The Exodus of Chinese Pupils to US Colleges

If you look at lots of league tables as reported in these pages, Chinese children often score very highly in certain ability related tests.  In fact they top  the tables in many such surveys and studies, so why then are so many Chinese pupils seeking to complete their education outside China.   The numbers are growing all the time, fueled perhaps by the growing prosperity of the Chinese middle classes.  US schools admitted more than 50 times the number of Chinese students this year than in 2005, in fact they represent the largest number of foreign students in the US education system.

The main reason is perhaps the growing disillusionment with the very strict, competitive and some would say restrictive education that is received in Chinese schools.   Although the tables would suggest  that a Chinese student is likely to perform better than an American student in subjects such as Maths or reading, it is is critical, creative and communication skills where they can perform badly.

It is these skills that are often the most valuable in carving out a successful career – communication and creativity lead to innovation and new ideas.   The competition in China is fierce to get the best scores and the highest results, yet these do not always lead to better employment and career prospects except for the very highest.  There is a growing concern that the skills taught in Chinese schools will not help the economy develop onto the next level

In the career market place it is seen that students with more rounded skills become more successful.  There are many more opportunities for those with a Chinese education supplemented by a Western based one such as from the US or Europe.  These graduates are often in great demand ironically by Chinese firms too who operate internationally.

Of course this comes at a price, continuing your education in the private sector in the US for example is not cheap.  Even with careful budgeting a student can expect to incur expenses of thousands a dollars a year when you include tuition, room and board in a foreign country.  It is only the wealthy that can exercise these options, although  the growth in online learning offers more potential for the future.

Thanks to the internet, and the growth of MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) the opportunities for experiencing different education options will be increased to other students without the financial resources.  The internet opens up a lot of options for students to takes courses at any major university in Europe and North America.  Students already use the internet to access all sorts of online media even with the country’s infamous firewall and filtering – most are familiar with how to change your IP address online  to bypass these blocks.

The exodus represents many of the problem that the Chinese economy is facing over the coming generations.  In order to maintain it’s economic success it needs to adapt and embrace the skills that other developed countries have created withing their societies.  Unfortunately the biggest tool to enable this change – the internet is heavily filtered and censored, putting both Chinese individuals and businesses at a significant disadvantage in a digital world.  The youngsters though pretty much ignore these blocks and are well skilled in using circumvention techniques – on my last visit I found a group of students watching an episode of Coronation Street – the method is detailed here apparently.