Chinese students coming to US middle schools? It's starting to happen.
Less than a decade ago, virtually no Chinese students attended American middle and high schools, but that is rapidly changing, as Chinese students seek a different educational experience.
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For Wang and Zhou and the tens of thousands of other Chinese parents whose children are enrolled in US high schools, there is little choice but to have their kids apply to US colleges. Entrance to Chinese universities is based solely on one's gaokao score.Skip to next paragraph
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Many students currently enrolled in US high schools left China precisely to get out of taking the gaokao. According to most recent statistics available from the Chinese Ministry of Education, more than 200,000 students cited "gaokao avoidance" as their primary motivation for seeking their high school education abroad.
Given the dismal job prospects for new college graduates in China, most feel fortunate to be preparing for university in the US. Nearly 7 million students graduated from Chinese institutions of higher learning this year, according to China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, resulting in what netizens have dubbed the "hardest job-hunting season" in the country's history.
In spite of a tough job market for new grads, Susan says she is not opposed to returning home in a few years, but thinks "it would be hard to go back to China after eight years in the US. At that point, all my connections will be here and all my advanced academic and professional vocabulary will be in English, not Chinese." Still, she says, "it will really depend on where the best work opportunities are."
At least for now, the Chinese government is not worried about top middle school graduates like Susan leaving China, says Professor Tian.
"They may be very smart, but they weren't trained in China and China didn't invest in them, so the government doesn't feel the same sense of loss that they do when a graduate from a top university like Beijing or Qinghua goes abroad and doesn't come back."
Regardless of where these Chinese teenagers ultimately end up, they are currently making their presence felt at US middle and high schools.
At Phillips Andover Academy in Massachusetts, where 25 percent of the school is either Asian or Asian-American, students from China are the fastest-growing segment of that population.
"It's a 180-degree change from when I started here eight years ago, when the majority of our Asian students were Korean," says Susanne Torabi, Andover's international student coordinator. "Back then, we had two mainland Chinese students, both of whom were on financial aid." Andover enrolled seven Chinese students last fall and is expecting 14 at the start of this school year.
In terms of their impact on campus, Ms. Torabi notes that "many of them are very driven, making an already competitive place even more so. They're raising the bar."
Torabi also points out that there are many differences even within Andover's Chinese community itself, making for a richer, more interesting campus on the whole.
"We have students from both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Some students are second- or third-generation Chinese-Americans, some have dual citizenship, others had never left China before coming here, some attended private schools and others public."
Max Borowitz, who studies Mandarin at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., says his high school experience was "significantly different" than it would have been without so many Chinese students on campus.
"They taught me things about conversational Chinese that I never would have seen in textbooks," he says. "Almost every conversation I had was much more interesting, because it added a rare new perspective on the day's issues and showed me China is not a monolith, which wouldn't have been so apparent had I not gone to school with them."
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