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China Exclusive: Study tours suspended after plane crash

By Hu Tao, Yu Jingjing, Feng Yuan (Xinhua)

18:33, July 08, 2013

HANGZHOU, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Overseas study tours have been suspended after Saturday's plane crash in San Francisco, which killed two Chinese girls from east China's Zhejiang Province.

Quzhou Municipal Education Bureau in Zhejiang has told schools and related agent institutions to suspend all summer camps and study tours.

Two teenage girls from a middle school in Jiangshan City of Quzhou, died after an Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed, with 141 Chinese citizens among 291 passengers aboard.

Further measures to regulate study tours will be released soon, according to the Zhejiang Provincial Education Department.

The news shocked parents, whose children were onboard the flight.

Besides the students from Jiangshan, there were also six teachers and 30 pupils from north China's Shanxi Province on the plane.

"The incident was accidental, and we have no complaints against the school," said a man surnamed Mao, the father of a Jiangshan Middle School student, who was part of a team of 30 pupils and four teachers.

Mao said, "I have learnt that my child is safe. I wish a safe journey back for all of them."

On Monday, a total of 12 parents -- including those of the two teenage girls killed and another two injured -- will travel to Shanghai before flying to San Francisco.

"It was a disastrous accident for Jiangshan Middle School. We are deeply saddened," said Zheng Liming, the school's vice principal.

The girls who died had just become president and deputy president of the school television station, said Zheng.

Jiangshan Middle School started summer camps, or study tours, with Zhenjiang-based Boyue international communication consulting services company in 2006.

Parents pay about 30,000 yuan (about 4,839 U.S. dollars) to send their children on a two-week study tour to the United States.

Many parents of China's middle school students had few opportunities to gain a higher education or overseas study. Therefore, parents are willing to pay to send their children on an overseas trip and "realize their own dreams."

"Parents send their children to see the world and gain experience abroad," said Mao.

For Mao the school team is more reliable than other agents when it comes to organizing study tours.

However, some study tour camps have been blamed as being "too commercial or businesslike." Some agents try to persuade schools with tours by offering "free seats for teachers" and "teachers' costs will be covered by fees paid by students," according to an anonymous parent in Zhejiang Province's capital Hangzhou.

The study tour program has become very competitive among travel agencies and training institutions.

To make up a team, some teachers will persuade students and their parents to enrol as a trip offers many benefits to the children, said another anonymous parent in Hangzhou.

Some netizens said people should pay more attention to aviation safety as the plane accident had no direct links with the issue of study tours.

"It is quite normal for foreign students to take a 'gap year' or study tour to appreciate different cultures, learning to understand and respect people from various backgrounds," said a netizen named "Kukuyuyu" on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo.

Problems and progress coexist. School-organized summer camps are more reliable and trustworthy than those run by commercial institutions, said a netizen named "Pighao555."

China's burgeoning market of study tours should focus purely on educational enhancement. Governments are expected to regulate and standardize the market, but not stop it arbitrarily, said a middle school official surnamed Lou in Hangzhou.

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