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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora