The numbers of Chinese nationals turning to study abroad is rising year-on-year. Many are looking for alternatives to the stressful preparation for the Chinese College Entrance Exam.
For example, Yang Dongdong is a 16 year-old boy in the top of his class at school. Of his class he says, “in a class like mine, half of the students will end up in Tsinghua or Peking University.”
In Beijing, 72,736 students registered to take the gaokao, down from 126,000 in 2006.
Both are top Chinese universities. But, Yang has decided on an alternative route. “If I want to enter a university like Tsinghua or Peking, I have to pay too much attention to the gaokao (the college entrance exam). I’d like to have more fun and diverse experiences at high school, which I can talk about for the rest of my life”. He plans to study in the UK.
Yang is just one example among thousands. In 2012, China’s Ministry of Education reported that there were 399,600 Chinese students studying overseas. This is an increase of 17.65% over the previous year.
The USA has is a popular study destination amongst Chinese students, with overall numbers increasing by 23% in 2011 – 2012, and those studying at undergraduate level are up 31%.
Overseas universities are welcoming of Chinese international students and some have even started to accept the gaokao qualification: six universities already do in Australia, with the University of Sydney being the most recent to begin accepting it in 2012. It took Australia a decade to recognise the importance of accepting the gaokao results as an official qualification, as Eliza Chui – education consul at the Australian consulate-general in Shanghai – explains: “In mid-2000, the government noticed the number of Chinese undergraduate students was increasing and we researched the best way to accept students from China.”
“The research looked into the entrance examination curriculum, what type of exams they take, and how different provinces actually use the results. It was in-depth research.’”
One can only hope that the UK also looks into this in order to remain competitive. There is little doubt that the numbers of Chinese international students will continue to rise, as more Chinese become wealthy.
More and more Chinese international students are self-funded. China’s Ministry of Education reported that 380,000 of 400,000 students studying overseas in 2012 were self-funded.
Yang’s mother, Gan Xiaoying, a retired doctor, supports her son’s decision to study abroad. “We are not a super-wealthy family but we can afford his overseas study.” His family put-aside $163,000 – 1 million Chinese yuan – for his studies. “A one-bedroom apartment in Beijing is worth more than 1 million yuan now. Chinese people are getting rich, and children’s education is always the priority.”