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Exodus Worsens Education for Rohingya Children

As more than a half-million ethnic Rohingya refugees flee Myanmar into Bangladesh, education that was limited before has come to a standstill, says a Harvard doctoral student who studied the community in the region recently.

Education was scarce for Muslim Rohingya youth before 2012, but the crisis that has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes has shut that door, says Cresa Pugh, a doctoral student in sociology and social policy at Harvard University, who spent her 2017 summer in the Rakhine State.

See our Facebook Live interview with Harvard's Cresa Pugh here.

“Prior to 2012, there was suppression of educational opportunities in Rakhine State, but Rohingya youth still had some opportunities to pursue higher education,” she told VOA in a Facebook Live interview.

“Since the riots, the increased oppression and persecution has meant that the Rohingya in most villages in Northern Rakhine State have restrictions on their freedom of movement, and are therefore unable to advance their studies in university,” Pugh said.

That assessment, which is backed up by international rights groups operating in the region, contradicts the position of Myanmar's government, which maintains Rohingya are provided education opportunities, despite the government's refusal to grant them citizenship.

"All people living in the Rakhine State have access to education and healthcare services without discrimination," said Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a speech on September 19.

Pugh said there is little schooling going on for Rohingya. Some of the United Nations refugee camps offer lessons to younger children, but older children have few or no options to continue their studies.

Refugees like the Rohingya often dream of coming to the U.S. to study, where they feel they will be free of persecution, she said. For Rohingya parents, education of their children is paramount, since many Rohingya adults never receive formal schooling.

Only about 5 percent or fewer Rohingya make it out of the Rakhine to study, said Jessica Marks, co-president of Refugee Center Online, an educational resource based in Portland, Oregon, for worldwide refugees.

“It’s a challenge,” Marks said. “These students and refugees find support in their local communities but often are discriminated against in the U.S. and require ongoing support.”

More than 60 percent of Rohingya children age 5 to 17 have never been to school because of poverty, government restrictions on their movement, and lack of schools, according to the Oxford Burma Alliance, a student-run organization at Oxford University, where Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi graduated.

In addition, more than 70 percent of heads of households report having no formal education.

Rohingya students are also not allowed to attend universities in Burma, Pugh said. Some Rohingya communities have started mosques and religious schools in their villages. Where they have fled to Bangladesh, the government does not permit secondary schools in refugee camps. International aid organizations are working to increase education for Rohingya in camps. These schools have about equal enrollment of male and female students, according to the Oxford Burma Alliance.

The Muslim Rohingya minority first settled in the Rahkine part of Myanmar, then known Burma, as descendants of laborers who worked there during the British occupation of India and Bangladesh. After Myanmar's independence from India in 1948, it declared the Rohingya migration illegal.

Tensions restarted in 2012 and have risen in recent months. Rights groups allege Myanmar's military and local non-Rohingya villagers have attacked Rohingya settlements, killing hundreds and sending hundreds of thousands of others fleeing into Bangladesh.

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Know the Details, and Risks, of Student Loans

FILE - US dollars.

After School Africa takes a look at student loans and international students.

"Normally, many people do not like the idea of loans, and it is not the first option in the minds of many people," the article notes. "However, student loans can be the only option for some students who want to actualize their goals."

Read about the various types of student loans, and their potential risks, here. (August 2023)

Want an MBA from a US School? Here’s How One Man Made It from Indonesia to Wharton

FILE - People walk in and out of The Wharton School building on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia, March 20, 2016.

A student from Indonesia writes about his path to studying for an MBA at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Among his suggestions: apply to a range of schools and craft a compelling personal essay. Read more here. (August 2023)

Academic Integrity in the US: What International Students Need to Know

FILE - Students walk on the Stanford University campus, March 14, 2019, in Santa Clara, Calif.

International students have many things to learn about the U.S. when they arrive on American campuses. U.S. News & World Report delves into a less-common topic: academic integrity.

The magazine explores basic expectations at many U.S. schools, including how to use quotes and citations in papers, how to avoid plagiarism and navigating artificial intelligence pitfalls.

Read the full story here. (August 2023)

Chinese Interest Grows for US Study Tours

FILE - Students line up for their first day of China's national college entrance examinations, known as the gaokao, in Beijing, June 7, 2023.

