Losing Sleep Over Choice of Schools

For the New York Times, Didi Kirsten Tatlow reports on a dilemma facing many globalized Chinese parents:

For many cosmopolitan Chinese parents, the agonized deliberations look like this: How Chinese should our child’s education be? How Western? Is there a middle ground?

[…]Ms. Ma is perplexed by the challenge of choosing a high school for her 11-year-old. “I’m really worried about his future studies,” she said. She took her son to the United States in May to tour schools, but that didn’t produce a decision.

“He feels American, but his friends are here. He wants to stay here. I feel that China’s basic education is very good, but, for later, I want him to have the space to explore and create, not just learn from books,” said Ms. Ma, who only offered her surname.

[…]It is, perhaps, no wonder that some parents are losing sleep over their choice. They want the critical thinking and creativity of Western education but not the very high fees and expatriate “bubble” of international schools; the cultural immersion, language and math skills of Chinese schools but not the very long hours and competitiveness that can cause burnout. They want their kids to be moral and truly global, to be both Chinese and Western. No school seems to offer all that. And with much at stake amid this conflicting mix of values, the choice feels truly difficult for many. [Source]

And it isn’t only the most cosmopolitan of Chinese parents who look globally to supplement their child’s secondary education. The Wall Street Journal reports on the prestigious and pricey Western summer programs attended by many Chinese students:

For Chinese parents obsessed with the success of their offspring, the latest must-have experience is a summer program at a prestigious Western school.

Students in China are hardly slackers, spending an average of 40 weeks a year at school, compared with 36 weeks for the U.S. school year. And while parents have long sent their children to academic programs to keep them busy during the summer, now the growing trend is for them to attend top-notch U.S. and U.K. schools.

They are drawn to these expensive overseas programs for three reasons. First, parents want their kids to get a break from China’s notoriously test-based curriculum, and be exposed to Western-style, seminar-type teaching. Second, such immersion programs can boost students’ spoken English skills significantly and broaden their exposure to other cultures. Third, admission to a top global university is the ultimate prize for most Chinese students who can afford to attend, and they believe a short stint abroad can spruce up their résumés. [Source]

See also “With Eye on U.S. Colleges, Chinese Pupils Come Early,” via CDT, or all prior coverage of education, overseas Chinese students, and study abroad programs.