SPECIAL NOTE: I agree with the author of this report or article why many Chinese today are sending their children to study abroad, especially the United States of America…blame it on 1: the Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs; 2. Tsinghua University as the finishing school; 3. China’s Elite (today it is Wealth, once it was Brain Power); 4. Tsinghua and Fudan have limited places for freshmen; 5. accessibility of United States; 6. perception that USA education is better than Chinese education; 7. Tired of Gaokao, a hell for everyone in China; 8. elite schools have double tracks, one for Gaokao, one to study abroad; 9, a sense of doubt and uncertainty about China’s own institutions, especially its current repressive and insecure political climate; 10. 60% of students have returned the last 40 years; and despite the fear of Chinese leadership with the Polluting of minds (exposure to foreign doctrines and liberal ideas), and the high scores of PISA scores in China compared with other countries, with many students leading in the sciences in the world? David Dodwell left out a few critical factors in his persuasive article…During my 7 years as a visiting professor in China, I had David as a student in my campus. David(not the real name), son of a father working for the supreme court in his town, and mother, a top government official, was sent to study in Canada with this simple instruction from his parents: study, work and live in Canada. Do not return to China. He is the only son! What the parents did not know was David is not a sociable or amiable creature…while he was my student in China, he isolated himself from other students because he felt he was more superior and better than others! And because of this attitude, he had very few friends, his dormitory mates. And when he was in Canada, he told his parents many Canadians were not helpful, kind, friendly and he did not feel at home in Canada. While he was in Canada, he told me his best friend was a laborer working the late shift cleaning a MacDonalds building. He had difficulty making friends with Canadians or other Chinese in Canada. He could not get along with them…I never want to reveal this to his parents. But his parents, like so many others, want to send their children far away from mainland China to study, work and become a citizen of another country. The same with John (not his real name). His father is a rich businessman in Shanghai. He has a brother, married and has a son. That means, in Chinese culture, John can go free, he is not obligated to marry and produce a grandson for his parents. So his parents sent him to study, work and live in Australia. John is not David, because John loves Australia, easy going, handsome and amiable and friendly. I visited him a few times on my trip to Australia…he finished his graduate studies recently in Australia, and is patient to follow the requirements for him to obtain his permanent residency as required by the Australian government. This would make his parents very happy in Shanghai…they sent him away for the same reasons David’s parents sent him to Canada…China is too crowed and congested, too polluted, and distrustful of the future of the Chinese government in China. But mostly importantly, it is because these parents have the money to do what they want to do…During my 7 years in China, I have observed that most parents, not children, want to send their children overseas to have a better life, this despite the fact that China today is a land of milk and honey and there are plenty of jobs everywhere now. What the author failed to mention is the simple fact many potential college students did not meet the high academic requirements required by schools like Fudan and Tsinghua, the top elite universities in China. Not all universities in China are “equal” in terms of government funding, most schools are not as prestigious as Fudan and Tsinghua. And that is one reason why many are going to USA, because here in my country, we have room for all students, especially those with money, not necessary brains! Americans need the money and China is spending billions in USA to keep the American academic institutions alive, willing to compromise in their requirements of Chinese students to America! Sad but true! In the early 80s, and 90s, most Chinese students who came to USA had brains, the best brains in China…now, it is not the intellectual elite (less) but economic elite (those with money) who are coming in droves to foreign universities, mostly to American schools. And what we see in my country, USA, is the competition between the Indians (from India) and Chinese (mostly from China, Hong Kong and Singapore) in American classrooms! It makes sense many Asians felt rejected by Harvard University…the smart ones would like to enter the top universities in USA and UK! As more and more parents have the money, they would prefer to send their children to USA to study…those more are now converging on Australia as immigrants! And you may wonder why many today are returning home to mainland China? One reason: many, after years in USA, still cannot communicate proficiently and efficiently in English. Most are from rich families and they have family businesses to return to! Those who came from China continue to live and mingle among themselves and little time and room to learn the American culture and lifestyle…without good proficient English, they have no choice but to return to China in droves! But the ones with brains, involved in high level studies and researches, they tend to stay because of their academic achievements to live and work in USA…they already had good English language skills before they came to the United States…that was my first discovery in China as a visiting professor, that those who have plans to pursue advanced studies and research overseas have mastered the English learning skills (speaking and writing). Most, despite years of English from Grade 3 (elementary schools) through college, do not care too much to master the English skills. In the words of many I had encountered in China: “Why speak English, all my friends around me speak Chinese!” Now you know. Steve, oct 24, 2018, blog: https://getting2knowyou-china.com weChat 1962816801 email@example.com
Why do so many Chinese study abroad, when local universities are already among the world’s best?
