this whole society.
Well. A another interesting thing is, although the goal is to find the best academic person, Chinese system failed miserably because students are lack of research skills, and creative skills. That is another topic to discuss though.
This is a series of articles on education in Shanghai (I tried to avoid big topics like Education in China. The previous several articles are:
I didn’t expected that my first blog about my thoughts of Yifan’s education led to so many articles about the current education system in China. Sure. I am thinking about solutions, but to help more people to understand how the system works is the first step.
In this article, I am trying to describe the life of a middle school students in the Chinese traditional education system.
Middle School under the Conductor of Gaokao
As I said in the previous article, the Gaokao (Exam to Enter Colleges) is the only thing that tells exactly what teachers, students, and parents what they need to do.
Disclaimer: I don’t know very well about today’s situation. I guess many things have changed. I only can tell what happened when I was in middle school from 1992 to 1995 in Luoyang. Different cities may also have different situation.
Since there are two tracks of Gaokao – the engineering direction, and the literature direction. From the end of second year of Middle School, students are divided into two type of classes – one just study Engineering related courses, like physics, and chemistry, and the other studies stuff like history…
Every night, students stay as late as 11 PM, or even later everyday. Since the school wanted all the students to go back to dorm and sleep, they shutdown all power supply in both classroom and dorm, and most public places. Most of the students will light up the candles, or go to the public toilet, and read behind the limited light, or use electronic torch to read with quilt covering head. The teachers will go to these places to force all the students to go back to sleep. After they leave, many of the students got back to where they were and continue to study.
That was the everyday life when I was in middle school. Everyone knows how important the Gaokao is to their future lives.
Anything else? Sorry. Don’t bother. The students will be the first to stand up if you ask them to participate in anything not directly related to Gaokao. So will the parents. The teachers think exactly the same because all the middle schools are measured by the percentage of students who pass the entrance exam.
In my previous post, I mentioned “good school”, or “common school”, that was always classified by the rate the school successfully send their graduate to the next level of education.
It is the Problem of the System
Don’t blame students. They are fighting for their future.
Don’t blame the parents. Gaokao is still a pretty fair game. Otherwise, it is a game by the power of their parents (rank in the hierarchy of any system), or how rich their parents are. So far, that is not too big a concern yet. The only thing they can do (no matter how smart, how rich, or how powerful the parents are) is still to try to push/help their children to get a higher score in Gaokao.
Don’t blame the schools, and teachers. They are doing their best to HELP the students to get a better future.
So, the tough question will be, who should we blame to?
1. The Scarcity of Education Resources. The root of all evils is, there are far less high education institutes than what people needed. No matter how fair the system is, as long as there are much more demand than supply, the problem cannot be solved.
In the recent years, everyone saw the high GDP growth of China, but investment in education, and health care are far behind the growth.
2. Imbalance and Unfair Social Resources Distribution. Hukou is just one of the example. Since university education is bound to Hukou, and Hukou is important just because different Hukou causes huge difference in the social resources an individual can get from the society. The chain of huge demands all go back through the loop and leads to one thing: social resources.
“I Have a Dream”
If I use what Martin Luther King’s format, I would say:
I have a dream that my little kid will grow up in a nation where they are judged by their characters, not what Hukou they hold, or whether he goes to university
In an ideal world, people are valued because of the person him/herself. If the person is good in personality, has skills, and is smart, hardworking, or any good virtue a person may have, we surely don’t need to pay too much attention about whether he/she enters a university. BUT, in China, we are still far from that ideal world.
In China, people are not created equal. One cannot receive education, just because he/she don’t have Hukou – just like I cannot receive even kindergarten education in 1980s because I didn’t have the right Hukou (this has changed already). He/She cannot get the job. Not because you cannot do the job better than others, just because you don’t have a university graduate certificate (this also changed a lot, but still far from what it should be). I think that is the deeper reason of why the educational system in China does not work.
To be more exact, it is because the social system does not work, and the education system is just one of the subsystem that was directly impacted.
This is a series of articles on education in Shanghai (I tried to avoid big topics like Education in China:
After I talked about the choice between Chinese and International Education, let me dive into details about how the current educational system, and why it has failed.
This is a pretty complicated issue. Let me start with an article about how the University Education is bound to Hukou system, so my readers outside China have a sense of why people want university education so much (seems much more motivated than other countries). Let me tell you, it is not just education itself.
After this article, I will continue to write about how the pressure pass all the way from College Entrance Exams down to middle school, to primary school, and further down to every kids in China.
Then, I will try to answer the question, why this happens and how the Chinese education system actually fails.
The University Education is Bound to Hukou
I hope it will change in near future (and I have seen the positive move toward this direction), but till today, the university education in China means much more than most people outside the system thinks.
China has a Hukou system, or residential permit, a system to bind a person to the land and do not allow people to relocate easily. You can read more about it in my previous article about Hukou System in China. To put it in simple sentence, your Hukou follows your parents. It does not matter where the kid is born. Even the kid is born in Shanghai, if the parents have Hukou of a village, the kid also have to register back to the village, which may be thousands of miles away.
Is Hukou important? Although it is not as important as before, it is still pretty important. You don’t have medical insurance, or social insurance, and most of the benefit the city offers to its citizen. A typical example of this weird situation is that someone who live in Shanghai for 10 years still needs to get back to the place where he came from to get a passport, or do most of the government related tasks.
Is there anyway to get Hukou in another city? Very hard, if not impossible. You can think of Hukou as a green card for US. Some research shows that the criteria to “immigrate” to Shanghai is higher than to immigrate to Canada. Most people cannot get it.
Village Hukou vs City Hukou
To make the situation even worse, inhumanity, and confusing, there are basically two types of Hukou – the Village Hukou, or the City Hukou. If you have a Village Hukou, it is like a sticker that follows you all your life time, and passes down to your child, and grandchild… not a big chance to remove it. So what is the difference? Huge difference. Village Hukou can own farm land, but don’t have most of the social benefit like medical and social insurance as the people in city has. That is an area the government is working on.
Before the situation change, people has village Hukou always wanted to have a city Hukou (at least at the time I went to university).
The only feasible way (if not the only one) is to get to a university first. A university admission a first step to change people’s identify. If you lose the chance when you are 18 years old, you almost lose the chance forever.
The Struggle to Get a Hukou
Even though you complete university education, only a limited number of people can get a local Hukou. It is less than 10% I guess. I got it partly because I signed labor contract with big companies like Microsoft, and they have quota to be allocated to you – one of the criteria you must meet to get a local Hukou.
Although university education is just one step to get closer to the Hukou you need, it is already a big step.
OK. Enough about the complicated process, but I just want to tell a simple fact: To get to university is much more than the university education itself. The improper analogy is, it is just like studying aboard is one of the easiest steps to get a green card or other type of permanent resident status of another country, university education is the same for people in China, if they want to change the permanent sticker on their body. The difference is, it is way much harder.
Example: I have a remote relative who tried 7 years to repeat to take the College Entrance Exam, before his final fail to get to university. Do you really believe a young man want to spend 7 years to read the same textbook just to get a higher education? He is trying to get a ticket to legal stay in a city in China. It is a ticket for his health care, job, house, and his children. He is not the rare case before the gates of universities in China.
China is a very diversified country with the mixture of the richest group of people, and the poorest people in this world. What a city or village can give an individual is widely diverse.
Meanwhile, urbanization is shaping the face of this country so fast, and more and more people lose their land and start to move to cities, and smaller cities becomes bigger cities, and more and more people from smaller cities rush into bigger cities. Hukou is the barrier, and education is the way out.
College Entrance Exam Shapes the Chinese Educational System
By understanding the importance university admission is to most of people in China, you may start to understand why the entrance exam, or Gaokao is.
In China, the National College Entrance Examination, or Gaokao, was named as the conductor of the whole educational system, especially the schools before university. If you can imagine the faculties and students in the tens of thousands of schools as members of an orchestra, the Gaokao is, maybe, the only conductor that tells what they should do.
If you criticize the middle school (specially the three years before Gaokao) are short sighted and only train the students to pass a single exam, and don’t care about anything else, I would agree, but for many teachers, parents, and students, nothing is more important than passing the exam and get a chance to get a Hukou if they don’t have the preferred status already. Very sadly, stuff they abandon may include happiness, health (look at the thick glasses, and heave school bags), morality, and many other critical things a person needs.
My father told me three years before my Gaokao: “Gaokao offers a ticket to the stage where you can perform. If you don’t get the ticket, it does not matter how good you are.”
To be continued
This is a series of articles on education in Shanghai (I tried to avoid big topics like Education in China:
I will continue the topic around which school should I send Yifan to today. As I always did, I am trying to share the options I have, and the dilemma I am facing to help my readers to get some ideas about the tough decisions to make for people in this city. Again, I tried not to generalize it as a question people face in this country. For example, Shanghai and my hometown Luoyang is very different.
Primary School is Not Important, If…
Although everyone won’t say primary school is not important – every stage in people’s life is important, but it is not THAT important if you have to make a lot of effort to send your child to a good primary school. I believe this is the commonly accepted concept. However, the real situation in Shanghai tends to be: primary school is NOT important, if it is not tightly linked to a higher education, say, the middle school.
In a society where the resources are so scare (think about a city with 16 million people, and limited schools to choose from), the system has been twisted into a chain of selection process. Just because to enter university is so important (and hard), to get to the right high school is important. Just because most high school put so much emphasis into where the students graduate, to choose the right junior high is important. Similarly, the junior high choose by the primary school they went to. The most ridiculous thing I heard from my friend who just went through this was, the primary school put which kindergarten the kid went to as a factor of selection process.
How this happens?!
We can easily dig into details about how this happens. If you were a HR manager of a company, say Google, and there are 100 candidates seeking for the same job. By the first round of selection, will you consider their educational background and working experience before you call him/her for an interview? A Harvard or Stanford degree obviously give you some advantages.
The ridiculous thing is, everyone understand the selection process for a company, but for kids, it is completely not acceptable. Even the United Nation Human Rights Declaration passed in 1948 confirmed that all children need to be given equal opportunities for education, before they enter a selection process. That means, the selection I described is actually against the human right declaration.
The problem is even further beyond that. The current system in Shanghai actually at the surface level, follows with the spirit – students are equally allocated to the school near them, and there is no such a difference. However, the faculty resources, and budget resources are far less evenly distributed. As long as there are clearly identified good schools, or bad schools, parents mobilize to get to the better school district by buying houses.
So the key is, although it seems to be fair, as long as the schools are not created equal, and more importantly, as long as the university education is so scare a resource, the problem is very hard to fix.
The Hard Choice
Before Yifan was 1.5 years old, Wendy and I have decided to send him to the school within walking distance from where we live. However, when we realized that if you mis-step in this chain once, you may lose the opportunity for the kid in the future. It is not as easy a decision to make as we thought. Let me repeat, the choice is no longer a primary school choice, it is the education style much further than that. The chance to get to a better middle school for Yifan is much lower than the selected good primary school, based on the information I collected so far.
This is a tough decision to make.
One Kid, Two Systems
Another tough decision to make is, which path I want Yifan to go – Chinese educational system or the international one. Again, the two path is not compatible with each other.
It is very sure that a kid from international school cannot (at least it is very hard to) get back to the Chinese educational system. You are smarter than others, and you know how to sing and dance, and are extremely well developed, but you cannot pass the exam! Especially many exams are very weird if you are not educated in that system. Politics in Chinese educational system is something interesting. What you need to remember is what the propaganda that you know is far from truth.
It is also not easy for a kid from Chinese educational system to get to international system. Well. This is relatively easier than the other way, since many people (both at university, graduate school, or high school level) have proved it. I guess that a student from Chinese system will find it a paradise in an international school after the initial culture shock.
In Shanghai, there are many international schools (English school, American Schools, and schools from all nations, and some plainly called International schools with students from everywhere). It seems to me a very attractive choice. The serious fact to consider is, if you choose this path, you kid will need to say good bye to Chinese universities – it is not an option any more, since it is for sure that the graduates cannot pass the college entrance exam.
Primary School Education is the Foundation for Cultural Identity
Another even bigger question in my mind that I am trying to seek an answer is, culturely speaking, whether you want Yifan to be a Chinese, or, English speaking “foreigners”.
I am not kidding. I read a lot about the culture differences (as you can imagine, a topic I have devoted myself in the last 7 years), and my conclusion is, it is the primary school which determines one’s cultural identity. If the kid went to primary school in US, he is culturally an American. I said I preserved a Chinese identity myself (Why I Don’t Have an English Name), and if you ask me, I would prefer the same for Yifan. I surely understand the confusion, internal struggle of a mixed-blood (culturally).
Then the question will be, although I know it makes better sense to send Yifan to an international school if I just want him to be happy, it proposes a question in the future – Yifan will feel more at home when he sees western drama, than watching Beijing Opera.
I Haven’t Decided Yet
I still have about one year to consider, and I don’t have an answer yet. It is not an easy decision to make.
