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

Bleak China Economic Outlook Rattles Markets

Several key European stock indexes were down nearly three percent, while US market indexes were off around two percent in early trading More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs