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Why So Many Chinese Students Come to the U.S.

Discussion in 'BBS Hangout: Debate & Discussion' started by Cohete Rojo, May 2, 2016.

  1. Cohete Rojo

    Cohete Rojo Contributing Member

    Oct 29, 2009
    Likes Received:
    I had to laugh at the parts about "Mao Zedong thought" and guns. Some of what is echoed by Chinese about Chinese universities mimics what I have heard about American universities: degree mills that offer students no chance to learn relevant job-related skills.

    [rQUOTEr]Why So Many Chinese Students Come to the U.S.


    They’re eager to escape flawed education systems back home, where low
    standards are leaving many ill-prepared for a global economy
    By Te-Ping Chen and Miriam Jordan
    YANGZHOU, China—Fan Yue looked into the future and didn’t like what she

    As a high-school student in this eastern Chinese city of 4.6 million, she dreamed
    of going to college and studying education. But most Chinese universities are
    uninspiring, she said. She heard cheating was pervasive and that many people
    skip class. Students are required to study “Mao Zedong thought.”

    Just getting in takes years of study for the gaokao entrance exam, which is like
    the SAT on steroids. Students must memorize poetry tracing back to the 7th
    century. Few of the millions who take it get into China’s top universities, with
    competition in Ms. Fan’s home province of Jiangsu particularly fierce.

    Going through such a process “where I don’t learn anything” would be soulcrushing,
    said Ms. Fan, 20 years old. “There’s no meaning there.”

    There was another option: America. She had heard it was dangerous and
    wondered if she’d need to carry a knife.
    Her parents were against it.

    Yet on a brief visit to the U.S., she was inspired by the leafy campuses and sense
    of academic freedom. She applied to the University of California, Irvine, and got

    Many people assume foreign students at U.S. colleges are rich, pampered
    youths out to have a good time before returning home to lives of privilege.
    Sometimes this is true.

    But as the number of foreign students surges on U.S. campuses—nearly a
    million were enrolled last year, up more than 40% from five years earlier—more
    are coming from middle-class backgrounds like Fan Yue’s.

    They’re eager to escape flawed education systems back home, where low
    standards are leaving many ill-prepared for a global economy.

    This is especially true in China, by far the biggest source of foreign students in
    America. Many Chinese youths see their own universities as diploma mills,
    churning out graduates whose earnings potential is often bleak.
    statistics show the average monthly salary for college graduates half a year after
    leaving school was 3,487 yuan ($539), slightly less than what a migrant worker
    in the construction sector makes on average.

    Such rejections are the latest sign of how some Chinese families are questioning
    domestic institutions and looking for options abroad.

    Beijing has responded by pouring money into higher education to try to make its
    system globally competitive. Authorities have also tightened the reins on
    international programs that prepare students to study abroad.

    China’s education ministry, in a written response to faxed questions, said it
    supports students going abroad and is working to increase the international
    competitiveness of its schools. It also said it was “actively encouraging studyabroad
    students to return home and serve the nation.” Regarding employment
    challenges, it said it is encouraging more students to pursue entrepreneurship.

    In China, the number of higher-education institutions has more than doubled
    since 2000, to 2,529, as part of an effort by officials to try to build a more skilled
    workforce. Some 7.5 million students graduated last summer, nearly eight times
    as many as in 2000. In the U.S., some 3.8 million degrees were awarded last
    year in associate programs or above.

    While Beijing has succeeded in creating a number of globally ranked
    universities, government spending is heavily weighted toward around 100 elite
    schools, leaving other schools underfunded.

    The principal of a southern China university sparked headlines recently when he
    noted that top-ranked Zhejiang University received more government funding in
    three months than his school, Guizhou University, had received in 63 years.

    “It’s like China and the Olympics,” said Chen Pingyuan, a Peking University
    professor who has written extensively about education. “They get many gold
    medals, but national fitness is terrible. The goal of sports isn’t medals, it’s
    overall health. The same should be true of education.”

    For students, campus life is heavily regimented, with strict curfews. Every
    publicly funded school is required to have a Communist Party committee, which
    is charged with helping direct the ideological, political and moral education of

    Such pressures have intensified under President Xi Jinping, who has stressed the
    need to deepen education in so-called “core socialist values.” China’s education
    minister last year instructed colleges to resist Western values and more closely
    scrutinize Western textbooks. China’s schools, he recently told The Wall Street
    Journal, aim “to make our students qualified to inherit and build up socialism
    with Chinese characteristics,” which is how the Communist Party describes its
    official ideology.

    Students and teachers are denied access to websites such as Facebook and
    Google Scholar, a mainstay for many academics.

    Facilities are often dreary, with frigid classrooms or understocked libraries. In
    2014, a popular social media hashtag #12StudentsinOneDorm attracted tens of
    thousands of comments on Twitter-like network Weibo, with students voicing
    gripes about cockroach-filled, overcrowded dorms.

