A US school's booth at the 2013 China International Education Exhibition Tour in Beijing on Saturday. A Jing / for China Daily
International schools flock to education expo
A growing number of high school students are opting for university preparatory schools overseas, specialists said ahead of major education expo.
Many international schools are aware of the demand and are coming to China to make their pitch.
Over the weekend more than 50 high schools from across the world gathered at the 2013 China International Education Exhibition Tour in Beijing.
The schools were mainly from already popular destinations such as Australia, Canada, Britain and the United States.
Australia is one of the main exhibitors, with 26 schools and institutes at the expo. All but three of those exhibitors are high schools.
"We've noticed a trend of more Chinese students wanting to study abroad, in preparatory schools, and even younger," said Eliza Chui, education consul at the Australian consulate-general in Shanghai.
In 2012, only two secondary institutes from Australia attended the education exhibition.
"We have focused on bringing secondary schools to the exhibition this year," she added.
Nearly 400 exhibitors, including agencies and universities, joined the exhibition this year, with more than 15 percent of exhibitors being high schools.
In 2011, only 5.6 percent of exhibitors were high schools.
A father, who declined to give his name, was searching for a high school at the exhibit for his 11-year-old daughter, who is in the sixth-grade.
"I want to give my daughter more choices, away from the smog and pressure at a domestic school," he said.
Shen Haining's 16-year-old daughter already spent a semester studying at an Australian high school.
Although he missed his daughter, Shen believes sending her abroad at an early age is a good idea.
"The earlier she goes, the better she can adjust to the environment," the father said, adding that younger children find it easier to learn English.
"It will also make it easier for her to apply to Australian universities," Shen added.
Bob Lajoie, international education manager at the Coquitlam School District near Vancouver, said the main attraction for Chinese students in his district is college preparation. The district currently has 500 Chinese students in 66 schools.
Lajoie has seen a surge in the number of Chinese students.
A total of 76,800 high school students went to study abroad in 2011, 22.6 percent of Chinese overseas students, according to the 2011 report by the Chinese Association for International Understanding.
Only 65 Chinese students went to study in secondary schools in the US in 2006. But the number reached 6,725 in 2011, according to figures from the Department of Homeland Security in the US.
At the Royal Crown Academic School in Canada, more than 30 percent of students are from China. Tan Jian, the Chinese representative at the school, said studying in Canada instead of China makes it easier for Chinese students to apply to top tier universities in North America.
Wendy Buxton, international program director of Immanuel College, a private high school in Adelaide, South Australia, believes that students benefit from traveling abroad at a young age, allowing them to develop an identity in their adopted country and giving them more opportunities in life.
"Students can always choose to stay in Australia or return to China after they finish their studies. But young students adapt better to the local environment. If they want to stay after their graduation it will be easier for them to find their identities in Australia," Buxton said.
Overseas high schools are not cheap for Chinese parents, starting at 70,000 yuan ($11,260), depending on the school and the region.
Kenneth Wong, education commercial counselor at the Canadian embassy in Beijing, said Canada welcomes young Chinese students to pursue their studies in their country.
Besides financial benefits, Canada hopes to gain human resources from China. "If they (students) come at a young age, they build their character in Canada. When they grow up, they become more or less a Canadian, and maybe stay in the country," Wong said.
Schools use various strategies to attract students. Excel Christian School, a high school in the US state of Nevada, a member of the US International Golf Academy, provides golf lessons for students.
Golf coach Geno Ivaldi said the lessons will help build students' character. "Not all of them will become professionals, but golf training will bring them advantages in daily life, such as on business occasions," he said.
Bai Zhangde, director of the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange under the Ministry of Education, said there will not be a major increase of young students going abroad.
Many European countries do not allow young students to study there alone, he said.
He also had a warning for parents.
"Schools vary. Parents should do their research before making the big decision. They can consult the embassies for school's reputations, accidents and other necessary information," he added.
Contact the writers at firstname.lastname@example.org