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Chinese flock to US secondary schools

By Li Ang in New York (China Daily USA) Updated: 2014-07-10 11:00

One of every three international students enrolled in US secondary schools in 2013 was Chinese, according to a report, and the main reasons for their studying in the US are to strengthen their English and improve their chances of getting into US colleges.

The number of international students attending US secondary schools from 2004 to 2013 more than tripled to 73,000, while during that same time span, the number of exchange students increased by only 15 percent, according to the report from the Institute of International Education (IIE) released on Tuesday. Of the 49,000 Asian students who came to the US in 2013 for secondary education, 46 percent were Chinese.

"Chinese students think coming to US for high school is the way to enter American educational system at an earlier point and to strengthen their English language skills as they apply to a US college," Rajika Bhandari, IIE's deputy vice-president for research and evaluation, told China Daily on Wednesday.

IIE is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, which designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations.

Bhandari said the outnumbering of exchange students by students who enroll directly to earn a high school diploma "is a remarkable finding, and one which has implications for US higher education," explaining that when US educational institutions recruit international students they will be looking at US high schools, not just overseas.

According to the report, 95 percent of international students attend private secondary school in the US because of visa regulations. Students with an F-1 visa can only go to a public school for one academic year, while there is no time limitation for students attending a private school to earn a diploma.

"Over the past five years, we've seen a increase in all public and private schools, but still, the majority of international are in private school because of the restriction on international students in public high school," Bhandari said.

In contrast to European and Latin American students, many of whom pursue US study for cultural exchange, students from Asia enroll in US secondary schools to earn full degrees in order to prepare themselves for admission to US higher education institutions, the report said.

Expanding economies in places such as China, South Korea, Vietnam enable their growing middle classes to fund their children to study overseas, with many doing so at younger ages than they had previously, the report said.

"Compared to the large influx of international students, we see fewer US students going abroad," said Bhandari.

"There's a program called 100,000 Strong China, which started a few years ago, to try to get more Americans to study in China. We have already seen the number of Americans study in China going up in the past several years," she said, adding that she is confident that more US students will go to China.

The 100,000 Strong initiative was announced by President Barack Obama in November 2009 to increase the number and diversification of the composition of American students studying in China.

Contact the writer at readers@chinadailyusa.com

For China Daily 

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