    For Wang Yu, who grew up not far from Fan Yue’s hometown of Yangzhou,
    going overseas wasn’t an option. “Studying abroad was just too expensive,” said
    Ms. Wang, the 21-year-old daughter of a factory worker and real-estate agent
    who was raised in the city of Changzhou. Tuition in China is comparatively
    inexpensive, in Ms. Wang’s case around 6,000 yuan, or $926.

    Ms. Wang wound up enrolled at Yangzhou University, where she sat through
    mandatory classes on Marxist and military theory, the latter which involved
    studying the various components of machine guns.
    “It felt like they really
    wanted you to know how strong the country was,” she said. Students didn’t pay
    much attention, she said, relying on notes from upperclassmen to cram for

    “In China, it’s a lot about memorization. There’s not so much creativity there,”
    said Ms. Wang, a junior studying English education.

    The academic culture also tends to discourage individuals from standing out. On
    a recent day, Ms. Wang sat in a chilly classroom as the professor, who was
    leading a class on principles of psychology and education, delivered a lecture on
    the importance of concentration.

    The professor instructed students to read a paragraph about a teacher’s lesson,
    which described the teacher as wearing new, pretty clothes and using
    multicolored chalk to decorate the blackboard in an eye-catching fashion.
    During the class discussion that followed, students criticized the instructor in
    the passage for making it harder for students to concentrate.

    Afterward, Ms. Wang shrugged. “I knew we were supposed to be critical of the
    teacher, so that’s what happened.”

    Students are especially frustrated over the gaokao, the test they must take to
    get in. Unlike the SAT, which measures aptitude in reading, math and writing,
    the gaokao relies more on memorization of facts from Chinese history and

    In the U.S., students can submit grades, teacher recommendations and
    extracurricular activities on top of standardized test scores.
    In China, admission hinges on the gaokao, which can only be taken once
    annually. Competition is intense. Last summer, a Sichuan family made headlines
    when it emerged that a mother hid from her daughter news of her father’s
    death for nearly two weeks until she’d finished taking the test, for fear it would
    influence her results.
    Top-scoring students, known as zhuangyuan, are feted with parades. Like many
    students, Ms. Wang spent years cramming fiercely, waking up at 6 a.m. and not
    finishing her homework until 1 to 2 a.m.

    With so much pressure, cheating is hard to stamp out. Students have been
    caught using wireless devices in pens or watches to relay answers. Some test
    sites use wireless jamming signals to prevent answer-sharing.

    Crackdowns have enraged parents who fear the moves hurt their kids’ odds of
    getting in. During one in Hubei province a few years ago, parents and students
    threw rocks and smashed cars, chanting, “There is no fairness if you do not let
    us cheat,”
    according to Chinese media reports at the time, including one by the
    China Youth Daily.

    For all its faults, many Chinese view the gaokao as the only fair way to handle so
    many applicants. In theory, it removes subjective judgments by admissions staff
    that could be influenced by money and connections.

    Such advantages are outweighed, critics say, by regional inequities that favor
    residents of cities like Beijing and Shanghai. They are home to China’s best
    schools and offer larger gaokao quotas to locals.

    Students are assigned to universities based on their scores. The scores also play
    a role in determining what they’re allowed to study. In Ms. Wang’s case, while
    her score wasn’t high enough for the most elite schools, she managed to win
    entrance to Yangzhou University. Her first choice of a major was nursing.
    Instead, the school assigned her to study cooking.

    Ms. Wang spent a year practicing knife skills and learning tasks such as how to
    wrap steamed buns before she switched to her current major, English
    education. While she occasionally peppers her speech with an English word or
    two, she says she still feels uncomfortable when speaking the language.

    Increasingly, China’s middle class is opting out. The number of students taking
    the gaokao peaked in 2008 at 10.5 million. Last year it was 9.4 million.

    During the same period, the number of Chinese students in U.S. schools more
    than tripled to 304,040 in the 2014-15 academic year.

    Ms. Fan, the student now at UC Irvine, just wanted a chance to explore.

    A tomboy partial to jeans and sneakers, she knew little about the U.S. other
    than what she saw in movies and TV. She said she thought of it as a warlike
    country that bullied other nations, but also made cool products such as Apple

    Her parents grew up poor, eating meat only on holidays. They pooled money
    from relatives to start a paintbrush factory, and the business grew. They hoped
    their daughter would be the first in the family to go to college.

    Ms. Fan’s parents doubted a U.S. education would mean a better-paying job. As
    more Chinese study abroad, many are returning to find their degree isn’t much
    of an advantage. They worried the U.S. was filled with guns.

    After a two-week U.S. tour led by her high school, though, Ms. Fan was
    convinced. She saw students could study whatever they wanted and take “gap”
    years to explore their interests. It seemed so free, she said.

    Her parents gave in.

