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    Apr 25, 2014

    'Olympic Babies' set to swamp Beijing schools


    A HEADLINE in The Beijing News on Wednesday proclaimed "Olympic Babies Are Coming", and no wonder.

    In 2008, when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics, thousands more children were born than usual. Many Chinese also wanted their children to be born then because 2008 was considered to be a lucky year.

    Now, the country is scrambling to find enough space in schools for all of the six-year-olds who will be flooding the system this autumn - about 10,000 more than in September last year.

    These so-called Olympic Babies could be less lucky than their parents had hoped, as the crush of first-graders - 176,000 in total - is likely to put a strain on educational resources and result in even greater competition between peers.

    Eight is viewed as a lucky number in China, and many people try to have a child in a year they consider auspicious. Having a child in 2012, the Year of the Dragon, was also popular.

    In China, it is not unusual for parents to offer a bribe of US$8,000 (S$10,000) to US$48,000 to get their child into a good school, as competition for places can be fierce.

    The other reason for the surge in pupils is Beijing's growing population - more than 21 million people now live there.

    In 2009, according to The Beijing News, there were 100,000 children starting elementary school.