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 August, 2018 scmp
David Dodwell researches and writes about global, regional and Hong Kong challenges from a Hong Kong point of view
Back in 1973, while a student in Norwich in England, I funded my study by teaching foreign students English.
If I had been more inquisitive and worldly at the time, I would have wondered how it was that, among my students, there were 15 from China sent from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing.
After all, the Cultural Revolution was still being fiercely fought, China’s universities were still locked shut, and the Gang of Four must surely have taken a very dim view of bright young future diplomats being thrown into the lap of the capitalist West to learn English. Someone in the ministry was clearly taking big risks.
From those early, discrete beginnings, the flow of Chinese students overseas has grown into a flood. Last year, more than 600,000 mainland Chinese began study abroad, taking the overall total of the nation’s overseas students to just over 1.5 million, according to Caixin, quoting the Ministry of Education.
Over half of them went to the United States, accounting for over one-third of all foreign students studying there. Almost 90 per cent paid their own costs, with US$11 billion spent in the US.
According to many at the White House and some in the US Senate, most of these are spies, or are in the process of stealing secrets, and many are a threat to national security in the US.
Putting such paranoid views to one side, such numbers raise some very interesting questions. Why is it that so many mainland Chinese students flock overseas? And what are the implications?
William Kirby, TM Chang professor of Chinese Studies at Harvard, asks exactly these questions in a chapter in a fascinating new collection of essays from Harvard: The China Questions – Critical Insights Into a Rising Power . Needless to say, the paranoid White House position rings hollow.
The first key insight is that the Chinese habit of studying overseas, in particular in the US, has some very deep roots. Over a century ago, “preparing young men to enter American universities was the founding mission of Tsinghua”. It is hard to think of what today is one of China’s most formidable education institutions as a finishing school preparing Chinese kids for study in the US.
In 1911, Edmund James, president of the University of Illinois, told Theodore Roosevelt: “The nation which succeeds in educating the young Chinese of the present generation will reap the largest possible returns in moral, intellectual and commercial influence.” What a far cry from the foreign security threats being fretted over today.
It was perhaps easy to understand, back during the chaos that prevailed across China through the first half of last century, why so many of China’s elite sent their kids to the US for study.
But why today, when by most accounts China’s own universities have built a strong international reputation, and universities like Tsinghua and Fudan are ranked among the best in the world?
Once upon a time not long ago, university places inside China were so limited that it was easy to understand why so many looked overseas. But today, there are more than 36 million Chinese enrolled in universities inside China compared with just 6 million in 2000, according to the Ministry of Education. More kids graduate every year in China today than in the US and India combined.
The initial answer is obvious. According to Kirby: “beyond the openness and accessibility of American universities there is a widespread perception on the part of Chinese parents that a US education is simply better than a Chinese education.”
Others simply recoil from “China’s examination hell” – the gaokao, or university admission exams, sat on the same day last year by more than 9.4 million university applicants, is an unseemly trauma for many families across the country.
Such is the angst about the gaokao that many elite schools in China have set up parallel study tracks – one preparing for the gaokao, and a second for study abroad.
As Kirby notes: “The strengths of China’s education system are more appreciated abroad than at home … Required classes are large. Good teaching is seldom rewarded. Good jobs do not necessarily await graduates of such a suddenly expanded system.”
But it seems that many Chinese families are implicitly asking a question explicitly posed by Kirby: “can world class universities – however they are defined – exist in a politically illiberal system?”
The question is even more moot when “in the realm of politics and history, the distance between what Chinese university students have to learn to graduate, and what they know to be true, grows greater every year …
“Massive educational migration to the United States may be due less to confidence in American universities than to a sense of doubt and uncertainty about China’s own institutions, especially in its current repressive and insecure political climate.”
This raises a question Kirby does not ask: why does the Beijing leadership continue to allow such large numbers to study abroad and return to influential top jobs, when this foreign experience inevitably exposes them to “polluting” foreign thought that must raise questions about the way China is run and ruled? Out of the 5.2 million students that have studied outside China in the past 40 years, more than 3.1 million, or about 60 per cent, have returned.
Kirby’s question on China’s politically illiberal regime as an incubator for innovation is nevertheless more easily asked than answered.
Global educational performance measures like the Pisa tests suggest that China’s universities – indeed its whole education system – are today home to a large proportion of the most accomplished students on the planet. They are today being credited with an increasing share of leading research in many fields, in particular in the sciences.
Whatever the answer, there must surely be a deep irony that so many in the US leadership are today wringing their hands about Chinese students subverting the US economy and its political system, when back in China the leadership seems so tolerant of potentially “polluted” students returning home to top roles in the economy.
David Dodwell researches and writes about global, regional and Hong Kong challenges from a Hong Kong point of view
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Learning in America