21 February 2019
China's rigid education system is driving many students to go abroad to pursue their studies. Photo: Internet
China's rigid education system is driving many students to go abroad to pursue their studies. Photo: Internet

Why more Chinese are studying abroad

The number of Chinese studying in secondary schools overseas has been increasing rapidly in recent years due to disappointment with the domestic educational system as well as rising family incomes, the Southern Weekly reported.

China has become the largest source of international students for high schools in the United States last year. A total of 31,998 Chinese students were enrolled in US high schools in 2013, a fivefold increase from two years ago and about 50 times more than eight years ago, according to an Associated Press report.

Besides the US, other favored destinations of Chinese students include Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. 

The number of foreign students in Toronto’s secondary schools has surged 40 percent over the past five years, and three in every four of the international students came from China, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The costs are high. Chinese students who enrol at privately run boarding schools spend about US$50,000 a year in tuition and living expenses. In China, a typical public high school charges 2,000 yuan (US$325.56) or less for an academic year.

Sending children to study abroad is no longer the privilege of the wealthy and influential. More and more middle-class families are tightening their belts to be able to afford overseas education for their children. The parents of Chen Xiaotian are among them.

Chen was one of the top students in his class, but once he got a very low score in chemistry and told his parents he just could not understand the lessons.

His mother discovered, after paying a visit to his teacher, that most of his classmates were taking tutorial classes and, because of that, the teacher was skipping the basic theories the students learned from outside the school.

There were also times when Chen got punished for reading books when he was supposed to be taking a nap or laughing too loudly at jokes his teacher told.

In short, Chen was not fitting in. And so his parents decided that the boy should study abroad.

“I don’t want him to be just a part of the assembly line,” his father said.

Although the family’s monthly income was only about 10,000 to 20,000 yuan, they took heart from other families who were earning less but could afford overseas education for their children.

Besides, Chen’s father said, the US$50,000 annual expense was only slightly higher than what they would spend if the boy was studying in any of the top privately owned schools in China.

Many parents who send their children to study abroad also apply for a suspension of their education in domestic schools. It’s actually a back-up plan: If the children’s studies abroad do not work out well, they can always return to their old schools at home, the report said. 

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