Im­prove tal­ent eval­u­a­tion, check brain drain

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Some re­cent me­dia re­ports said a Chi­nese youth, whose fam­ily spent about 4 mil­lion yuan ($581,000) on his ed­u­ca­tion in the United States over eight years, re­turned home only to re­al­ize he might not be able to earn that amount back be­cause it was not easy for him to find a well-pay­ing job.

So, is study­ing abroad still a worth­while op­tion for Chi­nese youths?

The an­swer dif­fers from per­son to per­son, be­cause to study abroad is a per­sonal choice, and en­tails ra­tio­nal plan­ning.

But ed­u­ca­tion is more than just about eco­nomic re­turns. Ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties must rec­og­nize this fact be­fore reach­ing a con­clu­sion from the above ex­am­ple (and sim­i­lar cases) that China’s brain drain can be checked.

Many Chi­nese fam­i­lies send their chil­dren to study abroad be­cause they care more about the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in de­vel­oped coun­tries than eco­nomic re­turns, even though the lat­ter is also im­por­tant.

There­fore, if China wants to check the out­flow of young tal­ents — let alone at­tract tal­ents from abroad to its schools — it should first in­ten­sify re­forms to im­prove the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in the coun­try.

Sta­tis­tics show that from the late 1970s, when China launched its re­form and open­ing-up, to last year, about 4.58 mil­lion Chi­nese went to study abroad, and 3.22 mil­lion of them re­turned home.

But de­spite the high per­cent­age of re­turn- ees, the “out­flow” of stu­dents con­tin­ues to in­ten­sify. Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, 545,000 Chi­nese went abroad to study in 2016, up 36.26 per­cent com­pared with the fig­ure in 2012, with about 70 per­cent of them seek­ing bach­e­lor’s, mas­ter’s or doc­toral de­grees.

More stu­dents are re­turn­ing from abroad mainly be­cause of their fall­ing aca­demic and prac­ti­cal knowl­edge.

Ten years ago, most Chi­nese youths went abroad, mostly to de­vel­oped coun­tries, to seek col­lege de­grees, es­pe­cially post­grad­u­ate de­grees, and many of them chose to stay af­ter grad­u­a­tion be­cause the job mar­ket there could ab­sorb them.

Nowa­days, how­ever, many Chi­nese stu­dents study­ing abroad are ac­tu­ally not “qual­i­fied”; they seek over­seas de­grees be­cause their fam­i­lies “buy” them seats in cash-thirsty schools. No won­der it is dif­fi­cult for such youths to find good jobs abroad or, af­ter they re­turn home, in China.

Of­fi­cial data show that 87 per­cent of the science and en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ates, tal­ents that China needs the most, stay abroad, making China the largest “brain” ex­porter in the world.

In other words, real tal­ents make up only a very small per­cent­age of the re­turn- ees. And the high num­ber of stu­dents re­turn­ing from abroad does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that ed­u­ca­tion, ca­reers and the busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment in China have be­come more at­trac­tive com­pared with de­vel­oped coun­tries. So, one should not con­clude that study­ing abroad is no longer worth it.

Good stu­dents still have a strong de­sire to pur­sue the best ed­u­ca­tion in the world. In con­trast, some wealthy fam­i­lies don’t care whether their chil­dren are el­i­gi­ble to study abroad be­cause they have the money to spare and want their chil­dren to just have the over­seas study ex­pe­ri­ence. But such grad­u­ates can­not win the recog­ni­tion of the mar­ket or so­ci­ety.

Treat­ing peo­ple ac­cord­ing to their “iden­tity”, in­stead of their knowl­edge and ca­pa­bil­ity, is an out­dated con­cept. Some sec­ond-rate grad­u­ates from top univer­si­ties in China may not be even half as good as an av­er­age grad­u­ate from an av­er­age school for the job mar­ket.

The ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties must re­al­ize that even if study­ing abroad does not trans­late into good jobs at home, many Chi­nese par­ents are still will­ing to send their chil­dren over­seas for higher ed­u­ca­tion.

The out­dated tal­ent eval­u­a­tion sys­tem and not-so-per­fect qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in China are prompt­ing par­ents to send their chil­dren to study abroad. And un­til the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion is im­proved and the aca­demic en­vi­ron­ment changed, the brain drain will con­tinue.

The au­thor is a columnist for Beijing Youth Daily. The ar­ti­cle was first pub­lished in the news­pa­per on April 19.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.