More Chi­nese par­ents send­ing chil­dren to board­ing schools in the US

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS -

This hol­i­day sea­son was a lit­tle hec­tic for me as I was host­ing three fam­ily friends from China. En­trepreneurs, schol­ars and physi­cians, no mat­ter what the par­ents do for a liv­ing, they share some­thing in com­mon: They’ve sent their teenagers to board­ing schools in the US.

It seems to be a de­ci­sion that both the par­ents and chil­dren could not be hap­pier about. Emily Chen, a 17-year-old who is a se­nior at the Grier School in cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia, said she has ben­e­fited much from her three years board­ing away.

“I used to hate schools and home­work in China,” said Emily, who added that she didn’t get as much at­ten­tion from teach­ers be­cause she strug­gled in class. “But here at Grier I have all th­ese fond mem­o­ries about learn­ing and mo­ti­va­tion.”

Al­though China in re­cent years started grad­u­ally trans­form­ing its ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, its frame­work and foun­da­tional con­cepts are chron­i­cally crit­i­cized – they are nar­rowly fo­cused on stu­dents’ aca­demic per­for­mance in­stead of whole­some char­ac­ter-build­ing and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment.

“I still can’t forget the night­mare-like years when we had to shuf­fle Emily back and forth be­tween school and af­ter­school train­ing in­sti­tu­tions,” said Hong Chen, her dad. “My wife kept push­ing Emily to study harder and would lose her tem­per” at her progress. “None of us was happy,” Hong Chen said.

When Emily de­cided to go to the US to start mid­dle school and fi­nally en­rolled in Grier in 2013, the en­tire fam­ily breathed a long sigh of re­lief.

Dif­fer­ent teach­ing meth­ods, dif­fer­ent learn­ing ap­proaches and expectations from the school have prompted Emily to be in­de­pen­dent and self-ad­vo­cat­ing.

“My ex­pe­ri­ences at the school lead me to take leaps of faith in my­self and en­cour­age me to be­lieve I could make great things hap­pen,” Emily said.

The Chen fam­ily story is not ex­cep­tional. Ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity (DHS), the num­ber of Chi­nese K-12 stu­dents soared to 34,578 this year and ac­counts for al­most half of for­eign stu­dents at­tend­ing Amer­i­can high schools and pri­mary schools. The youngest, as in­di­cated in records, is only 10.

In 2010, there were 8,857 Chi­nese stu­dents at­tend­ing US K-12 schools, ac­cord­ing to data col­lected by the Stu­dent Ex­change and Vis­i­tor Pro­gram (SEVP).

Eva Liu, a mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sional in Sil­i­con Val­ley, along with sev­eral of her en­tre­pre­neur­ial friends, de­signed a web­site and app that help Chi­nese par­ents lo­cate the best pub­lic and pri­vate K-12 schools in the United States.

“We feel that send­ing young chil­dren to Amer­i­can board­ing schools will con­tinue,” said Liu. “The in­crease shows no sign of abat­ing in the near fu­ture.”

Af­ter reg­u­larly an­swer­ing in­quiries from China about good schools, homes lo­cated in good school dis­tricts, and other re­sources in the US, Liu launched her web­site and app, which fo­cus on high­qual­ity K-12 school sys­tems and ser­vices.

“They are gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity among par­ents of in­ter­est,” said Liu. “Chi­nese par­ents understand what val­ues the Amer­i­can ed­u­ca­tion will gen­er­ate, and they are get­ting it.”

For ex­am­ple, some Chi­nese fam­i­lies will buy houses in up­scale towns with strong pub­lic schools.

“Our web­site col­lects all this in­for­ma­tion for Chi­nese fam­i­lies,” said Liu, adding that her clients are mostly af­flu­ent Chi­nese with only one child.

At Grier, Chen and other Chi­nese stu­dents make up al­most half of the school pop­u­la­tion. The school ad­min­is­tra­tion set up a public­ity of­fice in China sev­eral years ago to wel­come Chi­nese stu­dents in or­der to off­set de­clin­ing do­mes­tic en­roll­ment and fund­ing.

“Fifty thou­sand a year in­clud­ing tu­ition and board­ing fees is not a small num­ber,” Emily said. “I understand my par­ents pin high hopes on me.”

Emily com­pleted her col­lege ap­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing sev­eral for pres­ti­gious Ivy League schools, be­fore Christ­mas.

Con­tact the writer at junechang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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