Changes needed to keep stu­dents in China

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By LI YANG in Shang­hai liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

Learn­ing English is the first step for Chi­nese stu­dents to study abroad. This is an English-lan­guage teach­ing school in Lu­ji­azui of Shang­hai.

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