Changes needed to keep students in China
Chinese entrepreneurs have wider connections around the world now, and they can find reliable contacts to help them send their children overseas to study, according to the chief researcher for the Hurun Report.
Rupert Hoogewerf, chief researcher with the Hurun Report, told the Shanghai Oriental Morning Post that 10 years ago, most of the Chinese who had friends and relatives in Western countries were concentrated in Australia and Canada.
The Hurun Report, a Shanghaibased luxury publishing and events group, released a recent study that showed more than 80 percent of high net worth Chinese plan to send their children to study abroad. That number is only 1 percent in Japan, 5 percent in France and no more than 10 percent in Germany, said the report.
The worsening environmental pollution and food safety conditions are also reasons why wealthy parents want to send their children to study abroad at an increasingly younger age.
“Despite the government’s efforts to clean the environment, I think it will take a long time to clean the air and water,” said an entrepreneur in a State-owned enterprise in Beijing, who plans to send his son to Canada to attend junior middle school. The father asked not to be identified.
“It depends on the upgrading of industries, and transformation of economic structure, which will be a slow process in my opinion,” he added.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia are the four most popular overseas education destinations for children from rich Chinese families, followed by Switzerland, Singapore, France, Japan and Germany.
There are 235,000 Chinese students studying in the US, and 135,000 in the UK. Finance, business and commerce are the most popular majors for Chinese students.
The average age of Chinese students going abroad is 18 years old. And the average age of Chinese students from rich families is 16 years old; 23.9 percent of rich families send their children abroad to study in college; 22.9 percent study in high school. More wealthy parents said they intended to let their children begin their overseas education starting from primary and junior middle schools.
Statistics from the Education Ministry show that nearly 4 million Chinese went abroad to study since 1978, the year China lifted control of its citizens studying abroad.
The 4 million Chinese students studying abroad take with them at least 80 billion yuan ($13 billion). If the money the Chinese government spends subsidizing their previous education at home is counted, it would be a heavier loss of Chinese economy.
Analysts said the phenomenon is also a serious brain drain for China and will affect future social and economic development.
China’s education authority is faced with the prospects of young people flocking to foreign schools. China’s education is geared toward the college entrance examination, and doesn’t emphasize young people’s creativity, independence and critical thinking.
Nearly 1 million high school graduates, about 17 percent of the overall number each year, forgo the college entrance exam, or gaokao, with some believing that a college education is of questionable value and that the four years on campus should be better spent doing some work or learning some skills.
China tried to reform the gaokao system more than 10 years by granting some key universities more autonomy and independence in enrolling high school graduates. But some enrollment officials and teachers of the universities take the freedom brought by the reform as a power to seek bribes from the students’ parents.
Before the corruption of universities is addressed, gaokao seems the only feasible means, despite its negative influence on middle school education in China, to ensure fairness in college enrollment.
Some wealthy Chinese families simply choose to send their children to study abroad.
“The dilemma in China’s education reform is obvious,” said a civil servant in Wuxi of Jiangsu province, who just sent her son to a primary school in Connecticut. But the authority seems increasingly content with the gaokao system. The direction of gaokao reform is not to abolish the test, but grant each province the rights to organize their own gaokao to replace a national one.
“This is to put an old wine in a new bottle. Wuxi has been famous in Chinese history for its developed education. But the gaokao makes it no different from other places in terms of the exam-oriented content of its education today,” the mother added, who requested anonymity.
Learning English is the first step for Chinese students to study abroad. This is an English-language teaching school in Lujiazui of Shanghai.