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Parents question worth of study tours

Updated: 2012-08-09 02:05
By Cheng Yingqi ( China Daily)

Overseas study tours for students, usually with a price tag of thousands of dollars, have become controversial among Chinese parents following a number of recent scandals.

In July, a photo of primary school students sitting outside Woodbury Info Center, a shopping center close to New York, caused a stir online as netizens learned the teachers were shopping while the children chewed hamburgers on the curb.

In another example, parents of children at a well-known Beijing primary school found Las Vegas was on the itinerary of a 10-day, 30,000-yuan ($4,720) study tour to the United States. The teachers explained that the casinos also had services for children.

According to a recent survey of more than 1,000 Internet users conducted by Sina, a Chinese online media company, 49 percent of respondents are against sending children to study tours because they think the tours are too commercialized; 42 percent believe the children can learn little from the tours and 24 percent think the price is too high.

However, some parents have viewed the tours as precious opportunities to give their children an educational edge.

Zhou Li, mother of a 14-year-old, said a study tour helps her son make a better choice of college.

Zhou and her husband worked in Beijing for 15 years but still do not have hukou (permanent residence permit).

Their son will have to take the college entrance exam in their hometown in Zhejiang province, where the admission score is much higher than in Beijing.

"My son won't be able to enter a famous college if he attends the exam in Zhejiang, so the only way is to send him abroad."

In July, Zhou sent her son to the US on a study tour.

"You will need around 1.5 million yuan to support your child studying abroad. So why would you care about spending an extra 39,000 yuan to make him sure he is doing the right thing?" Zhou asked.

Wang Mingxia, mother of an 18-year-old in Hainan province, said the study tour changed her son's dream university.

When Wang's son was 5 years old, Wang told him the story about the birth of Stanford University: after Leland Stanford's son died of typhoid fever in 1884, the Stanfords decided that, because they no longer could do anything for their own child, the children of California would be their children, and they established the university.

"When my son heard this story, he said he would go to Stanford someday," Wang said.

Wang's son took a study tour to the US. After staying in Boston for 10 days, the boy had second thoughts about Stanford.

"Boston has more great universities, and my son said he loves the Atlantic coast and the culture there, so he decided to change his dream college," Wang said.

"If the parents and students give more consideration to the purpose of the trip before departure, they may benefit more from the visits," said Zhou Xiaolan, manager of the global study tour marketing department of the New Oriental Education.

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