A surge in inquiries from China for overseas study tours to the U.S. suggests that parents of children from primary to high school are willing to pay the big money so their offspring can have an American classroom experience during their summer vacations.

Yvonne Shi, director of Offer Education Consulting in El Monte, California, said study tours offer children authentic American courses, the experience of living with American families or in school dormitories, a variety of extracurricular activities, English classes and visits to schools where they could enroll full time.

Shi told VOA Mandarin that this year, despite the simmering tension between Beijing and Washington, "the number of inquiries we got has increased exponentially compared with that during the pandemic."

She added, "We have also noticed that the age of the children studying abroad is getting younger. In the past, the main market for study tours was in high schools, and in recent years, it has gone into junior high schools and even elementary schools."

Shi and others who help Chinese parents to plan overseas study tours said most of the children are sent to study abroad so that they can experience the education methods and systems in the U.S. to broaden their horizons. Some parents hope the summer experience will serve as the first step to future full-time studies in the U.S.

For other parents, the consultants said, summer tours that focus on athletics are a bigger draw than academics. The athletic programs are designed to expose children to different training techniques than they might have in China and improve their skills.

The tours offer opportunities to play with local sports teams at professional venues. But as is true of the academic tours, the athletic tours usually include visits to a school where the children could enroll full time.

FILE - A group of students listen to their tour guide at the Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Emperor Qin Shihuang in Xi'an in northwestern China's Shaanxi Province, July 16, 2023.
FILE - A group of students listen to their tour guide at the Museum of Terracotta Warriors and Horses of Emperor Qin Shihuang in Xi'an in northwestern China's Shaanxi Province, July 16, 2023.

Unless the children enroll in courses for credit, which would require a student visa, the children come to the U.S. on tourist visas, according to the consultants, and return from both types of tours with improved English language skills.

Faith Li is a mother from Hangzhou, in China’s Zhejiang Province. She decided to send her son, Caleb Lu, to an American high school after he participated in a summer program at San Gabriel Christian School in San Gabriel, California, in 2016.

Today, the school’s website offers information for international students who want to enroll fulltime with a tuition of $24,750 plus fees as, well as information about the 2024 summer program.

"I [was] really not interested in the education methods in China," Li told VOA Mandarin. "When my son was a child, he went to an elementary school with a good reputation. The class was overcrowded, with more than 40 students in one class, and we had to give the teachers red envelopes with money on various holidays.

"Sometimes, at parent-teacher meetings, the teachers were not direct with what they meant, and you would have to guess what they really wanted to say. … The school's education method was not diverse, just like cram-feeding. They only evaluate students with test scores," she said.

Now, Lu is enrolled at Pacific Union College, a private liberal arts college in Angwin, California. He’s pursuing a double major in pharmacology and business at the school, which is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He wants to pursue a doctorate in pharmacology from nearby Loma Linda University, which is affiliated with the same Christian group.

Li said, "We made a plan for him to study in the U.S. in 2016. Because only private schools in the U.S. could issue F1 visas, we applied for a private high school."

After Pacific Union College accepted Lu, Li said she and her husband moved to the U.S., where the family attends church every week.

Lu said that the education methods and learning environments in the U.S. are very different from what he experienced in Hangzhou, where he attended primary school before coming to the United States to attend high school and college.

"In China, when teachers teach, there is only one correct answer, which is what the teachers tell you,” he told VOA Mandarin.

"In the U.S., we can have free discussions," he said. "Usually, my classmates and I will read articles together and have group discussions, and everyone will have the right to speak.

"Even when the teachers are teaching, we can ask questions, and the teachers encourage us to actively participate in class discussions to find answers," Lu said.

Congress Could Stall a Landmark Research Funding Bill

The Capitol dome is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 30, 2023. (Photo by Diaa Bekheet)

The CHIPS and Science Act was signed into law a year ago and promised billions of dollars in funding for science at U.S. colleges and universities. However, Congress is already falling short of the funding targets called for by the legislation, instead focusing on investments in America’s semiconductor industry.

Katherine Knott explains the situation for Inside Higher Ed. (August 2023)

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