Despite the on paper success of education in China there is a strong and growing movement for students to head abroad to be educated.
This is apparent in how many more high school graduates in China choose not to participate in the Chinese national college entrance exam: instead, they opt to apply to a college overseas.
And this is in spite of recent successes, such as that scored by students from Shanghai recently, who came first place in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2009 Program for International Student Assessment. Their victory, however, highlighted some of their problems.
Shanghai high school students scored the highest in math, science and reading comprehension on the OECD administered test, said Xiong Bingqi, Director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute.
But it is a matter of how the questions on that test were framed, which happened to match the content and formula of exams in mainland China, suiting the students' strong points, but not testing their weaknesses, Xiong explained.
Facets of education such as innovation, imagination, physical strength, individual personality and unique interests, however, were not tested, and these are the aspects of personal development that education on the mainland systemically neglects.
Chinese education falls behind in the cultivation of personality, morality and creativity, Xiong said. In the recent International Assessment of Educational Progress survey in 21 countries, Chinese students ranked first in their ability to calculate things, and last in their ability to imagine them.
More Young Abroad
Chinese parents, particularly the educated ones, have lost hope in the country’s education system, its college entrance exam system, and mainland universities as a whole. The wealthy and middle-class families in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, would rather spend their money on sending their children overseas to get a foreign education.
According to statistics published by the Ministry of Education, in 2009 there were 840,000 students who opted out of the college entrance exam. A July 14 report by Southern Weekly estimated about 1 million students would opt out in 2010. Among them, 21.1 percent say it is because they will continue education overseas.
In the prestigious public high schools in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the number of students who choose to attend overseas colleges is increasing.
The Department of International Exchange of Shanghai’s Municipal Education Commission published a report about students who attend overseas colleges, of whom 30 percent are between 15 and 18 years old. Statistics from several agencies that assist in applying for overseas colleges in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangdong province show that the amount of students going overseas has increased by 10 percent this year. Link
English First (EF) Ltd. and Sina Education published survey results about students in top Chinese high schools, where 86 percent of the parents wish to send their children overseas. The biggest motivation is to provide them with better education and broaden their outlook.
Dong Dong, who finished his second year of high school in China before leaving for Toronto in September 2010, is a typical example
Compared to the environment in China, the difference is like “heaven and hell,” Dong Dong told The Epoch Times. In Canada he normally spends only half an hour on homework every day, but in China the homework was interminable, and came with enormous pressure.
“Students in China are drowned in an ocean of exams. That is the only way to get a good score in the college entrance exam. We must do a lot of practice exams,” he said.
Canadian teachers pay attention to the development of capabilities in their students: “In science class, the teacher does not just tell us how to solve the problem, but teaches us the basic concepts and lets us solve the problem ourselves,” lest the students fail to be self-reliant, he said.
Once in Canada, Dong was especially excited about enrolling in speech and drama classes; both require students to perform on stage. Although his hands were shaking, heart thumping, and voice trembling the first time he stepped out, he loves it. But it is courses of this sort that are considered a waste of time in China.
“In China, all people care about are test scores. Nobody is interested in abilities such as verbal communication,” he said. “The high schools in China do not encourage cultivating students’ interests; instead, they try hard to stifle personal interests.
”Students coming out of the current education system in China often aim high but achieve very little, lack creativity and innovation, cannot endure hardship, and are not willing to start at the bottom—I don’t think they will accomplish much in life,” Dong says, delivering a dour message to his peers. “High school here is like heaven,” he waxed. “I would recommend that all my friends attend schools in Canada.”