The story appears on

Page A4

January 26, 2015

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Metro » Education

International outlook removes exam angst

WHILE some 50,000 12th graders in Shanghai are cramming for China’s annual college admission exam, the gaokao, in June, some more fortunate peers have already secured entry into colleges and universities abroad and are breezing through their final year in high school.

Even though tuition overseas can be 50 times more than in Chinese institutes of higher learning, the lure of studying abroad is encouraging a growing number of Shanghai high school students to study in international curriculum programs.

A report released by the China and Internationalization think tank said 274,439 Chinese students were studying in US schools in the 2013-14 school year, up 16.5 percent from the previous year. About two in five of those students were undergraduates, compared with just under a third in 2010.

At an international education fair held earlier this month by, a Shanghai-based online platform, operators of international curriculum programs told Shanghai Daily that they had received almost 10 times more applications than they have spaces available.

In countries like the US, Britain and Australia, overseas students have been big business for years. They pay higher tuition than local students, and there’s no shortage of them to help fill budgetary gaps. Not content to just woo foreign students to their shores, many overseas educational institutions are setting up affiliates in China to tap the hunger for foreign diplomas.

One program, launched jointly last year by the Shanghai Star River Bilingual School and the Vermont International Academy, planned to recruit 100 new 10th graders this year, charging 125,000 yuan (US$20,051) in annual tuition. Since last October, more than 1,000 applications have been submitted, said James Zhu, marketing director of the Vermont institution, based on the east coast of the US.

“With the increase of disposable income and the ease of accessing education information online, more families want to send their children to study in foreign schools, especially prestigious schools,” said Li Gang, manager of the Edulife website.

Some parents who send their teenage sons and daughters abroad find the young people have trouble living independently away from home. So domestic programs that help prepare children for the experience are gaining popularity in China, according to Li.

“Living and studying abroad is much more expensive than in China,” he said, “Most international curriculum programs here charge around 100,000 yuan a year, while tuition and living expenses overseas could be twice that amount.”

Zhu estimated that there are up to 80 international curriculum programs in Shanghai, including those approved by the local education commission and operated in conjunction with local schools. In addition, there are other programs privately run by foreign institutions and Chinese agencies.

Focus on preparing

Vermont International Academy’s first joint program here was set up in 2012 with Datong High School, a public school in Shanghai. It enrolled 50 students, now 12th graders. Eleven have already been accepted into colleges in the US.

One of them is 17-year-old Shi Leizhen, who has got a place at New York University.

“I chose the Vermont program because I made up my mind in junior high school to study overseas,” Shi said. “I didn’t want to waste my time on the Chinese education system. I wanted to focus on preparing myself for overseas studies by becoming familiar with the foreign education style and by improving my language skills in an English-speaking environment.”

Shi said if he had followed the traditional route in a Chinese senior high school, he would have had to handle dual curricula, take after-school classes and end up exhausted.

Other students, like Zhou Zhiheng, a 12th grader at the Shanghai World Foreign Language Middle School, was happy to bypass the usual Chinese exams. He said he is a serious student but not such a good exam taker.

“If I chose the international course program at the Shanghai World Foreign Language Middle School, I didn’t have to take any graduation exam,” Zhou said.

He has been offered a place at Northwestern University in Illinois.

“Though I still have to go to school here next semester, I'm more relaxed than those sweating over their Chinese college entrance exam,” said Zhou.

Meanwhile, nearly 70 offers from colleges in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and Japan have been received by about one-third of the 150 students in the International Baccalaureate Diploma program offered by one private school in Shanghai.

Curriculum dull

International classes are also attractive for those who come to Shanghai from other parts of China. Children from families without local residency permits, or hukou, aren’t allowed to take the senior high school admission exam. Most international programs don’t require such exam scores.

International studies also seem more relaxed than the Chinese education system, where rote learning, masses of homework and little critical thinking prevail.

“My son goes to bed at midnight after finishing all his daily homework, and then he has to get up 6 am every day to go to school,” said a mother surnamed Zhu, who has a 12th grade child.

“He finds the curriculum dull, with repeated answers to similar questions and uninspiring recitations all the time. I want him to be more relaxed and develop his own interests and specialties.”

Students in international programs said they have more choice of subjects and the schoolwork is not as onerous as in Chinese schools. Their assignments require more independent research and hone their English writing skills.

“I don't have to stay up late every night to finish homework,” said Shi Leizhen, who is on the Vermont program. “We have assignments that require us to do research for up to a week before writing a report or essay. That requires time management and encourages logical thinking.”

Wendy Da, director of the Vermont International Academy in Shanghai, said the classes aim to teach self-motivation and individual discipline.

“We not only test students' academic capabilities, but we also keep in touch with parents to help develop the characters of their children,” she said.

With demand growing, international courses for senior high school students and even younger grades are expanding.

Living World Shanghai, with 200 students, expects to increase enrollment to 300 this autumn.

And both the Vermont International Academy and the Shanghai Liaoyuan Education Group Intentional Division, which provide both US and Canadian high school education courses, plan to start Grade 9 classes this spring to help younger students improve English proficiency before entering senior high school studies.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend