High school graduates attracted to study abroad

09:06, June 08, 2010      

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As millions of her peers rose early to do last-minute cramming for China's national college entrance exam Monday, Yu Lu was sleeping soundly, as she has been every morning for the last three months.

In March, the 18-year-old high school graduate from Yantai city, in the eastern Shandong province, decided not to sit the exam, long regarded as a destiny-shaping milestone in the lives of young Chinese, after she obtained offers from four prestigious universities of the United States.

"I chose the University of Washington. It will offer me a scholarship totaling more than $40,000 if study architecture there in the next four years," Yu said.

She achieved 29 points in the ACT (American College Test, full mark 36) in December 2009 after five months' English training in the GAC (Global Assessment Certificate) at the ACT Center in Qingdao city, Shandong.

Studying in the US would cost a total of $120,000, most of which would be funded by her parents. "Most students in the training center have richer families than mine," said Yu.

Yu believed a degree from a reputable foreign university will help clinch a good job in a tight employment market.

"The practice-oriented education of a foreign school will give me a competitive edge in job hunting," she said.

Wang Luxue, another high school graduate in northeast China's Liaoning province, also favors a foreign university.

"I targeted overseas schools because they pay more attention to students' all-around development and provide a more flexible learning environment," Wang says.

After being enrolled at Germany's Jacobs University in Bremen with a full scholarship in February, Wang has spent much of her time learning German and life skills, such as driving and cooking, while her peers were preparing for the college entrance exam, known as the gaokao in Chinese.

Wang devoted two summer breaks at the Beijing-based New Oriental language school, a private institution specializing in test-oriented English training, before she got 2,100 points in the US College Board's SAT test and 105 points in the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam last year.

Among the 530 graduates of the Yucai School this year, more than 50, including Wang, have chosen to head overseas for undergraduate studies.

According to the Ministry of Education, about 9.57 million people registered to sit the gaokao this year, 650,000 fewer than last year and a plunge of 930,000 people from the peak of 2008.

This year's examinees will have wider access to higher education as they would compete for 6.57 million places in China's universities and colleges, with the enrolment rate up 7 percent year-on-year, it said.

The number of gaokao exam-takers almost doubled from 5.27 million in 2002 to 10.5 million in 2008.

"As well as falling numbers of high school graduates, the trend towards taking foreign college tests also led to the drop in candidate numbers," said an official with Liaoning's enrolment and examination office.

Wu Qun, general manager of Han Terry Consultancy Co Ltd in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning, said the company had helped some 400 high school students go abroad in the first half of 2010, up 20 percent year-on-year.

"We charged each student about 11,500 yuan ($1,684) for helping set targets, prepare application materials and negotiation with schools," Wu said.

Liaoning had 26 competing consultancies providing similar services, said Wu.

In 2010, prestigious high schools in Beijing for the first time offered training courses tailored to those who planned to study abroad after graduation.

"The foreign college tests opened an alternative window for Chinese high school students to reach the world's best higher education," Wu said.

The SAT, which was held seven times a year, was less stressful and decisive than the annual gaokao, said Wang Lei, deputy director of American College Testing Center based in Qingdao city, Shandong.

"US universities allow the applicants to submit the best SAT scores. But in the gaokao, the loss of one point will keep you outside your dream school," Wang said.

The number of trainees in the center had climbed to 103 this year from 22 in 2007, Wang said.

Although the enrolment rate of China's universities and colleges had surged from 4.7 percent in 1977 to 68.6 percent in 2010, the placements of top universities, such as Peking University and Tsinghua University, were still very limited, Wu said.

Besides a wider selection of leading universities abroad and the prospects of a better education, the greatly improved financial situation of the average Chinese family had made study abroad more affordable, said Hui Youcheng, head of the Chicago International English Institute, based in Shenyang.

The appreciation of the yuan had also enabled more parents to pay hundreds of thousands of yuan for better opportunities for their only child, Hui said, refering to China's one-child law.

"It would have been hard to imagine so many students abandoning the gaokao when I was in high school. For most of us, a good performance in the gaokao meant a bright future," said Li Bing,

Li, who graduated with a double bachelor degree in law and computer science at the Beijing University of Technology in 2004, spent four years working his way through various jobs in high-tech and IT companies before landing his "dream job" selling advertising for Google.

"Hard as I worked, Tsinghua remained a remote dream for me," Li lamented, although he was one of the best at his school in Shandong.

"If I had an MBA degree from a leading US university, I could've got into my dream job several years ago," he said.

Source: Xinhua


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