Chi­nese at­tend US schools at younger ages

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By HEZI JIANG in New York hez­i­jiang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Chi­nese stu­dents in the United States are get­ting an ear­lier start.

In the 1970s, a typ­i­cal Chi­nese stu­dent in the US was there for a mas­ter’s or doc­toral de­gree. They were then fol­lowed by stu­dents pur­su­ing un­der­grad­u­ate de­grees.

Now, Chi­nese are the largest in­ter­na­tional group in US kinder­garten-through-12th grade, or K-12, pro­grams of study.

Novem­ber sta­tis­tics show that 34,578 Chi­nese stu­dents were study­ing in pri­mary and sec­ondary schools in the US, or 52 per­cent of all in­ter­na­tional stu­dents there.

Five years ago, the num­ber was 8,857, ac­cord­ing to The Wall Street Jour­nal. It cited sta­tis­tics from the Stu­dent and Ex­change Vis­i­tor Pro­gram, a Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity unit that tracks for­eign­ers in the US on stu­dent visas and the schools they at­tend.

At The Brook Hill School in Bullard, Texas, the num­ber of Chi­nese stu­dents grew from six to 20 in the past six years, the max­i­mum al­lowed from one for­eign na­tion.

When Tang Weite first ar­rived at the school in 2009, the 18-year-old found that South Kore­ans were the dom­i­nant group at their board­ing house.

Shawn Rhodes, di­rec­tor of res­i­dence life, said, “That trend shifted to China, as China has in­creased in af­flu­ence and pros­per­ity.”

Ma Shuheng, a se­nior at the pre-K-12 day and board­ing Chris­tian school near Dal­las, said: “Not only the num­ber is in­creas­ing. The stan­dard (for ad­mis­sion) is higher, too.”

He said that when he first ap­plied in 2012, there was hardly any bar­rier to en­try.

“Now, most stu­dents who get in have a 90-plus TOEFL score,” he added, re­fer­ring to the Test of English as a For­eign Lan­guage.

One of the rea­sons for many Chi­nese stu­dents study­ing in US schools is to es­cape the gaokao, China’s na­tional en­trance ex­am­i­na­tion, and the fierce com­pe­ti­tion that comes with it.

The other mo­ti­va­tion is to get pre­pared for US col­leges.

“More younger Chi­nese stu­dents choose to go to US high schools, as more par­ents be­lieve that this leads to a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion if their kids fi­nally choose to go to US uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges,” said Yu Haoyang, founder of Global In­tel­lect Con­sult­ing in Beijing, which pre­pares Chi­nese stu­dents to ap­ply to US schools.

“They be­lieve that US high schools of­fer bet­ter English­language and cul­tural train­ing, and it is eas­ier for their kids to mas­ter th­ese skills and be­come more com­pet­i­tive,” she said.

Rhodes no­ticed that Chi­nese stu­dents nowa­days ar­rive at a younger age, with most start­ing in the ninth grade. “It’s bet­ter for as­sim­i­la­tion, world­view, and to get cul­tur­ally im­mersed so that they are much more ready for the switch to col­lege.”

Tang at Brook Hill “The ear­lier the bet­ter.”

He came for the 11th grade in 2009. “Back then, we came late, so it’s harder to join an ath­letic group or a club, which de­cides your so­cial cir­cle.” He was a sub­sti­tute player on the soc­cer team.

Rhodes said that ex­tracur­ric­u­lar groups of­ten play an im­por­tant role as in­ter­na­tional stu­dents as­sim­i­late.

“(The groups) con­nect them with a dif­fer­ent group and iden­tify them as some­one other than a board­ing stu­dent,” he said. “When a stu­dent comes later, it’s more of a chal­lenge.”

He said a Chi­nese girl named Yil­ing came for eighth grade.

“She’s a cheerleader. She’s very well-known. And she runs for stu­dent coun­cil of­fice; she made the most of her time at The Brook Hill,” Rhodes said.

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