    Ms. Fan memorized thousands of English words for a language test and did well
    enough on the SAT to get in. Before leaving for Irvine, she took cooking lessons
    from her grandmother in case she couldn’t find foods that tasted like home.

    In Irvine, Ms. Fan said she found it hard to keep up with lectures because
    teachers talked too quickly. She realized students couldn’t just memorize texts
    and regurgitate them on tests, as they did back home.

    She studied hard and got A’s and B’s in her first quarter. She hasn’t yet declared
    a major. “Math is easy for me,” she wrote in a recent email. “I like anthropology
    least. It is too hard for me to understand and do so much reading.”

    She marveled at the fact that students were permitted to lounge on the grass.
    She explored Los Angeles and encountered people who dressed like hippies. “In
    China, those people would be seen as really strange,” she said. She made plans
    to go skiing and visit a hot spring during spring break.

    In one class she met students who spoke Mandarin but turned out to be
    Taiwanese. It was the first time she had met anyone from the island which
    asserts its independence, despite Beijing’s insistence it belongs to China.

    In December, Ms. Fan returned home for the holidays. She said it was good to
    be home, but after a while it grew a little dull.

    It was different from the U.S., she said, where “there’s always something to do,
    to learn.”

    Back in Yangzhou, Ms. Wang was thinking about her future.

    She thought she would likely apply for graduate school. So many Chinese have
    college diplomas now that increasing numbers are seeking higher degrees to
    stay competitive.

    At times, she felt school may not have boosted her prospects much. Upon
    graduation, should she get a job teaching, she might make only around 3,000
    yuan, she said, about what her father, who never attended college, makes as an
    auto-parts worker.[/rQUOTEr]
  2. B-Bob

    B-Bob "94-year-old self-described dreamer"

    Jul 26, 2002
    Likes Received:
    I may get flamed but there is definitely something going on culturally with cheating. It's really rampant among a subset of Chinese students at my American university. This is not to say all or even most, but definitely a die hard subset who just don't see why cheating should be a big deal. The (very many) non-cheating students from China can be pretty amazing, regularly at the very top of the classes I teach, b/c they've had strong preparation.

    But for some, it's almost like something is lost in translation. I literally had a student who could not comprehend why I wouldn't let him look at his neighbor's exam paper during a test. He wasn't rude at all, but I finally just moved him to the front row so he could sit a few feet away from me, with nobody in front of him.

    Very interesting article, but I'm not sure I agree with your preamble comparing American and Chinese universities. (Big surprise there, I know).

    What's dooming American universities is actually regulation, an arms-race of add-ons to appeal to parents (huge and expensive staff payrolls now for all kinds of student support services) and finally, just how terrible our high school preparation is. A prof walks in and wants to assume people know what a paragraph is, what a sentence is, and how to do elementary algebra. So many times, that just is not the case.

    Once Chinese universities catch up a bit, the students will stay home, b/c they actually seem to have some decent pre-college preparation, at least in math and science.
    #2 B-Bob, May 2, 2016
    Last edited: May 2, 2016
  3. pirc1

    pirc1 Contributing Member

    Dec 9, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Part of the reason is it is much easier to get into a good university in the US, in China the competition for the top Chinese schools is extreme. I know many people in China that have the money just do not want to push their kids that hard, they just want to send their kids to US when the time comes.

    Many of these new universities in China are not as good as the community colleges in the us in quality. We are lucky to have the top universities in the world, but so many in this country want to destroy this system, it is just totally comprehensible.
  4. asianballa23

    asianballa23 Member

    May 24, 2003
    Likes Received:
    they're coming for the same reason most of other foreigners want to come here for, a better education and life.
    Compare with the foreigners south of border, most Chinese folks come here legally and are already well educated.
  5. Invisible Fan

    Invisible Fan Contributing Member

    Dec 5, 2001
    Likes Received:
    Do Indian born students display a small but significant cheating group as well?

    Some of it could be their pressure cooker culture for getting into a premier uni
  6. da_juice

    da_juice Member

    Dec 16, 2009
    Likes Received:
    B-Bob, I've noticed that too. Both my school and my HS friends' high schools have relatively large Chinese student populations- and cheating is just accepted. American high schools definitely don't prepare enough for college. American HS (both public and private) is basically daycare for teenagers.
  7. ThatBoyNick

    ThatBoyNick Member

    Dec 8, 2011
    Likes Received:
    A friend who transfered from India at my high school told me everybody in his class cheated heavily throughout middle/highschool in comparison to the U.S.
  8. bigtexxx

    bigtexxx Contributing Member

    Jun 12, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Moral fiber is one of the things that he made America succeed. India's corruption has held it back disastrously.
  9. B-Bob

    B-Bob "94-year-old self-described dreamer"

    Jul 26, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Since you're asking me, I'll try to reply here. I honestly don't have very many students who were born in India. I do have a lot of American students who are 1st or 2nd generation Indian.

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