However, among parents paying extraordinary tuitions and fees to send their children abroad for secondary education, some are doing so simply due to peer pressure. Consultants for studying abroad warn that such a path does not suit every student and failed studying experience ending in dropout would waste a lot of time and opportunities. Zhu Tao, a consultant with Beijing Language and Culture University, said that professional opinions must be sought before parents decide to send their children abroad.
Shi Yingjuan, a consultant with the Oxbridge International Group, one of China’s earliest studying abroad consulting firms, said that her company has had cases where young Chinese students were forced to drop out of their school due to the inability to live independently, adapt to local culture or communicate with teachers and classmates. “Students must master basic living, communication and coping skills before embarking on their trips abroad. At the very least they should know who to ask for help when they encounter difficulties,” Shi said.
Xie Xinyan, who has just concluded her undergraduate studies in Britain, said that the largest barrier to overcome is the language difference, while adapting to different living arrangements, cultures and teaching methodologies also provides the most challenge. Xie suggested young students should learn how to cope with the loneliness and sense of helplessness that they may encounter before going abroad.
Instead of enjoying her last summer vacation as a high school student, Li Pinglu was preparing for the entrance examination for a one-year program at the Beijing Language and Culture University through July and August in order to prepare for undergraduate studies abroad.
The one-year program, with intensive courses on English and subjects such as calculus and economics, may be the difference between succeeding or failing as an international student. Students enrolled have access to all the facilities and resources that Beijing Language and Culture University provides to its full-time students.
Meanwhile, many Chinese high schools have opened international departments in order to attract students planning on applying to foreign universities. In April, the international program at Changjun Middle School, a prestigious high school in Changsha City in central China’s Hunan Province, revealed on its website that 95 percent of its graduates this year had been admitted to top 100 colleges and universities in the United States.
Hunan has many high schools with international programs, where students are under just as much pressure, if not more than their peers in regular schools who are studying for the national college entrance exam.
To apply to a top university in Europe or North America, students have to pass language tests, as well as get high scores in standardized admission tests. Meanwhile, they also have to study the curriculum of regular Chinese high schools in order to pass the compulsory exam for the high school diploma in their second year. These international programs often offer selective courses such as American history, comparative studies of Chinese and Western culture, as well as languages like Latin and German.
“Our objective is to turn our students into responsible citizens with an international perspective, to equip them with critical thinking skills, learning habits that will benefit them throughout their lives as well as an open mind and outstanding communication and organization skills that will allow them to coordinate and lead effectively,” said Liu Jing, Director of the International Program of Changsha No.1 Middle School.
During summer and winter vacations, students of these international programs also have to participate in extracurricular activities so as to enhance their sense of responsibility and team work, which is highly valued by admission offices of prestigious colleges and universities abroad.
Attending of overseas summer and winter camps has also gained popularity among Chinese students looking forward to studying overseas.
Lu Kexin planned to apply for a British university and major in business-related areas when studying at an A-level program in a high school in Shanghai. During her winter vacation in 2012, she participated in a business internship course in five European countries organized by the Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network, a curriculum development organization and awarding body based in Britain. After completing the short course, which requires conducting surveys and interviews, participants could gain 70 tariff points under the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, the British admission service for students applying to university and college. These points can be used in applications for entry to higher education institutions in Britain.
Ni Ni, who graduated from junior middle school this year, took part in a one-month summer camp organized by the University of New Hampshire in the United States for students aged between 12 and 15 last year. “It is well worth the costs,” said Ni’s father, “since my daughter has practiced her English and is better prepared for her future life studying overseas.”