P.S. My readers asked me in the previous article about what happens if the parents are not Shanghai resident. They can send their children to a school until middle school. They have to get back to where they original live for the exam, which is much harder than Shanghai. I am happy that even today, the policy is much better, because, as I stated in the story in this article: Hukou System in China, I never receive kindergarten education myself, since no kindergarten accepted me just because I didn’t have a city Hukou. See. That is the reason on one side, I am struggling to make this country better, and at the same time, I am optimistic about China’s future.
>谁也改变不了中国的这一现实 (Whoever cannot change the reality of China)
This is the reason why China will not change. Wang Jianshuo, you have this attitude too.
Posted by: Micah (external link) on May 18, 2009 10:06 AM
I appreciate Micah’s honesty in expressing that I also have the “China will not change, and cannot be changed” attitude. Obviously, I don’t have that attitude.
To further argue on that part, let me explain why by first addressing the question: Is China changeable, or is China NOT changeable?
The Answer is Obvious
If you generalize that question, and ask in the way I asked: “Is China changeable?”, the answer will be widely accepted as “Yes. Surely China can change”. Those visitors who visited China 30 years ago, 20 years ago, and 10 years ago surely would agree that China will change – huge change.
However, if you dig into details of the change, you may further find few areas:
- Can China’s appearance change? Sure!
- Will the culture change? Sure! Look at the younger generation in big cities.
- Will the economy status change? Absolutely. What do you think the economic reform is about?
- Will the political system change? No any sign for the change yet, but considering everything else, it SHOULD be change, in near future.
- Will the educational system change? It had changed a little, but still not as far as we expected.
- Will the few famous bad behaviors of Chinese people change, like spitting, or jay walking? No obvious sign to change yet, but it is much better than 10 years ago.
In any way, from any perspective, and in all standard, China IS changing, if you put China into a scale of 30 years.
However, it is NOT as fast as expected
Considering the last 30 years, even the last 100-200 years, China changed a lot. However, just because China had closed its door too long, and it is too far away from the international world, today, there are still many things that people don’t understand – some of which, I agree that China should go one step further to join the international community, but most of them, it is the international community who need to accept China.
People have the feeling that China don’t change partly because, China does not change as fast as they want, despite that China already changed a lot.
Taking the bad behavior #1, spitting, as an example. It takes time. Although we can try all effort to make it better, it takes time. That is what my article Beer Can by the Highway vs Spitting is all about. It WILL change, but it takes time. So does the education system I talked about in my previous two articles about Yifan.
Parents’ Choice in the Current Situation
There are always long term goals and short term goals for any one. To change the educational system and further, to change the whole society to make it better for the next few generation is surely something we should do in long term. Why I am writing this blog? To foster communication between people inside and outside China, and to make a positive change to both.
For Chinese, to bring more people from other countries (who can communicate in English, no matter where they are) to discuss topics of China give us fresh ideas (where you want to post your comment about Chinese education system besides this blog?)
For non-Chinese, this blog provides an opportunity to understand China’s problem better, and at least start to think about China problems in a slightly different angle.
Besides this blog, there are many different things I am doing to help to make the long term change, including speak on TV, go to more than 20 universities so far to deliver speech, to have a small fund in university (although paused for a long time), and to evangelize democracies whenever I can… Yes. Everyone is trying to make a difference.
The challenge is, regarding the short term goal – for Yifan to have a nice future, the long term goal does not fit.
Is it Brave or Not to Find a Solution?
Nothing symbolizes individual’s fight with bigger system as well as Jew’s fight in the World War II. I just visited the Jewish Community in Shanghai where 30K+ Jewish people flee to Shanghai during the World War II, and survived in Shanghai. Are they coward, or hero? By theory, to stand up against Nazi, and die before them are more politically right, but no one, I mean no one, can point fingers to them and say, dye is your best choice. That is the long term and short term approach.
One of the comment in the previous article reads: “it (if) got you where you are today, no reason why yf (Yifan) can’t do the same!” I don’t believe so. It is as crucial as if there is you survived from the war, why you son cannot do the same? Send him to the war field, and then pray. If I have a chance, I mean, if I do have a choice, I will never choose the same thing.
I may continue the discussion about my dilemma in education in the next few articles. I said dilemma, not my choice, since I don’t have a choice yet – it is so hard to choose
In the previous article about Yifan, I talked about the choices I am trying to make for Yifan’s education. As some of my readers pointed out, this is a pretty private decision. I post it here, just to help my readers to understand the challenges, and the environment I am living in – not just from the point of view of a tourist, but also from the local residents.
