WENZHOU (China) • Students in one of China's wealthy provinces are learning that it pays to score high marks in their senior high school entrance exams - quite literally.
Cangnan County Shuren Middle School shelled out eight million yuan (S$1.7 million) in cash in all to students who performed well, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) has reported.
Pictures of the students receiving "bundles of cash" posted on Sina.com website have caused outrage throughout China, the SCMP said.
People on the country's social media have slammed the school for being "capricious" and acting like "redneck rich", it said, noting that the labels are commonly used by social media users to criticise the way China's newly rich flaunt their good fortune.
Located in the south-east of Zhejiang province along the East China Sea, Wenzhou was once a prosperous foreign treaty port and is considered the birthplace of China's private economy, an attribute that its more than three million people have managed to cash in on.
A popular saying in China describes its residents as people of excellence and Wenzhou itself has been praised as the city of wisdom.
But people in other parts of the country are now questioning just how wise it is after the photos of students receiving the award surfaced.
Sina.com reported that Cangnan County Shuren Middle School students received about 2.8 million yuan in cash at the award ceremony alone.
The balance was transferred directly to their bank accounts by the school, it reported.
The report said students with the highest marks received 100,000 yuan each during the ceremony.
Others had cash awards of 50,000 yuan or 40,000 yuan each, the report said, without indicating exactly how many students received the cash awards.
The school's website said it had a total student population of about 1,200.
It opened in 1995 and is privately run. It is now considered one of the most prestigious schools in the city.
Responding to the criticism of handing out cash for grades, the school said it was only aimed at attracting the best students .