News / Asia

Chinese Students Flock to US, Chasing College Dreams

Students leave after a Scholastic Assessment Tests (SAT) exam at AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong, Nov. 2, 2013.
Students leave after a Scholastic Assessment Tests (SAT) exam at AsiaWorld-Expo in Hong Kong, Nov. 2, 2013.
Reuters
Chinese students form the largest overseas group at U.S. universities and their numbers are rising as families spend a fortune in the quest for an American education to pry open the door to career and social success.

For some parents, overseas education is also seen as a way to avoid China's fiercely competitive national college entrance exam known as the "gaokao'', which is taken by millions of teenagers who see it as a make-or-break way to get ahead.

"We don't know if it's right or wrong,'' said Zhao, a mother from the capital, Beijing, who wanted to be identified only by her surname. "We just feel it's better to get an education in the United States than in China.''

The stress to get into university in China is severe but tighter job prospects for hordes of graduates are also causing anxiety as the world's second-largest economy slows.

Nearly 7 million Chinese graduated from university this year - a new record and a jump of 190,000 from last year. This has stepped up employment pressure, education authorities say.

To pursue his dream of going to a U.S. university, Li Shiyuan, 17, quit high school in May.

His parents had given him three options - stay in his home province of Shandong, where the college entrance exams are very competitive, move to Tianjin, which has one of China's highest acceptance rates for key universities, or study abroad.

He began in Beijing, by attending three courses to train for tests required by U.S. universities, including the SAT and the TOEFL English-language test.

This month, he sat the SAT exam for the second time in an effort to better his previous score and he plans to return to the Hong Kong test center in December.

"It's much better than in high school, where teachers put too much pressure on us,'' Li said.

His training for the exams has cost 100,000 yuan ($16,400), almost five times the annual disposable income of the average Chinese city-dweller.

"As long as the family can afford it, I would like my child to go abroad for university to learn some real stuff,'' said lawyer Li Xuezong, who accompanied his son to Hong Kong.

Nearly 200,000 Chinese students were at U.S. universities in the 2011/12 academic year, almost double the number from India, the second-largest group of overseas students, the U.S.-based Institute of International Education says.

While most Chinese study at graduate level, the 2011/12 academic year saw a surge of nearly a third in undergraduates from China, to about 75,000, institute data shows.

SATs are available only at some international schools in China, where fees are out of reach for most families. Hong Kong holds six SAT sessions a year.

An opportunity - for the wealthy

Li Xuezong was one of hundreds of parents waiting patiently outside at Hong Kong's AsiaWorld-Expo, the city's biggest test center, where his son was among the 7,000 exam candidates.

Situated conveniently next to the airport, AsiaWorld-Expo hosts about 60,000 SAT takers a year, more than 90 percent of them from mainland China, Chief Executive Allen Ha said.

Many students take the test more than once.

"Because our examination-oriented system doesn't have many criteria to judge student performance, they focus on exams,'' said Zong Wa, an official of the government-linked China Education Association for International Exchange.

Studying abroad is an option mainly for the rich. Families typically save at least 1 million yuan ($164,000) for four years of college in America, but about 12 percent of China's 1.35 billion people still live on less than $1.25 a day.

Zong said as many as 450,000 Chinese would go overseas for education this year, with the U.S. the most popular destination.

At the same time, the number of students taking China's college entrance exam dropped for the fifth consecutive year.

"Students are asked to do tons of exercises during the last year of high school,'' said Li Xuezong. "It affects their way of thinking.''

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs