Aug 06, 2013

    China students go abroad earlier

    TO PROTECT their children from the pressure of the fierce competition faced by millions of college-bound exam takers in the country, an increasing number of Chinese parents are sending their children abroad, making the country the leading "exporter" of students.

    Chinese families now know more about overseas education, and they have more money to pay for it. One result is that students are going abroad at increasingly younger ages, creating a huge market for domestic training agencies and foreign educational institutions.

    Those taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language (Toefl) exam, an English-language proficiency test, and the SAT (a college-admissions exam widely used in the United States) are becoming younger, with many now aged under 18.

    Mr Fan Meng, director of the North America exams department of New Oriental Education and Technology Group, a leading test-preparation company in China, has observed the rising number of younger students in the company's prep classes for high-school and college admissions exams.

    Students aged under 18 taking the Toefl test increased 30 per cent last year, from 2011, he said.

    He said the explosive growth is most visible among students who are headed to primary schools or senior high schools.

    When selecting schools, Chinese families emphasise the importance of improving students' creativity and innovation, while maintaining their individuality, Mr Fan said.

    Mr Marvin Mao, chief executive officer of the online overseas-education network ShareWithU, said he found more Chinese youngsters starting their foreign education at the junior-high-school level. He said this earlier start allowed students to adjust better to their new environments.

    There has been a big growth in the number of applicants for junior high schools and primary schools this year, he said. Some 300 high schools in the US are recruiting students from China, he said.

    Foreign education groups, for their part, hope to cash in on the lucrative Chinese market, industry experts said.

    Ms Annette Madjarian, spokesman for Navitas Group, a leading global education provider based in Australia, said the number of students enrolling in academic English followed by foundation courses has grown, and this group is slightly younger.

    At Bell Educational Services, a London-based education company, one of the courses attracting the largest number of Chinese students is the summer young-learner course, which is designed for children between seven and 17 years old, according to Mr Greg Watson, chief executive of Bell.

    The average age of Chinese students taking Bell's young-learner course has fallen from 17 last year to 14 this year, according to the company, which has restructured its curriculum to meet the needs of students of different ages and ambitions.

    Mr Watson said China is a key country for Bell's development because of its economic growth, its international ambitions and its commitment to education.

    "We want to build long-lasting strategic partnerships with a range of Chinese organisations, such as schools, universities and private education providers," he said.