China’s Love Affair With U.S. Private Schools

In an article for The Atlantic, Helen Gao explores the growing desire of China’s new rich to send their children to private high-schools in the United States. Gao offers a short historical juxtaposition via her own experience studying at a private school in the U.S. just 5 years ago, and some deeper historical background on China’s educational system and the role of study-abroad opportunities within it. The article also mentions how this trend is serving to put more bumps in an already uneven playing field:

In sending their children to America, parents like Shen and Zhao are detaching this next generation from the very society that allows them this freedom while denying it to others. It’s a reminder of the growing wealth divisions in China. With wealthier children now spending 4 or even 8 years studying abroad, the economic inequalities are slowly turning into something more entrenched. “In the 1980s, even children who grew up in the countryside could have many options in the future, including going abroad for graduate schools, as long as they study hard at school,” Lvqiu Luwei, a Chinese social commentator wrote on her blog after speaking with some parents who have children abroad. “Now, the kids who are studying in American high schools are all from well-off families. They are distinguished by their access to education starting from elementary school or even kindergarten.” No longer is the nation’s single-tracked education system, which its people have followed for over a thousand years, a reliable channel of upward social mobility. As a rising number of students flock to overseas schools, their less privileged peers at home — the ones who can’t afford consultants and American school tuition — are out-competed abroad. The number of students who register for Gaokao, China’s national college entrance examination, has declined by 700,000 over the last three years.

For more coverage of Chinese students in the U.S., see The Industry of Higher Education and Chinese Students in the U.S.: A Clash of Civilizations, via CDT.