Education Resources are Limited
As I mentioned many times in this blog, although the GDP of this country grows very fast, the public resources like education, and health care is still far behind the demand.
To put things into perspective about why and how I am worried about education of my son, let me first describe the environment. The bottom line is, you should not use the standard of education resources of most developed countries as a basis to make decision for China.
My Story in Henan
Let’s talk about the university education and my story first. Back to the year of 1995, when I entered the Gaokao (The entrance exam for colleges), there are more than half million people as myself stepped into the exam rooms with me in Henan province. Think about half million people as smart as you are, and as anxious about the future as you are, and as hard working (or more hard working) than you are.
The result? There are very limited opportunity to win in that game. There are not many good university for the students. Shanghai Jiao Tong University, for example, offers 55 positions, and Tsinghua, at that time, offers less than 50, I remember. Considering the good universities you will be happy to enter, that is 500 slots there at most.
That means, if you are not the top 500 students out of the 500K students, you are over.
There are many other colleges that you can go, but everything considered, the majority of the students entering the exam rooms will be disappointed and get back to their home with no university to go to, and they have to throw themselves to the low end labor market – construction workers, or low end sales people, or farmer, maybe…
Today, I checked the web. Congratulations. The total number of students competing for a permit to enter university in Henan province raised from 500K to 950K, and universities get more students. SJTU, as an example, raised their quota from 55 to 84. In short, competition gets tougher, than before.
The Best or the Fittest
“The fittest survives”. It is from the Darwin’s law. The very sad reality is, in a tough selection process like the one I described, the best may not survive, only the fittest one survive – the fittest one to exams. That is a reality that no one can easily change.
It is just like to get a train ticket in the Spring Festival. If the rate is 6 out of 10 people can get the ticket you want, you can safely assume that the one who made reasonable effort can get a ticket, and those who don’t want to wake up early to line up for a ticket will fail. However, in a competition where only 1 or 2 ticket out of 1000 people is issued, what qualification the one or two luck guys need? Smart, or hardworking is not the complete answer. Luck plays so important a role.
Back to Primary Schools
The weird thing that I just discovered after Yifan was born (I didn’t pay attention to it before) is, the pressure from university went down all the way to middle school, to primary school, and even to kindergarten. If you miss step once in the chain, chances are, you are over.
I think I already tend to give up for kindergarten entrance, since it is so competitive in Shanghai. You need to prepare the kid so well ahead so they can pass the entrance exam – at the age as young as 3. I heard the story from my friend, that his son was rejected, just because his son chose cake, instead of bamboo for a panda.
That is the reason many of my friends already chose to immigrate to other countries to get out of this. Think about the pressure and the heavy school bag, the deep degrees of glasses in very early years, I almost tend to quit this competition. I may survived in this crucial race myself 15 years ago, but what for, for the next generation?
To be continued in part III
Which primary school should I send Yifan to? Every parent wants their child to receive the best education, and there is not standard of what best education is. Here are some choices we have:
1. To enter the public school.
There are always a public primary school in your community. However, most of the time, it is either new, or just so-so. Be definition, the most common schools are not best school.
In our case, the Chang Yi Primary school is the school Yifan can enter, but we don’t feel that we like the school. There are many other great schools out there.
2. Best Public School
There are some schools like No. 5 Primary School at Jiang Su Road at Chang Ning District, or Yuan Yuan Road Primary School – they are top schools of Shanghai. However, you need to buy an apartment in that school district three years before the child enters the school. That is very similar to the school district concept in US. I checked around, and the price for that area has raised to 4 million RMB for a two bed room apartment – way too expensive.
3. International Private Schools
There are many other great schools in Biyun International District or other places in China. They accept students from all over the city, as long as you want to pay the high tuition, and their education system is aligned to international standard. Well. International standard in primary school is a negative word. Although kids are more happy and can learn in a more open environment, and have more time to pursue what they are interested, it also means the kid is kicked off from the mainstream education system in China.
Look at the public schools. They push kids to the limit to learn unlimited stuff – primary school students have to work as hard as to 9 PM to finish their homework, and their weekends are also occupied. This does not happen in international schools.
What is the choice? There are not many months for us to decide – if our choice is a very good public school, we need to act now to secure an apartment (and sell the current one at the same time). Both need time.