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Old views are changing on overseas education

(China Daily)

08:18, August 09, 2012

Visitors consult information on studying abroad at an international education exhibition in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, in July. About 90 universities from 12 countries took part in the exhibition. (Dong Jinlin / for China Daily)

Gan Xiaoying has only one regret about sending her 15-year-old son to study overseas: She will miss him too much.

"It will be hard, but it's worth it," said the Chongqing mother, whose son will start at a British boarding school in fall.

"I trust the Western education system, and I hope he'll adapt to the environment and culture quickly," she said, adding that she believes the younger a child goes abroad, the better.

Although it's not a sentiment that has universal support in China, data suggest more people are turning away from the traditional belief that overseas study should be reserved for postgraduates.

A poll for the latest China Education Xiaokang Index found that almost 40 percent of Chinese believe that the best time for someone to study abroad is at the undergraduate level, while about 21 percent said it is during high school.

Only 17 percent stick with the traditional idea of students not going overseas until they have bachelor's degrees, and about 4 percent said it should be at the post doctoral level, according to the report compiled by Xiaokang, a State-run magazine.

As the average age of Chinese students going abroad has dropped, so too has the number of youths taking the gaokao, or national college entrance exam.

About 9.15 million high school students nationwide took the make-or-break test in June, 180,000 fewer than in 2011. This is the fourth consecutive year that the number has fallen.

The number of high school students in major cities who opted out of the gaokao for overseas study increased by 20 percent last year compared with 2010, according to a 2011 trends report by the China Education Association for International Exchange.

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